The Quest for the Historical Church: A Protestant Assessment

Mar 24th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts

The following is a guest post by Brandon Addison. Brandon has been visiting Called To Communion since 2008 and commenting here on occasion since 2010. He was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, and then attended Providence Christian College, graduating in 2009 with a B.A. in History. Subsequently he attended Westminster Seminary California, graduating in 2012 with a M.Div. Upon graduation he became the preaching pastor of a small PCA church in Southern California. He presently resides in the Los Angeles area, and is a licentiate in the Pacific Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Perugino Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter
Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter
Perugino, 1481-1482

Bryan Cross has graciously asked me to write down my thoughts, as a Protestant, on the idea that Jesus founded the Roman Catholic Church (Hereafter RCC). From the outset I want to express sincere appreciation and the hope that Protestants and Catholics will come to better mutual understanding, which may lead to greater unity and proclamation of the Gospel. One of the things that I appreciated most about Evangelii Gaudium is Francis’s emphasis on the mission of the Church. As important as the theology and dogma associated with the Gospel message is, that theology and dogma serve the purpose of bringing the Good News to people who need it most. Even if we disagree about the content of the Gospel message and how it is to be promulgated, I believe that this commitment to the Gospel allows for a charitable spirit as we discuss our differences.

To that end, I would actually make a request because ecumenical dialogue cannot take place without a commitment to prayer. I would ask that readers of this article would invest time into praying for clarity, understanding, and humility. As I prepared this article, I began the process the way that you would approach any topic of this nature—with rigorous reading, writing, and analysis. All of these are vital to fruitful ecumenical dialogue, but I’ve found that these things are not enough to break my heart of pride and hubris. True ecumenical discussions can only take place when we realize that reason alone is not sufficient for us to grasp knowledge of Divine things. We require the grace of God to break down the pride in our hearts and to see things that our stubborn hearts refuse to see. I would simply ask that those who read and or comment to take a moment to reflect and pray for a spirit of humility and understanding.

I. Burden of Proof & Methodology

In order to properly set expectations, we need to understand where the burden of proof resides in this discussion. I will take the burden of proof to show that the particular church at Rome was organized as a presbytery until the middle to later part of the second century—refuting the claim that Jesus founded the RCC. By “presbyterian,” I am not thinking particularly of a current denomination or flavor of modern Presbyterianism (two office, three office, centralized power, “grass roots,” etc.) The meaning is broader and refers to the leadership of the church of a particular geographic area being led by a plurality of leaders (elders or presbyters). This definition would exclude a notion of a monarchical episcopate or the notion of a threefold office. Instead, functionally, the presbyterianism I am speaking of refers to the office of deacon (which I will not spend time discussing) and presbyter or bishop (used synonymously). If my thesis fails, then we can conclude that there was no presbyterian polity in Rome in the first or second centuries.

It is vital for edifying dialogue, however, to recognize that if my position is falsified, that does not justify belief in the existence of an episcopate in Rome. Such a thesis would itself need to be argued, and the merits of those claims would then need to be evaluated. I am articulating an alternative to the RCC position. It is not a deconstructive argument (just refuting the claims that Jesus founded the RCC), but it is a constructive one (the Roman church was presbyterial). In this way, it is an even stronger argument against Roman Catholic claims.

In order to prove the Roman Catholic case one would need to expose my argument as faulty while also making a positive case for the Roman Catholic claim. These two activities overlap, but in terms of the burden of proof, they are distinct. In a deconstructive case the burden of proof is on the person providing the argument for a positive case (e.g. Roman Christianity was organized around a presbytery OR a monarchical bishop). In a constructive case, the burden of proof resides on the one making the positive claim. For the purposes of this article I am assuming that burden; but I will emphasize again, falsifying my argument does not make the case for the RCC.

In one way, I’m attempting to meet the challenge of Sean Patrick in his article titled “Modern Scholarship, Rome and a Challenge.” In that challenge Mr. Patrick states,

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.)”

There are a number of ways in which this is a legitimate request. Irenaeus is writing 150 years after the alleged institution of the papal office and he provides a list of bishops stretching back to Peter and Paul. In terms of proximity, Irenaeus had access to information that we are not privy to and so anyone who suggests that Irenaeus is incorrect needs to provide compelling evidence that he was wrong.

At the same time, there are a number of presuppositions in this challenge that may leave an inquirer under the impression that the Roman Catholic claim is the default position. If someone were to adopt such a methodological approach they would be begging the question. For example, if we assume that Irenaeus’s list is the strongest piece of evidence, then this will impact our assessment of the data. This trust of Irenaeus needs to be examined and explored, because we know that Irenaeus could be wrong about historical details (e.g. Jesus’s age, the founding of the Church at Rome by Peter and Paul, or the origins of Gnosticism) and no doctrine of the Church requires that Irenaeus be infallible or reliable in everything that he says.

Furthermore, the proper value of arguments from silence must be addressed. Arguments from silence are not fallacious; they are—when used appropriately—valid arguments which infer conclusions from silence. The University of Massachusetts records on its website,

The argument from silence, like all historical arguments, is always conjectural. But it is not, as some claim, a fallacy. It is the correct default inference from silence. That inference can be strengthened by relevant evidence of a positive kind, or by the continued silence of further evidence.1

There are two things that are important about this. The first is that the argument from silence is legitimate, though it is limited by its speculative nature. The second is that all arguments (arguments from silence, exegesis, archaeology, etc.) are conjectural and must interact with other pieces of evidence. When multiple pieces of evidence are available, you cannot isolate one piece of evidence against another, you need a paradigm that properly synthesizes the data.

Simply because Ignatius does not mention a bishop in his writing to the Romans is not necessarily a stronger piece of evidence than Irenaeus’s list, but the silence here becomes stronger when connected with the similar evidence from Clement, Hermas, Justin Martyr, and others. If you attempted to isolate one piece of evidence against another (like the silence in Ignatius vs. the list of Irenaeus) without taking the totality of the evidence, you would have a skewed perspective on the weight and usefulness of each piece of evidence. If you are unduly prejudiced against Irenaeus, you may find Ignatius’s silence stronger than it ought to be. Conversely, if you are unduly prejudiced against the silence in Ignatius, you may underestimate the importance of that silence. In order to limit the power of our prejudices, we must allow the various pieces of evidence to interact with one another to show which pieces of evidence are more or less reliable.

Finally, I also want to press back on the notion that Christians cannot utilize the discoveries of those who hold unorthodox beliefs. The fact that Lampe does not hold to biblical inerrancy is irrelevant to his discussion of Roman Christianity. There is nothing that Lampe says in terms of Roman ecclesiology that threatens any of the confessional standards of Reformed churches.

The fact that Lampe may believe doctrine “X”, “Y”, or “Z” is of no consequence to his arguments unless someone can propose a legitimate connection.2 If we want to discuss his perspective on the “pseudo-Pauline” epistles, that is a noble task, but there is nothing about Lampe’s conclusions there that impacts his belief about the monarchical episcopate. If someone believes otherwise they would need to demonstrate why Lampe’s belief in “X” is connected with his belief that the church at Rome had presbyterian church governance. Furthermore, as I will show, there would be no way for the Catholic to consistently apply this principle when utilizing the few remaining scholars who reject Lampe’s theory of the fractionation of Roman Christianity.

II. The Protestant and Catholic Interpretive Paradigms

Before moving forward to discuss some of the evidence from the canonical and extra-canonical data, a section addressing how competing paradigms approach the data needs to be addressed. This is best highlighted by discussion in the comments with Michael Liccione where he writes in comment #17,

Given the state of the evidence up to the end of the 2nd century, the Catholic view of AS [Apostolic Succession] is historically plausible but not historically demonstrable. Many critics suppose that’s a problem for Catholicism, but it is not. For one thing, and as you point out, the same could be said about the Resurrection, a doctrine that nobody here denies; so, to fault the doctrine of monepiscopal AS for being historically plausible but not historically demonstrable is to apply a double standard. For another, the absence of demonstrative evidence that early church polity did embody monepiscopal AS does not entail that early church polity did not embody monepiscopal AS; to hold otherwise would simply be an argument from silence. From a purely historical point of view, the best evidence that early church polity was monepiscopal AS is that, after the 2nd century, it was generally assumed to have been so.3

In further dialogue with Dr. Liccione, he responded to my criticisms4 of his argument by stating in comment #66,

That continues missing the point. Of course, if Peter was not the first bishop of Rome, then Catholicism is false. But such historical evidence as is currently available to us does not show that Peter was not the first bishop of Rome. All that can fairly be said is that we cannot know, exclusively on such grounds, that Peter was the first bishop of Rome. But that’s only a problem given your IP [interpretive paradigm], not ours. Given the totality of the historical evidence our IP admits as relevant–which is bigger than you seem to allow–it is rationally plausible to believe that Peter was the first bishop of Rome. (emphasis mine)

Dr. Liccione is not the only one was has made such strong assertions. Andrew Preslar in his article “Apostolic Authority and Historical Inquiry: Some Preliminary Remarks,” similarly states,

For those not driven by radical skepticism predicated upon indifference or outright hostility towards the hierarchical principle embodied by the historic episcopate and the primacy of the pope, the historical evidence for the same, while it cannot compel one to believe, is sufficient when taken with other biblical and theological considerations to warrant faith in the Catholic claims concerning ecclesial authority.

Is it true that our disagreement about the value of the historical evidence is attributable to our competing Protestant/Catholic interpretive paradigms? The fact is that the acceptance of fractionation in Roman Christianity and the development of the office of the episcopate (in the threefold sense) are nearly unanimous in modern Roman Catholic scholarship. We will look at the evidence in the next section (and it must be viewed on its own right), but some of the statements from Roman Catholic scholars will serve to show that this is not a Protestant idiosyncrasy.

Roman Catholic scholar and member of the Pontifical Historical Commission, Eamon Duffy puts it rather starkly,

These stories [of the Petrine origin of the Papacy] were to be accepted as sober history by some of the greatest minds of the early Church — Origen, Ambrose, Augustine. But they are pious romance, not history, and the fact is that we have no reliable accounts either of Peter’s later life or the manner or place of his death. Neither Peter nor Paul founded the Church at Rome, for there were Christians in the city before either of the Apostles set foot there. Nor can we assume, as Irenaeus did, that the Apostles established there a succession of bishops to carry on their work in the city, for all the indications are that there was no single bishop at Rome for almost a century after the deaths of the Apostles. In fact, wherever we turn, the solid outlines of the Petrine succession at Rome seem to blur and dissolve.5

Perhaps we could regard this as a rogue liberal Catholic scholar. Unfortunately, Duffy is not the only Roman Catholic persuaded by the evidence. With the Imprimatur of Thomas A. Boland, Archbishop of Newark,6 Raymond Brown states,

The supposition that, when Peter did come to Rome (presumably in the 60’s), he took over and became the first bishop represents a retrojection of later church order…our evidence would suggest that the emergence of a single bishop, distinct from the college of presbyter-bishops, came relatively late in the Roman church, perhaps not until well into the 2nd century. Leaders such as Linus, Cletus, and Clement, known to us from the early Roman Church, were probably prominent presbyter-bishops but not necessarily ‘monarchical’ bishops.7

Brown though states his opinion even more explicitly when he says,

The affirmation that the episcopate gradually emerged can be defended in the nuanced sense that the episcopate gradually emerged in a Church that stemmed from Christ and that this emergence was (in the eyes of the faith) guided by the Holy Spirit. Personally, I do not think that tracing the appearance of the episcopate more directly to the Holy Spirit than to the historical Jesus takes away any dignity from bishops; and I suggest that, upon reflection, these conclusions will be scandalous chiefly to those who have never understood the real import of our oft-repeated boast that Christianity is a historical religion.8

Jesus did not establish the RCC, but the RCC is the providential creation of the Holy Spirit. Such a position is a potential Roman Catholic interpretation of history, but it stands in stark contrast to notions that the historical Jesus established the RCC.9 This stands in distinction to Andrew Preslar who argues in his article on apostolic succession:

[Apostolic Succession] is like a mountain range: full of unexplored details, but abundantly evident in the main. Ordination by the laying on of hands is clearly Apostolic; ordination by those who have been ordained to ordain is the prevailing practice in the Church throughout history; the college of bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome (as a point of emphasis) is a materially evident and historically continuous thing (which Catholics call “the Magisterium”), being a touchstone of orthodoxy as witnessed by the history of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Church Fathers.10

Mr. Preslar presents Apostolic Succession as something that is a “historically continuous thing” and this is generally true if he is referring to time after the third century but the consensus of Catholic writers challenges this statement. Brown himself starkly explains:

The presbyter-bishops described in the NT were not in any traceable way the successors of the Twelve apostles.11

Brown and Duffy are popularly brought up in these discussions, but they are not the only ones who believe that the evidence is strongly opposed to Peter being the first bishop. Patrick Burke likewise finds the claim to a monarchical episcopate in Rome to be flawed. He says:

There is no evidence for a monarchical episcopate at the end of the first century except in Asia Minor and Syria, and even in this region the evidence that it was still in process of development.12

Some scholars put it more mildly acknowledging that episcopacy may have existed in the time of the Apostles, but that there was no one unified teaching on church government from Jesus or the Apostles. For example. Hans Küng’s book Apostolic Succession: Rethinking a Barrier to Unity presents Bernard Dupay’s argument:

The New Testament does not provide us with a normative structure for the ministry, one fixed definitively for the lifetime of the Church, on which all present-day Christian communions should adopt forthwith. The only ministry we know, the one that has been handed down to us by Tradition, is one which has been subject to development. The Catholic Church is the historical Church willed by Jesus Christ, but not in the sense that her present-day ministry is the one and only historical form of the ministry willed by him.13

Dupay does not state that the threefold office may not have been in existence, but he is resolute that the monarchical episcopate was not founded by the historical Jesus.

Francis Sullivan echoes the statements of Dupay when he says:

“There is broad consensus among scholars that the historical episcopate developed in the post-New Testament period, for the local leadership of a college of presbyters, who were sometimes also called episkopoi to the leadership of a single bishop…Scholars differ on details, such as how soon the church of Rome was led by a “monarchical” bishop, but hardly any doubt that the church of Rome was led by a group of presbyters for at least part of the second century.14

Some may wish to respond that this modern consensus is only a modern development in the past 30-40 years by a select group of liberal Catholics, but that is not the case. The dissertation from George Edward Dolan submitted to the Catholic University of America in 1950 states the following:

Catholic scholars are agreed that the two terms, bishop and presbyter, were synonymous in the early church and were interchangeably applied to the same individuals. Although there is accord on the identity of names there is a division of thought on the question as to whether the episcopoi-presbuteroi were bishops properly so-called or simple, ordinary priests. This latter alternative is favored by a representative number of Catholic scripture scholars.15

As a piece of evidence to show why modern scholars saw the episcopoi-presbuteroi as simple priests, Dolan lists various pieces of evidence including this statement concerning Jerome:

It would appear that St. Jerome in the fourth century unwittingly laid the foundation when he wrote a defense of the presbyterate [see here] against the arrogance and abuses of certain Roman deacons. In order to restore the presbyterate its rightful place and authority Jerome pointed out that in the very early days of the Church the terms episcopus and presbyter signified the same individuals. In other words, as we interpret Jerome all were bishops in the sense in which this word is understood today, with full powers to confirm and ordain. But when the universal monarchical episcopate was introduced into the government of the Church only the chief priests who were subjected to him (in other words, the presbyters) were given only a limited or restricted share in the power of the priesthood.16

If we are to believe Dolan’s assessment of Catholic scholarship, it seems that by at least 1950 Catholics were willing to acknowledge that “episcopoi-presbuteroi were bishops properly so-called or simple, ordinary priests.” There seems to be no distinction, and Dolan even appealed to Jerome to substantiate this.

With this string of quotations, I have attempted to show that the general consensus among Roman Catholic scholars is that the notion of an episcopate originating with Peter is virtually non-existent in the academic world. We could go on listing quotes from other Catholic scholars (Klaus Schatz comes to mind), but the above quotes are representative of Roman Catholic scholarship and represent various theological perspectives and time frames in the Catholic tradition. Thus to attribute this interpretation to a “Protestant Interpretive Paradigm” does not account for the myriad Roman Catholic scholars who reject the claims that Dr. Liccione makes, labeling those claims “pious romance.” The Roman Catholic claims regarding the monarchical episcopate and Apostolic Succession are not “plausible” to even the majority of the RCC’s own experts. Dr. Liccione is right to acknowledge the importance that interpretive paradigms play, but he ignores that his interpretive paradigm is based upon historical claims that historians from various theological and philosophical traditions have determined are false. It is to that evidence we will now turn.

III. Examining the Evidence: Canonical Evidence

Beginning this section we should note the lexical and semantic discussion surrounding πρεσβύτεροι (presbyteroi, “presbyters” or “elders”) and ἐπισκόποι (episcopoi, “bishops” or “overseers”). In the New Testament and in the Fathers these words were used interchangeably, as I will show. Their semantic range (possible meaning) is slightly different,17 but their usage in Christian literature appears to overlap considerably.

In this section we will forgo discussion of the foundation of the universal Church by Jesus (e.g. Matthew 16 & 18). On this ground Confessional Protestants and Catholics agree that Jesus founded a church, as one will see in my final section. The comment of Raymond Brown is strongly agreeable:

The older critical picture of an original ‘spiritual’ church being fossilized into a later authoritarian, hierarchical church will simply not stand examination. There is every reason to accept the thesis that the Church possessed organization from the beginning, an organization not without its parallels in the Qumran community.18

There are naturally disagreements about the interpretation of Matthew 16, but that would require even more space so we will set it aside for the time being.19 In order to examine the texts of relevance to ecclesial structure we will begin by looking at the book of Acts.

A. Acts

Acts 6 introduces us to what are commonly thought of as the first “deacons,” though the official designation of a “deacon” is not clearly discernible in this passage. What is clear is that the Apostles appoint these men to serve in the church—attending to the widows and teaching the Scripture (Acts 7 & 8). The elders decide in collaboration to appoint these men to serve. This collegial attitude is reflected again in Acts 11:30 when the prophecy of Agabus prompts the disciples to send goods to people residing in Judea.20 They send these provisions to the “presbyters” of the Judean church. This pattern of establishing elders in each locale is further explained in Acts 14:23 where Luke recounts that it was Paul and Barnabas’s practice to ordain elders in every city.

Of particular interest regarding the authority of overseers in the church is the Council in Acts 15. The dispute was concentrated on what conditions it would take for one to become a Christian. Was faith sufficient or would additional observance of the Jewish law be required for entrance into the church? Luke tells us about the presbyters at the meeting six times in this chapter (15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23). Luke does present the important figures in the church, James, Peter, and Paul (along with Barnabas) as providing important direction at the council, but James (as the leader of the church in Jerusalem) seems to be the individual that is able to present his opinion as the one that the deliberative assembly will consider.21

The elders and apostles, who had been gathered from throughout the Roman Empire, ratified the decision to send out as the mind of the church to all of the churches. Even the presentation of the letter does not elevate the idea as James’; instead, the decision of the council is represented as the entire deliberative assembly’s decision.22 The way the Jerusalem council is convened it would seem to match the definition of presbyterian government: the representation of the people of God from local congregations (Antioch, Jerusalem, outside Judea, etc.) in assembly making decisions as the body of Christ.23

This plurality of leaders for the universal church at the Jerusalem council is also witnessed at the local church of Ephesus. In Acts 20:17 Paul speaks to the πρεσβυτέρους (plural accusative, “presbyters” or “elders”) of the Ephesian church. As we would expect in the presbyterian model, Paul mentions the leaders of the Ephesian church in the plural and then he charges them:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you ἐπισκόπους (“overseers”)

Paul here states that the presbyters have been made “bishops” in the sense that they oversee the people of God. According to Paul as mediated by Luke, the πρεσβυτέρους are ἐπισκόπους. The lexical equivalence of the words does not mean that there could not be a distinction among the presbyters, but the existence of differentiation is not apparent in Acts. There is a distinction between the Apostles and the presbyters, but that is something that the presbyterial system would have expected given the Apostles particular office (and the unique specifications that Luke places upon the “Twelve” in Acts).

In summary, we see the church in Acts purposefully establishing elders in every city, and we see these elders assembling with the one another to deliberate about matters that touch on the practice and doctrine of the church. Collectively the churches make decision among the elders and apostles and locally the church is governed by a multiplicity of presbyters. To be fair and clear, this does not mean each local church is the same. For example, James does play a crucial role in the Jerusalem church, but this is tied more to his apostolic pedigree than to his occupation of an “episcopal” office.24 The Ephesian church, on the other hand, does not appear to have an individual exercising oversight over it in the way that James exercises oversight over the Jerusalem church.

B. Pastorals

The Pastoral epistles provide, in my estimation, the strongest plausible case for the existence of a monarchical episcopate. In Timothy and Titus Paul speaks about an “overseer” in the singular. We also see that Paul commissions Timothy and Titus to establish bishops and deacons in their respective churches which is a potential indication that they possessed the charism to ordain presbyters that the presbyters themselves did not possess. Upon examination, however, the most that can be said about the governmental structure thought of in the Pastoral Epistles is that there are to be elders (plural) appointed to positions of leadership.

In Titus 1:5 we read:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders (πρεσβυτέρους)in every town as I directed you

Just two verses later Paul tells us what these leaders ought to be like:

For an overseer (τὸν ἐπίσκοπον), as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered…25

Once again we encounter the interchangeability of presbyter and bishop as descriptions of those who hold office. While 1:7 has the word “bishop” with the article and in the singular, the ESV translation conveys the meaning well. The “bishop” considered in the abstract, is to have certain characteristics. A similar construction is found in 1 Timothy 3:1-2. Paul states that trustworthy saying that anyone who aspires to the office of “ἐπισκοπῆς,” an overseer, he desires a noble thing. He then goes on to explain that an “ἐπίσκοπον,” overseer, must meet the specified criteria. The use of the singular here could indicate that Timothy has in mind the office of bishop, but that becomes highly unlikely when considered with the instructions in 1 Timothy 5:17, “Let the πρεσβύτεροι who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” Not only does the mention of a plurality of leaders show that the church was led by multiple presbyters, the same grammatical construction with the singular is used just two verses later, “Do not admit a charge ‘κατὰ πρεσβυτέρου’ against an elder.…”26 When talking about the presbyters corporately, we see the singular, πρεσβυτέρου, used to talk about a potential case of someone bringing a charge against one of the elders.27

Some have argued that Timothy and Titus function in the role of bishops in a threefold order because they are the ones being commanded to go out and ordain. The plausibility is increased when you consider how Raymond Brown states it:

There was a period of postapostolic supervision by second-generation apostolic delegates who acted in the name of the apostle on the grounds that they had accompanied him and knew his mind.28

Timothy and Titus are functioning as second generation extensions of the apostolic ministry. This appears, at least on the surface, to be some kind of precursor to Apostolic Succession and with men who have been given a particular authority to ordain other presbyters. Yet, when we actually see potential allusions to ordination in the Pastorals they do not refer to a single bishop ordaining individuals. Instead, Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:14-16:

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

While there is still dispute as to what Paul is referring, if it is to ordination, as many commentators believe, then the ordination occurred when the presbyters corporately ordained Timothy. Ordination would not be the prerogative of one single bishop. The fact that Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 1:6 that “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” does not contradict the idea that the plurality of elders ordained him in addition to Paul. It would very well make sense that Paul was part of the presbytery that ordained Timothy and that he is providing a personal encouragement to Timothy.29 Of course, one could propose that there were multiple bishops present and that they were the ones that ordained him, but there is nothing in the text which allows us to confirm this hypothesis, nor is there any indication in any of the examined literature to indicate that only bishops ordained.30 Paul’s description of ordination fits in with modern Presbyterian practice where the presbyters together possess the authority to ordain.

Furthermore, we notice that Paul puts particular emphasis on his teaching. I. Howard Marshall comments on the importance of doctrine in the Pastorals stating:

The PE’s are not interested in a detailed church order. Certainly the thought of succession is present, but the purpose of ordination is not primarily the handing on of official authority but the safe transmission of the tradition which has been entrusted to the official. It is a succession in teaching, not in official authority. In short what dominates the PE is not the ‘principle of office’ but the ‘principle of tradition.’31

Buttressing Marshall’s point, Gordon Fee notes that the purpose of Paul’s writing is not to give a detailed church order. Instead, Fee points out that Paul writes to “command certain [people] not to teach false doctrines any longer” (1 Tim 1:3), to “know what kind of conduct befits a member of God’s household” (1 Tim 3:15), and that Timothy’s task in Ephesus would not have been to appoint elders because we know from Acts 20:30 that elders already existed in Ephesus (in contrast to Titus in Crete).32 As a matter of fact, Fee proposes that Ephesus was similar to Rome in that there were house churches throughout the city.33 Fee’s observations (view Fee’s article for the detailed argument) lead him to conclude:

The evidence in the PE corresponds very closely to this [plurality of leadership in the church] state of affairs. Although some have argued that Timothy and Titus were to appoint a single episkopos, under whom there would be a group of deacons, exegesis of the key passages (1 Tim 3:1-2, 8, 5:17; Titus 1:5-7) and a comparison with Acts 20:17, 28 indicates otherwise. In all cases leadership was plural. These leaders are called elders in 1 Tim 5:17; Titus 1:5. They were to be appointed in Crete by Titus but had been appointed some years earlier in Ephesus, probably by Paul himself. The term “elders” is probably a covering term for both overseers and deacons. In any case, the grammar of Titus 1:5,7 demands that “elder” and “overseer” are interchangeable terms (as in Acts 20:17,28), but they are not thereby necessarily coextensive.34

Fee notes that there is still ambiguity as to the exact relationship between overseers and presbyters (Are they equivalent? Are bishops distinct members of the presbytery? Are all presbyters bishops? Are all bishops presbyters?). My position in this paper has been that “bishop” and “presbyter” are used in an equivalent sense, but Fee notes that even if they are not necessarily coextensive, leadership in the church was under the direction of multiple individuals. The Pastorals are a testimony to this fact and strongly support the organization of the early church in a collegial manner without a monarchical bishop.

C. Catholic Epistles

More could be said on other passages in the Pauline corpus (for example, Romans 16, though that has been addressed in my review of Lampe). An even more comprehensive look would require us to look at all of the passages that speak to ecclesiology, but this would be slightly beyond the scope of my thesis. My thesis is more modest than proving that all of early Christianity was presbyterial, though I believe I’ve demonstrated why this is a possible position. My argument is more particularly that in the city of Rome church governance was presbyterial. The examination of Acts and the Pastorals provides us with important background information, but we should turn our attention (very briefly) to the epistles which deal with the city of Rome.

Regarding Hebrews, I would point readers to William Lane’s excellent article in Judaism and Christianity in 1st Century Rome.35 In his article Lane offers additional information to substantiate Lampe’s thesis of fractionation. For example, he notes that Jews were forbidden public assembly in Rome after AD 54 and that this prohibition contributed to the development of house churches.36 Lane advances his own unique argument about Roman ecclesiology through his conclusions on the occasion for the letter to the Hebrews. To provide a skeleton of Lane’s argument he lays out four pieces of evidence:

1. The allusions to generosity in Hebrews 6:10-11 & 10:33-34 agree with Rome being wealthy.
2. The description of early suffering described in 10:32-34 is congruent with expulsion of Christians in 49 CE.
3. The multiplicity of leaders in Hebrews 13:7 being called “proegoumenoi” is only used by those writing to or from Rome.
4. Hebrews is first known being used in Rome (1 Clement 36:1-6).37

While Lane acknowledges that there is still substantive disagreement about the recipients of the letter, one of the implications of his thesis (which he argues independently of his belief about Roman ecclesiology) is that Hebrews 13:7 mentions a plurality of leaders in the city of Rome who minister the Word of God to the faithful. This would be another piece of canonical evidence referencing a plurality of leaders in Rome if Lane’s argument is correct. Caution must be exercised in demanding too much from Hebrews and its Roman connection, but if Lane’s arguments are correct, they provide important corroborative evidence for my position.

Perhaps the most interesting comment on ecclesiology in the canonical section as it relates to Roman ecclesiology is from 1 Peter 5. There is serious debate in the academic community about the author and recipients of this letter as well as the city of origin. Some people speculate that it was Rome while others remain agnostic.38 Regardless of the origin of the letter, the person of Peter carries important weight because he is supposedly the one to whom Jesus gave episcopal authority. Peter writes to the leaders in Asia Minor:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

The Apostle Peter identifies himself here as a συμπρεσβύτερος, “fellow elder”. Peter then uses the shepherding image (ποιμάνατε) and some manuscripts also include the command to ἐπισκοποῦντες, or oversee, the churches under their care. The textual variant is rather significant (it is not attested in the original Codex Sinaiticus or Vaticanus). We ought to be cautious about the certainty of the conclusions that we can draw, but once again the lexical equivalence of the terms is apparent in this passage and the variant shows that whatever scribes added it were expected the equivalence of the term.39 Most importantly, Peter refers to himself as a “fellow presbyter.” While Peter had referred to himself as an Apostle in 1:1, we notice that in this section he identifies himself with the leaders of the churches throughout the churches of the “dispersion.” This leads Raymond Brown to conclude:

The idea that Peter spoke as a ‘fellow presbyter’ telling presbyters how to behave is not unlike that of Paul in the Pastorals giving the qualifications for presbyter-bishops. Thus, in churches associated with the three great apostolic figures of the NT, Paul, James, and Peter, presbyters were known and established in the last third of the century.40

Even Peter, the one who is supposedly the bishop in the city of Rome, identifies himself as an apostle and a fellow presbyter with others throughout the “dispersion.” This statement again reinforces the thesis of the article: Roman Christianity was led by a plurality of presbyter-bishops in the first century. There is nothing in Peter that speaks of a threefold office. Instead, we find a plurality of ministers charged with the oversight of the congregation-and Paul identifies himself as a fellow elder.

D. Conclusion

Everything that we explored in canonical literature speaks to presbyter-bishops ruling in the church. There is no mention of a threefold office, much less a monarchical bishop. We did not even explore other biblical data where a plurality of leadership is mentioned such as Philippians 1:1,41 and we did not spend time looking at the character of Diotrephes whom Raymond Brown describes as someone, “making himself first in the Johannine community.”42 Everything that we saw from Acts, the Pastorals, Hebrews, and 1 Peter speak about plural leadership in the church.

IV. Examining the Evidence: Extra-Canonical Evidence

A. Clement of Rome

In 1 Clement, Clement is writing to a congregation that has ousted a number of its leaders. The first extant piece of literature is 1 Clement which is to be dated as early as AD 80 and as late as AD 130. Mention of the death of Peter and Paul provides us a terminus ante quem (1 Clem 5) of the later part of the 60’s. The precise dating of the letter is impossible, but it is no earlier than a second generation document and is more probably a third or fourth generation letter. The author does not identify himself or his office but simply writes from the “Church sojourning in Rome to the Church sojourning in Corinth” (1 Clement 1:1).

Of particular interest to our discussion is Clement’s discussion beginning in Chapter 42 of the order and administration of the church. Clement notes how Jesus sent the Apostles and how the Apostles ordained others to be bishops and deacons (1 Clement 42:4). In this section Clement appeals to Isaiah 60:17 to show that the installation of officers in the church was prophesied in the OT.43 For Clement there are two orders, “επισκοπους και διακονους” (“bishops and deacons”, or “overseers and servants”). Clement states that because there would be particular dispute over this office of “bishop” the Apostles instituted that other approved men should succeed their ministry when they died. Overthrowing their ministry for no reason is to overthrow the wisdom of the Apostles. Clement states it this way in 44:2:

Those therefore who were appointed by them [apostles], or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole Church, and have ministered unblamably to the flock of Christ in lowliness of mind, peacefully and with all modesty, and for long time have borne a good report with all these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out from their ministration.

It is striking that Clement mentions that the men that have been ousted are of good repute, possess the consent of the whole Church, and are humble and peaceful. To throw out such men to attempt to grab the office of bishop is unwarranted. Yet, Clement’s argument seems to imply that had one of the other conditions been met, their rebellion may well have been warranted. Clement’s argument as it continues in chapter 45 identifies the Corinthians with wicked persecutors and the ousted bishops as blameless victims. The problem with the insurrection was that it ousted qualified men serving notably for those attempting to gain the authority and prestige that accompanied the office.44

The most important question for our purposes is the equivalence of επισκοπης “bishops” and the πρεσβυτεροι “presbyters” in Clement. The two are used interchangeably throughout the letter but Clement himself makes the equivalence clear in 1 Clement 44:3 & 4:

For it will be no light sin for us, if we thrust out those who have offered the gifts of the bishop’s office unblamably and holily. Blessed are those presbyters who have gone before, seeing that their departure was fruitful and ripe: for they have no fear lest any one should remove them from their appointed place.

While bishops and presbyters are synonymous in Clement it is also important to note that when the two words are used they are used in the plural. He discusses πρεσβυτεροι in 1:3; 3:3; 21:6; 44:5; 47:6; 54:2; and 57:1 and επισκοποι in 42:4-5 & 44:1. In addition to these popular designation of office he also talks about “hegoumenoi” (1 Clement 1), “achegoi” (14), and “proegoumenoi” (21). The plural suffix is present for all of these uses. There is no mention of a monarchical bishop nor is there any indication that the writer should be identified as such a figure. Instead, what we find is what is consistent with my thesis: the church of Rome (and it appears Corinth) was led by a plurality of leaders of whom the title “presbyter” or “bishop” could be used.

Some people have argued that the writing of Clement shows the authority of the Roman church over the Corinthian Church, but the tone of the letter does not indicate that at all. Caragounis states:

The Roman church has no formal right to demand these things [obedience from Corinth]. Hence the arguments used to achieve this end are with the sumbouleutikon genos, the example.45

If Rome had the authority to command Corinth to act a certain way, it is rather striking that Clement writes in the manner he does. There is no sense of compulsion, but there is a plea with biblical and pastoral fervor. Placing the reason for the letter William Lane provides a compelling and cogent explanation for the occasion of 1 Clement:

The fact that the church in Corinth was founded by Paul, and that Paul was identified with Roman Christianity through individuals such as Prisca, and Aquilla, may have encouraged a continuing relationship between the two Christian communities. These proposals seem to offer a better explanation for the occasion of 1 Clement than the suggestion that 1 Clement represents the attempt of the Roman church to expand its sphere of influence.46

As Lane implies, some of the more critical approaches to the letter (i.e. that Clement is attempting to grow the sphere of influence for Rome) are unduly skeptical of Clement. There is nothing in the letter that indicates the church of Rome is being domineering or attempting to expand its influence. Lane’s suggestion provides an intelligible and natural explanation for the reason and motive behind the letter which does not assume too much (Corinth answers to Rome) or too little (that Clement is attempting to expand his power). As such 1 Clement is a letter of the elders in Rome to the sister church of Corinth and the congregations there.

B. Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius is a writer that all supporters of episcopal church government will be familiar with because he is the first and clearest proponent of a threefold division of offices, with the bishop residing as its most important. Cardinal Newman says about his belief in episcopacy:

As to the Episcopal system, I founded it upon the Epistles of St. Ignatius, which inculcated it in various ways.47

Ignatius himself states in no uncertain terms in his letter To the Trallians in chapter 2:

It is essential, therefore, to act in no way without the bishop, just as you are doing

The same statement is made in his letter To the Ephesians where he states in chapter 3:

For Jesus Christ — that life from which we can’t be torn — is the Father’s mind, as the bishops too, appointed the world over, reflect the mind of Jesus Christ.

If we are to believe Ignatius, the threefold view of ministry is one that was divinely instituted *and* which had spread throughout the world. If Ignatius is to be taken at face value this would undoubtedly include the city of Rome.

Some have attempted to argue that because of Ignatius’s view his writings must be forgeries (or heavily altered by later editors). This was actually a popular argument used by Presbyterians in England, but subsequent scholarship has satisfactorily proved that the writing of Ignatius was composed in the early second century (c.107-114).48 If the writings of Irenaeus are genuine second century documents, then how can Ignatius possibly favor the position that there was not a bishop in Rome?

First, we need to see if internal evidence from Ignatius supports Ignatius’s claims about the universality of episcopacy. For example, we read in his letter To the Magnesians:

It is right, then, not only to be called Christians but also to be Christians; just as some certainly use the title ‘bishop’ but do everything apart from him. Such people do not seem to me to act in good conscience because they do not meet validly in accordance with the commandment.49

We see from Ignatius that there are at least some individuals who conceive of the bishop’s role differently than does Ignatius himself.50 For Ignatius, the reason that the episcopate is so important is because it serves the purpose of maintaining the unity and love of the Church. Some Ignatian scholars surmise that Ignatius himself was the victim of internal discord (and not external persecution) in his Antiochenne church.51 This internal discord does not necessarily mean that Ignatius is not maintaining an Apostolic practice, but it is worth noting that even those in Ignatius’s general geographic area disagreed with him about the importance of the bishop. This difference of opinion did not only exist in Antioch, which is going to prompt us to make a brief excursus about the prevalence of the episcopate throughout the world known to Ignatius.

What remains indisputably clear is that Ignatius’s letters provide clear testimony that the threefold division of ministry existed at the end of the first century. This gives a preliminary advantage to the Catholic/Orthodox position. Is it true though that episcopacy had extended to the ends of the earth? Succinctly, it is not and this excursus will allow us to see why.

We begin with the Syrian document, the Didache. The dating of the Didache is difficult to pinpoint, but it is generally accepted being in the range of AD 80-120. The early dating of the document and its probable location in Syria (Palestine is also offered as a potential location) give us information about how the writers and recipients of the Didache conceived of church leadership. Considering the claims of Ignatius about the universality of the episcopacy Patrick Burke observers about the Didache:

The primary religious figure is the prophet, either wandering or resident; the group of elders function as a substitute for the prophets, and there is no conception of a monarchical episcopacy.52

In the Didache bishops and deacons are mentioned once (15:1 where the congregation is told to appoint these officers) while prophets are mentioned eight times (10:15; 11:4; 11:19; 13:3; 13:7; 15:2; 15:4; 16:6). The role of bishops and deacons “also perform the service of the prophets and teachers” (15:2) and the bishops and deacons are, “honorable men along with the prophets and teachers” (15:4).

Burke concludes:

Of all the documents which date from this period, the Didache presents us with a picture of the Church most removed from that with a monarchical bishop. The idea of such a person seems quite foreign to its thought, which emphasizes the charismatic element in the Church and sees structure only as a support for this.53

Of particular importance for the presbyterial position is that here we encounter another piece of evidence where there are two sources of leadership, the “bishops” and the “deacons.” There is no threefold understanding of the offices (contra Ignatius). This leadership rules in plurality and it is interesting that the laity seem to have the responsibility to make sure that things are carried out in an appropriate way (all the commands are in the second person plural).

Contributing to this notion is the apocryphal literature which we possess from the second century in Egypt. There we have the Preaching of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the epistle of Barnabas. There is no mention of a bishop, presbyter, deacon, or teacher. Burke concludes:

We must say therefore that we simply do not possess any evidence whatever for the structure of the church in Egypt, except the argument from silence: a monarchical bishop would surely make his presence felt, and the first structural evidence we do have comes with such a person, Demetrius, at the end of the second century.54

We should be cautious about extrapolating too much data from the silence, but as Burke notes, we would think that some mention of a bishop who was exerting that type of authority Ignatius speaks of would be mentioned (particular in the literary hotbed of Alexandria!), but we encounter silence.

The epistle of Polycarp To the Philippians also contextualizes Ignatius’s claims about the universality of the episcopate. Polycarp is a very interesting case because he is the only individual to receive a letter from Ignatius and in that letter Ignatius refers to him as a bishop. The Martyrdom of Polycarp (from roughly AD 160) also views Polycarp as the bishop of Smyrna.

When Polycarp writes however, he introduces himself as “Polycarp and the presbyters with him.” It is interesting that Polycarp does not introduce himself as a bishop, but there are a number of different reasons this could be the case. He could have done so out of humility, out of tact not wanting to impose upon the Philippians since they had asked him to write (3.1), perhaps because the Philippians were hostile to bishops, he may have not been a bishop in the way that Ignatius conceived of the office, or he may have only been a leading elder at Smyrna.55

Whatever the case may be for not addressing himself as a bishop, Polycarp nowhere gives an exhortation to a bishop in the city of Philippi. Andrew Selby states:

Significantly for our purposes, Polycarp has no exhortation to the επίσκοπος, who if he existed, might be expected to receive some form of rebuke or encouragement considering the downfall of Valens.56

The fall of Valens is rather significant in Polycarp’s writing because Valens, a presbyter, and his wife had mismanaged church funds and Valens “fails to understand the office that was entrusted to him” (11.1). Without the mention of an επίσκοπος in Philippi the natural conclusion is that such an office did not exist. The dominant form of government is that which Polycarp describes, the church is ruled by πρεσβύτεροι.57 The fact that Polycarp does not mention the bishop provides in the bare minimum an indication that Polycarp was not as adamant about the importance of the bishop as was Ignatius.

Subsequent study could turn up other pieces of evidence to show the emergence of presbyterian governance, but these two examples ought to show that the universality of Ignatius’s claims is doubtful.58

Turning our attention back to the Roman episcopate and Ignatius we notice that in six of Ignatius’s seven letters, he explicitly mentions the bishop and discusses the importance of obedience to the bishop. In his letter To the Romans, however, Ignatius is curiously silent. Burke concludes from this silence:

Ignatius’ silence concerning a monarchical bishop in Rome, taken together with his preoccupation with it everywhere else he writes, is more than an argument from silence. It is more than simply an absence of evidence for a monarchical episcopate in Rome. It must be considered evidence that such an office did not exist there at that time.59

Even if we concede, for the sake of argument, that Ignatius’s silence is not in favor of a Presbyterian form of government, it is at best not in favor of the episcopal argument in the city of Rome.

Furthermore, James F. McCue demonstrates how the conception of the “presbyters” in Ignatius is distinct from subsequent developments of the office where the presbyter serves a “priestly” role. Highlighting this development, McCue points out that the Council of Trent (Session 23) and Ignatius (Smyrn. 8) have competing concepts of priesthood. Ignatius believes that anyone can offer the Eucharist under the direction of the bishop (including the laity) while Trent dogmatically teaches that only a priest validly ordained can do so (article here).60

In the final analysis, the silence from Ignatius in his letter to the Romans speaks loudly about the church structure of the Roman church being led by one bishop as Ignatius elsewhere writes. At best, Ignatius provides an example of a threefold ministry that exists but which does not possess the threefold office in the same manner as the Tridentine formula. These conclusions are favorable to the presbyterian thesis and are corroborated and strengthened when viewed in concert with the writings of Hermas.

C. Hermas

The Shepherd of Hermas is perhaps the most important writer providing information as regards the structure of the church in Rome. The writings of Hermas are contained in his Visions, Mandate, and Similitude and are dated to roughly AD 140. The dating is dependent on two uncertain pieces of evidence. First, Clement (the supposed author of 1 Clement) is identified by Hermas as someone who sends books to cities abroad. The assumption is that the book couldn’t be much later than 140 because Clement appears to be alive at the time of writing. At the same time, Clement is a very common name in the Roman world and it is conceivable that Hermas has someone else entirely in mind. The second piece of information is the attribution in the Muratorian Fragment (c. AD 170-400 though it certainly appears to be close to 170 than 400) that Hermas had a brother named Pius who was allegedly the bishop of the city of Rome c. AD 142-155. Neither piece of evidence is stable, but scholars generally agree that Hermas was written c. AD 140.

The reason that the dating is rather significant is tied to the fact that here we have a document after Clement and Ignatius where the ecclesiology in Rome is addressed and everything that we read supports the presbyterian thesis.

In Vision 2.4.3 Hermas is told:

You will write therefore two books, and you will send the one to Clemens and the other to Grapte. And Clemens will send his to foreign countries, for permission has been granted to him to do so. And Grapte will admonish the widows and the orphans. But you will read the words in this city, along with the presbyters who preside over the Church.

Hermas states that there is a figure in the city who is responsible for sending out communications from Rome to other cities. That person’s name is Clemens, or Clement. Whether or not it is actually the Clement from 1 Clement is unclear, but there is no indication whatsoever that this figure is a monarchical bishop. It’s also clear that Hermas distributes the book throughout the city through a minister of internal affairs, Grapte, who distributes this book to the disparate groups within the city (a very important point for Lampe’s thesis of fractionation which will be discussed in Section VI). Such occurrences fit exactly what Lampe’s thesis of fractionation would expect.61

Hermas never mentions a single leader in the church but uses ἐπισκόποι and πρεσβύτεροι when discussing the leadership of the church and also calls them proistamenoi, προηγουμένοις, and πρωτοκαθεδρίταις (Vis. 3.9.7).62 This latter term is particularly interesting because it is not a neutral description but an insult. The English translations bear this out:

I now say to you who preside over the Church and love the first seats

The context here is those who are looking to put themselves over others and jealously keep their wealth to themselves.

This selfish tendency seems to have caught Hermas’s eye enough that he mentions it again to the leaders of the church in Similitude 8.7.4-6:

[A]s many as do not repent at all, but abide in their deeds, shall utterly perish. And they who gave in their branches green and cracked were always faithful and good, though emulous of each other about the foremost places, and about fame: now all these are foolish, in indulging in such a rivalry. Yet they also, being naturally good, on hearing my commandments, purified themselves, and soon repented. Their dwelling, accordingly, was in the tower. But if any one relapse into strife, he will be cast out of the tower, and will lose his life. Life is the possession of all who keep the commandments of the Lord; but in the commandments there is no rivalry in regard to the first places, or glory of any kind, but in regard to patience and personal humility. Among such persons, then, is the life of the Lord, but amongst the quarrelsome and transgressors, death.

Some of the teachers had repented of their rivalry and dissension, but Hermas reminds them that if they lapse back into their disputes about the “foremost places and about fame” then they will reap death. Hermas is thus unequivocal that the leadership in the church should not seek to distinguish themselves from one another. His reference to a vision of a man sitting on a chair being a false prophet is interesting and could allude to someone attempting to consolidate power, but as Bernard Green notes, it is far too obscure to reach any definitive conclusions on the identity of this figure.63 We are able to see, however, that the functionaries in the mind of Hermas are the “presbyters” who preside together over the city of Rome. The significance of Hermas is explained by Patrick Burke:

“[Hermas] does not even seem to have heard of the idea [of a monarchical bishop]. Considering that there is general agreement that the book did not take its final form until about 140, and that it certainly was written in Rome, this constitutes a considerable puzzle for church historians, for it usually taken that the monarchical episcopacy had developed by that time.”64

Burke, writing in 1970, was yet to see how scholars in the field such as Peter Lampe and Allen Brent would use this evidence from Hermas and later evidence to show that the government of Rome was varied even later than was originally considered. As Burke’s statement implies, those wishing to postulate even an early development of a monarchical episcopate will be hard pressed to fit this into what we know regarding the church structure described in Hermas. Lampe believes that Hermas records growing ecclesiastical conflict which are precursors to the development of the monarchical episcopate in Rome. Lampe also acknowledges that there were other social and theological reasons for the development but whatever the source of the development the testimony from our earliest sources is that a plurality of leaders led the church.

D. Justin Martyr

Thus far, the evidence that we have examined provides us with important probative data concerning Roman Christianity. Clement only mentions leadership in the plural. Ignatius, who is fixated on the importance of the bishop, does not mention any leaders in Rome or the all-important office of bishop. The additional data explored in conjunction with Ignatius also demonstrated that other churches were led in a presbyterian manner of government with multiple presbyters overseeing the church. Hermas reinforces this by mentioning the plurality of leadership in the city while chastising the attempt of the city’s presbyters fighting against one another for prominence.

Before bringing this section to a close however, I will briefly mention the importance of silence from figures like Justin Martyr, who resided in Rome but speaks nowhere of a monarchical bishop. I will borrow a section from my review of Peter Lampe:

I will just point out his [Lampe’s] mention of the trial transcripts of Justin Martyr’s trial. Justin states that his circle met in a lodging “above the bath of Myrtinus.” To the question “Where do you assemble?” Justin responded, “There, where each one will and can. Or do you mean that we all are accustomed to assemble in the same place? It is by no means so.” Lampe states that Justin claims he does not even know where other assemblies meet (cf. Act. Just. 3). Furthermore, Justin states in Dial. 47.2 that Christians met in private dwellings. The implication is that while Justin also talks about Sunday liturgy “in one place,” a central assembly of Christianity is not envisioned. He is instead describing the assembly of a typical house-church community that takes place on Sundays.

Worship took place with the oversight of the church’s presbyter-bishop or “presider” as Justin puts it in Apology 1.67. Justin’s explanation of the worship of the various communities in Rome is a certain indicator that Justin is not describing a Eucharistic meal where the bishop resides (in an Ignatian sense). Instead, Justin is describing the worship of a house church worship setting. The absence of a Roman bishop in Justin’s writing as well as in the writing of Justin’s opponents provides us with even greater evidence from silence.

At this point in our study we have reviewed evidence from the New Testament into the middle of the second century in the city of Rome. As of yet we have encountered only examples of multiple leaders providing oversight of the people of God in a particular area. Up to this point everything has corroborated my claim that the church was guided by the presbyters, but we will now turn our attention to the evidence that has been described as “direct evidence.” This evidence is alleged to fill in detail that the writers from the first century and a half of history did not mention.

V. “Direct Evidence”: Hegesippus and Irenaeus

As Sean Patrick’s challenge to Protestants indicates, the list of Irenaeus is seen as the most comprehensive and strongest piece of information that we will encounter. This is why he asks, “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?” To answer that question we will need to understand that evidence of Irenaeus and his predecessor Hegesippus to see if Mr. Patrick’s assumptions about the strength of Irenaeus’s evidence for the Catholic position are justified.

These two individuals are considered the first to provide us with bishop lists stretching back to the Apostolic times. Bryan Cross notes that Irenaeus, writing around AD 180, could have talked with the grandchildren of people who were in Rome at the time of Peter’s martyrdom and would have been able to verify the truth or falsity of what Irenaeus had claimed. Irenaeus is not that far removed from the establishment of the episcopate (c.125-150 years) and the fact that he is attempting to write a succession of bishops assumes that the idea could not have been completely novel. Even though it is the first explicit mention of the office, it is comprehensive in that it is claiming to go back to the time of the apostles. It must be admitted that all of these things are true and that we should not simply dismiss Irenaeus as a result. Before delving into Irenaeus, however, we should first look at the list of Hegesippus, which is not a full list of “bishops” but it is generally accepted as predating Irenaeus.

A. Hegesippus

Hegesippus is considered the Church’s first historian and he wrote his Memoirs which are lost and are only available in fragmentary form from Eusebius. What we gather from Eusebius about Hegesippus is that he was a converted Jew from Jerusalem who knew Hebrew and wrote against the Gnostics. It is safe to say that Eusebius uses him as a source, but beyond that it is very difficult to reconstruct Hegesippus’s Memoirs and the scope of their influence.

One of the pieces of writing, however, we do have from Eusebius is where he quotes Hegesippus as saying:

On my arrival at Rome, I drew up a list of the succession of bishops down to Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. To Anicetus succeeded Soter, and after him came Eleutherus. But in the case of every succession, and in every city, the state of affairs is in accordance with the teaching of the Law and of the Prophets and of the Lord.65

The import of this writing is that Hegesippus is talking about the “succession,” but the word “ἐπίσκοπος,” or “bishops” is not in the Greek text. Instead, Hegesippus states that he drew up for himself a succession of διαδοχην, or teaching. The importance of this is noted in literature commenting on Hegesippus’s list. Lampe notes:

“It by no means concerned him to prove a succession of monarchical bishops from the apostles until the present. What he pictured in his mind were chains of bearers of correct belief, and he was of the opinion that he could recognize such a claim also in Rome. More than this is not in the text.”66

We may expect Lampe to say something like this since his position is that there was no episcopate in Rome in the first two centuries and that it developed later, but is this interpretation accurate? We should consider the interpretation of Johannes Quasten who states:

Eusebius’s words ‘Γενομενος δε εν Ρωμη, διαδοχην εποιησαμην μεχρις Ανικητου’ do not indicate that Hegesippus compiled a list of the bishops of Rome in order of their succession but that he in his crusade against the heresies of his time visited Corinth, Rome and other metropolitan cities in order to ascertain the διαδοχην, that is, the tradition or preservation of the true doctrine.67

Quasten, a noted conservative, acknowledges that the text as we have received it from Eusebius is not attempting to define a succession of bishops, but rather succession of doctrine. Potential issues with the reliability of the text in the scholarly community would make that even clearer.68

Taking a slightly different approach is T.C.G. Thornton who believes that Hegesippus’s proximity to Judaism (the fact that he was at least acquainted with Judaism if not a former Jew himself) caused him to view succession lists similarly to the Jewish disputes over the proper successor of the high priest.69 Josephus had argued that the Jews kept meticulous records from the priesthood for 2000 years and therefore were an ancient religion with greater legitimacy than the religions of the Greeks. Hegesippus was the first person to utilize this Jewish apologetic against the Gnostics in this way:

For Hegesippus it is significant that in each city there is a succession of bishops who all agree in their faithfulness to the Scriptures and Christ’s message (as contrasted with the new and varied teachings of heretics.)70

For Thornton, the argument of Hegesippus is unique, but it is not mechanically tied to the succession of bishops. Hegesippus’s argument is instead wed to the tradition of the Apostolic teaching being passed down publicly in the Church. The fact that his list is limited in its scope and in determining the identity of a bishop (let alone that there was a monarchical bishop) are reasons to avoid concluding that Hegesippus is writing about the existence of a monarchical episcopate connected to Peter in Rome.

Some scholars (Like Thornton and Robert Lee Williams, Hans von Campenhausen, and H.E.W Turner) view Hegesippus as the transitional figure in utilizing bishop lists against the Gnostics.71 Hegesippus is a perfect transitional figure given his proximity to Judaism, and Hegesippus’s ideas are elaborated upon by Irenaeus. Irenaeus’s bishop list is in some sense dependent upon Hegesippus. That does not necessarily entail that Irenaeus’s list is a “fictive construction,” or even that Irenaeus was completely dependent on Hegesippus, but it shows antecedents to Irenaeus and allows us to see how this climate would have helped develop Irenaeus’s consciousness of how succession lists would work in anti-Gnostic polemics.

B. Irenaeus

While there is a multiplicity of interpretations of Irenaeus’s bishop list, I will outline that of Peter Lampe. Lampe’s position has been accused of assuming a priori that Irenaeus is unreliable leading Lampe to conclude the list is a fictive construction. As I will show, that is manifestly not the case. Here is the text of Irenaeus from Against Heresies 3.3.3:

The blessed apostles, then having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherus does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.

There are a number of interesting contextual pieces of information about Irenaeus’s bishop list that need to be addressed. The first and most important is the verb tenses. This cannot be emphasized enough because previous discussions of Lampe’s position have overlooked this essential feature of Lampe’s argument.

Lampe notes that Irenaeus:

Interrupts a bare catalogue of names in the present tense with historical and literary comments in the imperfect. Therefore the tradition [the preexisting list he is using] and the redaction [what he is adding] are relatively easily separated.72

One may gather from such an inference that the list is therefore an old list which Irenaeus has access to (and perhaps one younger than the list of Hegesippus). But Lampe explains why he does not think this is the case.

First, Lampe mentions the section from Irenaeus where he states, “Eleutherus does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles” as evidence that the number twelve–the Apostolic number–is an essential element of the list. The twelve apostles are followed by the twelve bearers of tradition. Lampe notes that the list could have as easily started with Peter (or Paul, which we will address momentarily), but that would interrupt the symmetry of the list and so it begins with Linus. Second, Lampe points out that the sixth member on the list happens to be named “Sixtus.” What is even more interesting about this is that the note concerning Sixtus, that he was the “sixth appointed” is in the present tense and is a constituent part of the list prior to Irenaeus.73 What does this mean? Because the number twelve is an essential feature to the list and because the mention of “Sixtus” as the halfway marker is also a constituent component of the list Irenaeus is using, that means that list could not have been composed prior to the bishopric of Eleutherus.

It is very important to note that it is only after Lampe has set forth these arguments that he then surmises that the creation of the list was to serve a polemical purpose at the time of Eleutherus. It does not mean, of course, that the creator of the list or Irenaeus himself was intentionally lying or being deceptive, but they may very well have been inferring that the minister of external affairs possessed the authority that the new found bishop did. This is why Lampe concludes that the list of Irenaeus was composed for the first time c. AD 180.74

C. Objections

One may conceivably respond by claiming that the list Irenaeus used c. AD 180 could have used other ancient sources which originated from apostolic times, making the list a construction from 180 while maintaining its first century sources. Such a response, however, is unlikely and is an invalid argument from silence. We do not possess any succession lists with this specificity in the first or early second century. The one list we do possess does not stretch back to the first century and is concerned with the succession of doctrine. That list shares similarities to the writings of Josephus’s arguments concerning succession, leading to the idea that Hegesippus was the transitional figure who utilized his experience in Judaism to combat Gnosticism using those types of succession lists. If Hegesippus was the first person to utilize this methodology, that would make sense of the silence concerning succession lists from earlier time periods and their proliferation since. Furthermore, the evidence we have seen from sections III and IV makes the solution the most plausible.

Another response to this sort of interaction with Irenaeus and Hegesippus is that it is being unduly critical of the Church Fathers. Bryan Cross puts it this way (though in a slightly different polemical context with me):

To approach the Catholic question already discounting the Fathers is to have already presupposed the falsehood of the Catholic claim, and thus to be wasting your time seemingly “weighing” the evidence for Catholicism. Many Reformed Protestants responded to our “Solo Scriptura” article by denying that they are “solo scriptura” Christians, and affirming that they too embrace the authority of tradition. But performatively when the rubber meets the road, I find that the Church Fathers are typically treated as you are treating them here, namely, as evidential trash.75

In response to Dr. Cross, Protestants in the tradition of the Magisterial Reformers want to claim and cherish the Fathers of the church. As a matter of fact, we cherish and love them so much that we wish to respectfully and lovingly show where those Fathers may have been mistaken in their assessment of the faith. Furthermore, this is not only an activity for Protestants, Catholics must do so as well. For example, we know for a fact that Irenaeus is wrong or confused on details. The one most commonly noted is that Irenaeus believed that Jesus lived to be past his fifties while the Gospels tell us that Jesus was in his thirties.76 No Roman Catholic, however, is willing to allow Irenaeus’s erroneous belief to stand because he is a Church Father. Irenaeus must be respectfully corrected on this account.

Of particular interest as regards his bishop list, however, we must also point out something that at least provides the wrong impression—that Peter and Paul founded the church in Rome and installed bishops. It is universally acknowledged that Peter and Paul did not “establish” the Roman church, if that means that the church actually resulted from their missionary work. We know from the book of Romans that Paul had not been to Rome before the church had been established (Rom 15:22), and the biblical chronology tells us that Peter was not in Rome when Christianity arrived very early (with a good possibility that it arrived before 40 AD).77 There is also no indication that Peter was in Rome before Paul wrote his letter to the Romans c. 58 A.D.78 If one took Irenaeus’s list at face value we would have a faulty understanding of the origin of Christianity in Rome.

This issue is further exacerbated when we consider the conflicting opinions or retellings of the same event from different Fathers of the church. For example, Tertullian tells us:

Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed.[80]79

One notes that in this passage in c. 200 AD we have Tertullian telling us that as Polycarp was ordained by the Apostle John, so also Peter ordained Clement. The only problem with this is that when we compare it to the list from Irenaeus we notice that Irenaeus lists Linus, Anacletus, then Clement. In attempting to make sense of these two sources it has been proposed that while Peter ordained Clement to the episcopate he ceded the office to Linus who then passed it on to Anacletus who then passed it along back to Clement. Jerome indicates that most of the Latins (which Tertullian would have been heavily influential upon as a Latin writer) actually believed that Clement was the immediate successor of Peter:

The fourth bishop of Rome after Peter, if indeed the second was Linus and the third Anacletus, although most of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle.80

At this point it will be helpful to revisit what this ambiguity tells us and what it does not. It does not mean that there were no bishops in Rome nor does it necessitate that Peter did not actually ordain Linus or Clement. As a matter of fact, Catholics see Tertullian’s testimony as corroborating Irenaeus because he possesses a notion of episcopal office from the Apostles. My argument is more narrowly focused. The competing traditions show us that we need to interact with the Fathers knowing that there are mistakes and discrepancies. Pointing out those discrepancies or errors does not mean that we treat them as “evidential trash.” Ignoring the errors is actually to commit the greater error against the Fathers because it turns a blind eye to the truth. The Fathers, as pursuers of truth would not want us to enshrine their errors.81

D. The meaning of Irenaeus

Thus far we’ve shown how the strength of the evidence from Irenaeus is not quite as strong as has been assumed. The list of Irenaeus is composed at the time of Eleutherus c. AD 180. He is probably borrowing from Hegesippus, who is the first Christian to utilize succession lists against the Gnostics. We can trace the development of this polemic and even notice that Tertullian proposes a different belief about who Peter ordained to his episcopal role.

Irenaeus states that Peter and Paul ordained the episcopal leaders of the Roman church but there is no mention of a Petrine office or peculiar Petrine succession. Peter and Paul are both identified as the founders of the church and are given equal honor as the founders of the church in Rome and in the ordination of the episcopal successors. Tertullian also mentions that Peter ordained Clement, but the notion of Clement or Linus succeeding the line of the Apostles is foreign to both writings. Instead of establishing a list of succession in an official episcopal office Irenaeus is particularly focused on the doctrine handed on to the bearers of the tradition. Johannes Quasten explains the intention of Irenaeus’s writing when he states:

…Irenaeus intends to demonstrate that the fables and fictions of the Gnostics are foreign to the Apostolic tradition. Accordingly this passage we have cited does not refer to the ecclesiastical constitution but to the faith which is common to all individual churches, which is in sharp opposition to Gnosis and its speculations.82

When Irenaeus’s list is taken in its second century context we do not see a Petrine office of succession; we see Irenaeus writing about the handing down of tradition from one bearer of tradition to the next. While the Protestant may not believe that the particulars of Irenaeus’s argument (that this occurred in episcopal succession) are correct, that does not mean that they reject the substance of what Irenaeus is saying.

Irenaeus is arguing that the apostolic faith has been handed down in the church and has been publicly taught in all of the churches (including Ephesus and Smyrna). In other words, Irenaeus’s focus is not on grounding Christian belief in the authority of church office, but of showing the continuity of the church’s teaching in history.83 Some have argued that if Irenaeus was writing falsehoods or lies that his opponents would have been able to demonstrate that. Bernard Green says that the Gnostics would have “exploded” Irenaeus’s argument. This is precisely why Lampe (and Green himself) propose that Irenaeus, while incorrect about the office that the individuals in the list possessed, was using the names of actual presbyter-bishops from Rome.84

E. Conclusion

When Irenaeus and Hegesippus are read in their own context we begin to see that their strength as evidence for the Catholic position is not as strong as has been asserted. As a matter of fact, the most that Irenaeus can do is suggest that an episcopate with Petrine and Pauline origins existed from the time of the Apostles. The existence of such lists does not occur until after the second half of the second century and even the list of Hegesippus (upon which the list of Irenaeus seems to build]) is not concerned with episcopal succession as he is with doctrinal succession. The list of Irenaeus is from a previous source composed no earlier than the time of Eleutherus c. AD 180. These internal considerations show us that the concept of a succession list of episcopal successors is a mid-second century development. When compared with our knowledge of first and early second century Christianity (Section IV) the best way to account for all the data is that the list of Irenaeus is likely a retrojection of his current ecclesial situation into the past.

VI. Fractionation: Peter Lampe, & Allen Brent

Contributing to our literary analysis of the material presented above is the socio-historical thesis that the city of Rome was fractionated in the first and second century, which created the fractionation of Roman Christianity. In sum, Lampe believes that Roman Christianity was fragmented (or “fractionated” as he states it) along social, ethnic, and geographic divisions in the city of Rome. This fractionation led to the development of house churches with a loose presbyterial connection with one another. To substantiate this case, Lampe used every shred of evidence available from the city of Rome—archaeology, topography, extant literature (political & ecclesiastical, formal & informal, Christian & non-Christian, even down to information about the number of bakeries in a particular section of the city, which provides corroborating evidence about the economic condition of the region). I’ve written an extensive review of Lampe here for those who would like to see his argument more fully summarized, but I will keep my summary to a paragraph here.

Lampe’s focus in writing is not polemical (i.e. to discredit a monarchical episcopate) but is rather focused on how to understand the social situation of first and second century Christians in the city of Rome. What Lampe uncovers is that the city is diverse geographically, economically, and ethnically. Even though the economic situation is not that diverse (almost all Christians were poor), the social reality of persecution of Christians made the meeting of Christians in large gatherings socially unsafe and economically impossible. The earliest Christians did not meet in centralized places for worship but met in smaller house churches throughout the city. This lack of centralization shows that no monarchical episcopate existed (please remember, this is a basic summary and Lampe’s argument is very detailed) but that it later developed as the diaconal needs and capacity of the Roman church grew. Lampe does not argue that all of the various churches were completely autonomous. The leaders of the various house churches would meet occasionally and shared fellowship with one another. They functioned like a presbytery (which is why Paul can write one letter to the Romans and why Clement can write a letter on behalf of the Church of Rome).

Lampe’s view (which is not uniquely Lampe’s) is noted by other scholars as the most comprehensive articulation of the perspective of Roman Christianity.85 Other scholars, such as recent Roman Catholic convert Allen Brent, have reached similar conclusions. Brent’s article “Was Hippolytus a Schismatic?” seeks to show how fractionation in Roman Christianity is apparent from the dispute between the antipope Hippolytus and Pope Callistus.86 Brent’s article—as the title suggests—is focused on the existence of schism in the debate between them.

There are theological definitions of schism, but there is also an important “operational” definition of schism conceived of in the third and fourth century. Brent states that in the time of Cyprian (c. 250), schism was operationally, “if we manage to get the altar and Church building and get you out, then you are the schismatics, but if you alternatively get our buildings and our altar, then it is we who are the schismatics.”87 Brent notes, however, that while the church historians Eusebius and Damasus operated on this understanding of schism (and reported the controversy in this manner), it could not apply in the case of Hippolytus in the early third century.

One important reason for this is that Brent concurs with Lampe that early Roman Christianity was fractionated.88 There is no corporate property for one church to gain or regain access to and therefore no possibility for “schism.”89 Brent notes:

The presiding presbyter or presbyters would thus find it very difficult to cut off from access to a Eucharist or an agape meal those of whose theology or doctrine they disapproved when the right of invitation was that of the house owner. Schism in the later sense was under these conditions quite impossible.90

That is not to say that they could not exert some force in getting them to repent, but Brent notes that this was often done by attempting to persuade wayward individuals instead of by force.91 Echoing Lampe, Brent notes that the disputes would take place in the “presbytery.” There competing perspectives would present their case before one another in an attempt to persuade the competing side. (Brent notes Hermas’s mention that the leaders of the churches would gather together to distribute the reading of his Vision).

Brent goes on to explain that the tension between Hippolytus and Callistus is that Callistus is attempting to be lax in the churches he associates with.92 According to Brent, Hippolytus’s objection is not that Callistus is not the true bishop nor that those not in communion with Hippolytus are schismatics. Instead, Brent notes:

The thing that [Hippolytus] makes objection to is not that a member of his congregation ought not to join that of Callistus because the latter has no proper jurisdiction, but rather that the latter has admitted those convicted by him of heresy and other sins, and that others, not specified as being from his particular congregation, and moved by heresy and not orthodoxy, had taken the same route. Had Callistus remained orthodox, then there would have been no objection to his presidency of his own congregation.93

Continuing Brent comments, “If the dispute had been between two contenders to a single episcopal chair, as in the case of later antipopes, it is curious that Hippolytus set out his account of the dispute in no such terms.”94 In other words, there was no single episcopal office in Rome because the conflict testifies that the opponents were not combating one another over a disputed episcopal chair. Instead, the dispute centered upon admission of heretics into communion with a Roman church.

More could be discussed from Brent’s article (and his subsequent book on the subject), but Brent’s article serves to show that the Hippolytus affair seems to corroborate the data generated by Lampe. Roman Christianity was not centralized and the entire Roman Church was not ruled over by a monarchical bishop. As one can tell from the quotes in section II, this is considered the dominant view of the academy, but Catholic apologists have argued that there are dissenters of this opinion and we will now turn to them.

VII. “Dissenters” of consensus

In my own investigation of this issue I was pressed to look at multiple modern critics of the consensus: Bernard Green and Chrys Caragounis. The arguments of earlier writers like Felix Cirlot and Gregory Dix have been judged as deficient and dated by modern scholars.95 These men also do not interact with the broader argument of fractionation (arguing against Lampe or Brent) and therefore are not in the scope of this discussion. As such, I won’t interact with them explicitly, though my exegetical work in the Fathers and the Scriptures offers an alternative to their positions.

Of particular concern to both Caragounis and Green is that exegesis of Romans 16 from the consensus is suspect. Green suggests that the house churches of Romans 16 probably did not continue to exist after the Neronian persecution96 while Caragounis argues that just because Paul did not use the word ekklesia such absence did not mean that the idea was not present.97 Green postulates that 1 Clement is evidence that Rome conceived of itself as one church by the close of the first century. Caragounis argues further that there is no house church designated as the recipient of the letter and wonders how warring factions in the Roman Church would have shared the letter if conditions were as divided as the consensus view suggests.98

But if the city was not as fractionated as Lampe and Brent suggests, what do Green and Caragounis believe about the episcopate in the first century?

Green states:

“Did [Rome] have one leader?* The author of 1 Clement writes on behalf of the church rather than in his own name…it certainly looks as though the Roman church was led by a team of presbyters but it is also clear that there was one church and, in the author of the letter, one spokesman.”99

If Green’s own statement about the plurality of leadership in Rome (to the exclusion of a singular leader) is not clear in itself, take this statement from the source that Brent approvingly cites (the “*” designated where Brent puts his footnote in the above quote) after his question from Eric G. Jay:

This survey shows, I maintain, that for about a century and a half the church’s ministry was basically presbyteral. There would, perhaps, be speedier progress in ecumenical conversations between episcopal and presbyterian churches if, on the one hand, this were frankly recognized, and if, on the other hand, the cogency of the needs which prom[p]ted the eventual emergence of the monepiscopate were acknowledged.100

Green goes on to state elsewhere that there was not a monarchical bishop, but there probably was something like a president of presbyters.101 Far from this source defending the notion of an early episcopate, it explicitly denies it. Caragounis interpretations102 are distinct but his conclusions are similar to Green’s.

For example, while criticizing Lampe for not accounting for how Clement could have written a letter for the church of Rome he writes:

Although the bishop still does not have monarchical powers but functions simply as the mouthpiece of the whole church 1 Clement lays the foundation for such a development.103

Caragounis goes on to note that the dialogue of Clement shows that he does not have a formal right to demand obedience and therefore the arguments are attempts to compel them. Regarding the arguments that Clement uses Caragounis has a very strong opinion:

The Christianity of 1 Clement is not of the Pauline type; it is a Jewish type, heavily influenced by the OT cultus. The above point may imply that the trouble in Corinth was the desire for a renewal, perhaps, of a charismatic (Pauline) type of church government, which led to the deposition of the old presbyters, who represented a static authority. If this is correct, 1 Clement represents the Roman repudiation of Pauline Christianity and its definite embracing of a static, sacerdotal type of Christianity, patterned on the OT and Judaism. Perhaps after all, what we have in 1 Clement is that beneath the Corinthian problem and the Roman church’s reaction lies the triumph of the Jewish-Christian point of view over the Pauline understanding of Christianity, and this may imply also the long-term failure of Paul’s letter among the Roman Christians. This also shows that the Roman church is no longer the weak, dissentient, problematic, obscure church of the time of Romans. It has assumed a position of prominence.104

If the Catholic lodges the criticism of selective use of sources against Protestants, then they must likewise admit that using Caragounis would be equally selective. In this case it is even more egregious than Protestants utilizing Lampe because Caragounis’s interpretation of Clement bears directly on his interpretation of the church structure of Roman Christianity. Furthermore, even from this quote we see that Caragounis believes that there has been a corruption of Apostolic teaching in 1 Clement.

One final scholar bears mention in this discussion of dissent to the academic guild and that is Robert Williams. Williams states that the episcopate probably originated first in Jerusalem and developed in other areas but Williams is clear to state that notions of episcopacy found in Ignatius does not approximate anything close to Apostolic Succession.105 Williams states:

“The succession of bishops arose in Rome from Jewish Christian interpretation of apostolic plans in reaction to erosion of established presbyterial authority. These developments set the stage for the initial use of succession lists in internal crises rather than in dialogue with Greco-Roman Society.106

In addition to affirming what was argued regarding Hegesippus, Williams states that the monarchical episcopate developed from the erosion of presbyterial authority. Once again, William’s conclusions are not conducive to the RCC’s claims and are favorable to the thesis of this paper.

In summation, modern scholarship from Allen Brent to Robert Williams agrees that the existence of a monarchical episcopate developed in the second century. There are virtually no scholars in the extant literature who dispute this. I’ve encountered exactly one academic article that suggests that there was a monarchical bishop in Rome in the first century and that article is answered deftly by Francis Sullivan.107 There is disagreement regarding the impact of fractionation and the time, speed, and manner of development, but these disagreements only serve to solidify what all of these scholars hold in common: churches, and the church in Rome in particular, were governed by presbyterial authority and only later did the development of the monarchical episcopate occur. The idea that there was an office of bishop where the bishop succeeded the role of the apostle is likewise recognized as a later development.

VIII. Objections and the implications

In this section of the article I will attempt to tie all of the implications of the study together in conversation with other important articles from Called To Communion. In the final section I will synthesize all of the data and provide a conclusion.

a. Jesus founded a Visible Church

There are a handful of very important articles at Called to Communion and I would like to interact with them to see how the present article interacts with them. The first article I will review is entitled “Christ Founded a Visible Church.” I’ll first summarize Bryan’s argument and then show how my essay has refuted the claims in the essay.

One of the important premises that Bryan argues is that Christ came to found a visible church. He appeals to passages like Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Passages throughout the Pauline corpus point to the outward visibility of the church (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-31; Col 1:18,24; Ephesians 1:22, 4:15-16, 5:23). As a particular organism, the church is unified in its essence, activity, and hierarchy. In the Church that translates to a common faith, liturgy, and magisterium (and corresponds to Christ’s role as prophet, priest, and king). Bryan explains how all of these three things are grounded in this statement:

She is visibly united in her shared profession of faith, her shared celebration of the same sacraments, and in her shared ecclesial hierarchy, each of these three having been received and passed down by succession from the Apostles.

Naturally, one begins to see the operative premise in Bryan’s argument. If you take away the hierarchy of the church being established by Jesus and handed on in succession from the presbyters, Bryan’s paradigm begins to crumble. And Bryan is willing to note that in discussions of the visible church we are primarily focused on this third mark: hierarchical visibility. He puts it this way:

When we are talking about the visibility of the Church in the context of an ecumenical discussion involving Catholics and Protestants, we are talking primarily about the third mode of unity, because in the ecumenical dialogue the relevant question concerning visibility is this: When Christ founded His Church, did He establish the Church with essential unity not only in doctrine, and in sacraments, but also in its visible hierarchical government

Protestants and Catholics share agreement about the apostolicity of Scripture and the sacraments, but the real disagreement centers on the nature of the church. According to Bryan, it is both fitting and necessary for the Body of Christ to possess a visible head while Christ is ascended. Furthermore, if there is no hierarchical unity then nothing preserves unity of faith or sacraments.

Bryan points out that without this hierarchical unity that there is no way that warnings concerning discipline or schism make sense. At this point Bryan notes the distinction between heresy and schism. Heresy is believing something about the faith that is not part of the apostolic deposit, but schism is in reference to separating from the Body of Christ. He says:

Thus only if there is a principium unitatis can there be such a thing as “schism from,” which is not reducible to heresy or apostasy.

Without a visible magisterium then, there is no distinction between schism or heresy.

Cross continues to point out that the Protestant position amounts to ecclesial Docetism, the belief that the church only appears as a visible body but is not actually a visible body. Bryan believes the Christological connection is appropriate because the Church is properly called the body of Christ, therefore, to speak of the Church in this manner merits the descriptor of Christological heresy. Practically, this Docetism reduces apostolic succession to reflecting the Apostolic teaching while downplaying (or ignoring) the apostolic Magisterium. The pastoral import of this discussion is described clearly and helpfully by Bryan:

Ecclesial docetism denies the sinfulness of schism, not openly or explicitly, but definitionally and thus surreptitiously. It calls what is actually evil (i.e., schisms) innocuous, if not good. It hides from schismatics their state of not being in full communion with the Mystical Body of Christ, depriving them of the fullness of grace they would receive in full communion with Christ’s Church.

Bryan is exactly right about this and this is why interaction and ecumenical discussion is so important. The pastoral implications of this discussion are easily lost in the detail, but there are important practical implications. In his plea to show the seriousness of the sin of schism Bryan points to a number of quotes from Church Fathers talking about the necessity of the Magisterium and of its visibility. He concludes:

The constant teaching of the Catholic Church is that Christ founded a visible Church with an essentially unified visible hierarchy.

This unified visible hierarchy is the kingdom of Christ now present (Lumen Gentium). In this way, the church (in its visible manifestation) is the nascent fulfillment of the promise of the Kingdom of God that is at hand. There is an import of final eschatological fulfillment, but the NT writers wrote with the expectation of the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. He points to Jesus promise again to highlight the connection between Jesus statements about the kingdom continuing with the Apostles and the kingdom of God as described in Daniel 2:34,35,44. Bryan goes on to note that the (two) typical Reformed responses do not account for the hierarchical institution that Christ founded opting for an invisible collection of all professing Christians. Bryan states that this position,

can be nothing more than a mere plurality of visible things, united at most by their invisible union to the invisible Christ.

The primary problem with this is that there is a distinction between plurality and a composite whole. Bryan uses the example of objects on his desk contrasted with parts of his body. One is a plurality of things, the other is a composite whole. The one who claims that the church is a plurality of all believers is reducing things to a mental construct (i.e. not visible) and why the Reformed position amounts to a rejection of a visible church. The Catholic position on the other hand retains the composite whole and remains consistent with the image of the body of Christ presented in Corinthians.

Moving from this fact, Bryan states:

Given that the Church Christ founded is visible, and has an essentially united visible hierarchy, it follows that the identity and extent of the Church can be known, by tracing its visible hierarchy through history.

This is confirmed by the Fathers of the Church and the Creed. There is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church and it is only through the visible historical succession that all four marks of the Church can be maintained. Furthermore, it is only in the visible church that the promises of the Church make sense. Christ promises the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church in all truth, that the Church has the authority to bind and loose, and that the church is the ground and pillar of truth. Visibility of the church helps to identify it, making the divine guarantees of the protection of the church follow logically to the indefectibility of the church (in her faith, liturgy, and hierarchy presumably).

The indefectibility of the Church allows for the development of doctrine and provides Christians with the ability to make determinations on issues of canon, orthodoxy, and heresy. Protestant churches, with their invisible church, have no such mechanism. But the church is not only indefectible in its Magisterial role, it is also the mother of the faithful. This is an image even the Reformed wish to maintain, but Bryan points out that there are only visible Christians, but no visible hierarchy of the body of Christ. Thus, it is nonsensical to speak about the Church as mother because visible Christians are not our mother and neither are denominations. The Church is mother because she is a visible hierarchy and this recognition is needed in ecumenical conversations because we cannot reduce ecumenism to agreement on doctrine and sacraments. This may be offensive to Protestants, but because Christ founded a visible hierarchy, it is necessary for all people to come to the Church as mother through the institution that Christ founded.

Bryan thus concludes his article:

We have provided evidence and argumentation here that Christ founded a visible Church, and that this Church is visible not merely because some of its members are embodied, and not because local congregations and denominations exist. The Church Christ founded is visible because, as His Mystical Body, it necessarily has an essentially united visible hierarchy; this is the hierarchy of bishops and priests united under the episcopal successor of St. Peter, the visible head appointed by Christ.

I have attempted to lay out Bryan’s full argument to the best of my ability to demonstrate something very important about Bryan’s argument: as clear as it is, the entire article begs the question by assuming Christ founded the RCC. Even though Bryan asserts that he has provided evidence that it is necessary that there is a hierarchy of bishops and priests united under the episcopal successor of St. Peter, he does not show that anywhere in the article. He simply assumes that this is the case without offering an argument for it. As my article has demonstrated, Bryan’s assumption is deeply flawed and problematic.

Bryan is bound to disagree about the evidence that Christ founded the RCC, but given the importance that Bryan puts on the historical establishment of the visible hierarchy, it is surprising that there is no mention about it. The assumption colors everything about the passages he cites. Nowhere in the Pauline passages is there an idea of the Church as a visible hierarchy consisting of bishops and priests. We know that whenever Paul talks about church leadership he speaks about it as a plurality of overseers/elders. While we have seen that the biblical and patristic evidence does not support Bryan’s overextension of the Pauline analogy of the body he has a further historical problem, namely, that in cities like Rome, churches originated in and continued to meet in synagogues.

We know this based upon biblical evidence throughout Acts (particularly Acts 18) but also through the “Edict of Claudius” (Suetonis, Claud. 25.4; Orosius, Hist. 7.6.15f; cf. Cassius Dio 60.6.6f). The Christians were worshipping in synagogues and more importantly the church was not founded by an apostle—neither Paul nor Peter. Neither of them had visited Rome before AD 49 when the incident between Jews and Christians occurred in the synagogues and Paul states that he had longed to come to the Christians in Rome “many years” (Rom. 15:23) but had been prevented. Given that the latest dating for Romans is believed to be AD 58 (and as early as 51), this provides us with evidence that the church in Rome had existed for some time without any of the Apostles visiting it. It is impossible to know exactly how or when Christianity arrived in Rome, but it was certainly before AD 49—before any of the Apostles had visited Rome. How do we make sense of Bryan’s argument about the necessity of ecclesial visibility when the ecclesial community was visibly part of the synagogue until AD 49?

Bryan is right to make his argument depend on the historical claim of Jesus founding the RCC. The problem is that Bryan presents no argument for his historical assumptions. If visibility entails hierarchical government as established by Jesus and handed on from the Apostles, it is manifestly clear that Christ did not found a visible church. Of course, Protestants want to affirm the necessity and importance of the visible church. We believe that there is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, but Protestants want to understand this in its proper historical context (both of the Creed and of the institution of Christ himself). Bryan’s definition of the visible church is an anachronistic assertion that requires argumentation.

One possible objection to this critique of Bryan is that there are theological consequences of assuming that the Church soon fell into error regarding the necessity of the episcopate. If the Fathers of the Church accepted the necessity of the episcopal church government (in communion with the successor of Peter, no less), then this means that error had overcome the entire church. Such an assumption would seem to imply that God had left the Church that he had promised to protect.

b. Presumption of ecclesial Deism?

Bryan Cross has coined the term “ecclesial deism.” Bryan defines it this way:

Ecclesial deism is the notion that Christ founded His Church, but then withdrew, not protecting His Church’s Magisterium (i.e., the Apostles and/or their successors) from falling into heresy or apostasy. Ecclesial deism is not the belief that individual members of the Magisterium could fall into heresy or apostasy. It is the belief that the Magisterium of the Church could lose or corrupt some essential of the deposit of faith, or add something to the deposit of faith.

There are a number of doctrines that Bryan would have in mind here (justification by faith alone being one of them), but of particular interest here would be the doctrine of the necessity of the episcopate. It is true that by the third century episcopacy was the form of church government throughout the Roman Empire and viewed as an essential aspect of the deposit of faith.

Bryan does note that ecclesial deists do not view themselves this way but that is because they have a Gnostic view of the Church. Bryan explains:

The Church, according to this conception, is not a unified body with a visible hierarchy, but something in itself purely spiritual in nature, visible only in the sense that one can see and touch embodied Christians (and their children) who are, by their faith alone, presently joined to it. Conceiving of the Church as in itself spiritual and invisible allows a person to believe that Christ has always faithfully preserved His [invisible] Church, even while allowing the leaders of the Catholic Church to fall into heresy, apostasy, or perversion of the Gospel.

We again encounter the underlying assumption of this article; Jesus founded a visible church, the RCC. As a matter of fact, Bryan links in this quote to his article on the visible church. The assumptions regarding indefectibility which Bryan outlines in, “Christ Founded a Visible Church” are operative in this article on ecclesial deism. Either the church is indefectible or it isn’t. To simplify Bryan’s argument, you are either a principled Restorationist (which assumes ecclesial Deism), or believe in the indefectible nature of the Church as a Catholic.

Bryan goes on to explain it in terms of lacking faith in Christ because he personally recognized:

…that I did not fully trust Christ, not because I thought Him untrustworthy, but because I had not understood that Christ founded a visible hierarchically organized Body of which He is the Head, and which He has promised to protect and preserve until He returns. I had not apprehended the ecclesial organ Christ established through which the members of His Body are to trust Him.

If Bryan’s assumption is true, then the things that he argues would necessarily follow, but the problem is that Bryan does not substantiate his assumption. If Christ did not make the institutional church indefectible, then what Bryan has argued is undermined. Again assumptions do the lion’s share of the work in this article and are predicated upon ideas which scholars—even in the Catholic tradition and in Magisterial offices—have rejected and against which Bryan puts forward no discernable evidence to the contrary.

Another important point that needs to be made in this discussion though is that Protestantism allows for varied perspectives on church structure. The Presbyterian Church in America Book of Church Order states in 1.7 (the Orthodox Presbyterian Church states the same thing in BCO 1.3):

The Scriptural doctrine of Presbytery is necessary to the perfection of the order of the visible Church, but is not essential to its existence.

For Confessional Protestants there is a critical engagement with the developments of church structure in the history of the church. Nothing about the Reformed system requires that the development of episcopacy is a bad thing or even an unbiblical thing. It may not be the most effective manner of church structure and in keeping with the marks of the church, but Protestants are not ipso facto opposed to episcopal structure. After all in more conciliar forms of episcopalianism the bishop can act much like the moderator of his dioceses. There is nothing objectionable about this. As such, while the early church was mistaken about the origin of the episcopate (which did impact their theology of the Church), that does not mean that they lost the essence of the Church or Gospel. The development of the episcopate occurred for social, political, and theological reasons and the belief that it was apostolic was based on ignorance. This does not require that we impugn the motives of the ignorant, but that doesn’t mean that we enshrine their ignorance either.

It is only if one assumes the necessity of indefectibility in the hierarchy of the church that one would imply that ecclesial development would mean that the promise of Christ had been compromised. This assumption, however, is false because Christ did not found personally found the episcopal system of government nor was it handed down from the Apostles to their successors.

c. The Roman Catholic is in the same epistemological position as the Protestant

This implication is bound to generate a significant amount of discussion and it strikes at the heart of the apologetic offered by Called To Communion. In one of the seminal articles at the site, “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority,” Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch set out their thesis:

In this article we argue that there is no principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority, and that a return to apostolic succession is the *only way* to avoid the untoward consequences to which both solo scriptura and sola scriptura lead.

Elsewhere Cross and Judisch point out that without the sacramental nature of apostolic succession:

Protestantism has no sacramental basis for anyone’s interpretation being the final and authoritative norm of doctrine and practice.

It is important to notice that when defining apostolic succession they are speaking of it in sacramental terms, where the bishop transfers a charism to the ordinand. As a matter of fact, Cross and Judisch believe contra Raymond Brown, Patrick Burke, and others cited in Section II above, that the Church must retain this physical succession from Jesus, to Peter, in succession otherwise the church would not be distinct from the state. But the Church is a divine society, as they state it:

Magisterial authority in the Church, however, cannot be acquired only through providence. If there were no essential difference between these two authorities, the Church would be nothing more than a civil society, and this would contradict Christ’s statement, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)…He gave His supernatural authority sacramentally to His Apostles, and they in turn handed it on to their successors. For this reason, without apostolic succession, the Church would be a natural society providentially governed by God, another nation among the nations. Only by apostolic succession is she a divine society that does not compete with natural societies, because grace builds on nature.

One can see why, if my thesis is correct, namely, that there was no sacramental apostolic succession with the bishop possessing the authority to pass on this charism, that Roman Catholicism would not be on any better epistemological ground than Protestantism. As Cross and Judisch put it, this authority cannot be acquired through providence—it must be passed on in history through the laying on of hands of the bishops. The absence of this succession is acidic to their conception of the church and undermines their thesis, that Apostolic succession is the only means for differentiating between Divine revelation and human opinion. Consequently, this article has falsified the thesis of the Judisch and Cross article by undermining the major premise that Catholics can appeal to apostolic succession while Protestants cannot. There may be philosophical problems for Christians in light of this evidence (which are not apropos for this discussion), but the Catholic alternative does not solve the alleged problem.108

d. Your response is subject to the Tu Quoque

Another foundational article at Called To Communion is “The Tu Quoque.” In this article, Bryan attempts to respond to Protestant critiques of his Solo/Sola article by making a distinction between the Protestant position and the Catholic position. It is worth noting that Bryan makes a valid distinction.

It is true that Protestantism does not provide a principled way for people to infallibly distinguish their opinion from someone else’s. Catholicism on the other hand does offer a principled means to infallibly distinguish human opinion from Divine Revelation. Bryan summarizes it in the article in this way:

In various places I have argued previously that without apostolic succession, creeds and confessions have no actual authority… But an important principle regarding authority is this: “When I submit (only when I agree), the one to whom I submit is me.” In other words, agreement with oneself cannot be the basis for authority over oneself. Therefore a creed or confession’s agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture cannot be the basis for its authority. And this is why without apostolic succession, creeds or confessions have no actual authority.

What I will concede is that in terms of the Tu Quoque, the Catholic is in a slightly different epistemological condition than the Protestant. However, as we have seen, apostolic succession in the sense believed by Catholic and Orthodox eliminates the possible answer that Bryan gives in Q&A #3. It is not simply the problem that there are competing claims to Apostolic Succession, it is that the notion of succession believed by the Orthodox and Catholics is false.

In other words, Bryan is right conceptually that the Protestant and the Catholics claim different things about church authority. For the Protestant no church structure is infallibly binding while the Catholic does believe that the Church possess binding authority because it is infallible founded by Jesus Christ. Principally he is correct to note that the Catholic is making a different type of claim that is not subject to the Tu Quoque objection. Once the claim of the Catholic is falsified however, that Apostolic Succession does not exist, then this places the Catholic right into their own proverbial crosshairs. Their principled means is no longer principled.

e. None of the evidence is inconsistent with a bishop possibly residing in Rome

This is true but only in a very limited sense. It is impossible using the historical method to certainly disprove that an historical event did or did not happen. There is always a possibility that the event may have happened. For example, we cannot say with certainty that George Washington did not chop down a cherry tree and admit the action to his father saying “I cannot tell a lie.” As a matter of fact, the report that this event happened came from a biographer of Washington, Parson Weems, who received the story from a person who had known Washington as a boy.109 Historians universally reject this story because it lacks the sort of corroboration necessary to take it seriously as reliable biography.

Analogously, the claim that there was a bishop in Rome is impossible to prove with absolute certainty. When the evidence is weighed however, the likelihood of such an event (the episcopate in Rome and the story of Washington) is so low that historians conventionally speak of such events as not occurring in history. In the context of the ecclesiastical context we know that the church was governed by multiple leaders. The Roman Catholic can say that a plurality of leadership does not undermine the Roman Catholic claim, but it certainly does not help its claim that there was a monarchical leader in succession from Peter, particularly when you consider that the claim is that Jesus is the one who founded the episcopate.

In “The Oath Against Modernism”110 Pope Pius X says:

I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time… I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful… I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles.111

Ludwig Ott, in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, notes that the teaching described in the oath is a De Fide teaching of the RCC, though Pope Paul VI would abolish the oath in 1967.112 The teaching of the Church in this regard is that the episcopacy was instituted by the “real and historical Christ,” but when we only see leadership of plurality into the middle of the second century from documents written to Rome (even then the 2nd century documents do not speak of a unique Petrine ministry) the plausibility of such a doctrine is suspect.

Often in response Catholics will cite development of doctrine as a way to explain the silence about a monarchical bishop in Rome. Invoking development in things like the infallibility of the successor of Peter, or even the Primacy of the successor of Peter is conceptually understandable, but the question is not a matter of development but of existence. If there is no episcopal office then there is no episcopal succession and if there is no episcopal succession then there is no Apostolic Succession as defined by the RCC.113

The importance of this for the CTC apologetic is that Apostolic Succession is absolutely essential to the existence of the church. When we read the literature examined in this article, however, the corroboration is sorely lacking. It is possible, in the very technical sense of that word114 that a bishop as important as the bishop of Rome could have been in Rome even though we don’t have any information about him until much later. That case needs to be made in its own right however, and what this paper has attempted to do is show that all the available data is best understood with primitive church government being presbyterial.

f. When applied to Scripture your methodology undermines the Gospel

When the claims of Roman Catholicism are pressed this is often a response that I have encountered. I have briefly addressed this in Section I above, but I want to provide some more elaboration of why this objection is flawed in two distinct ways.

The first is that this is a form of Ad Hominem, the Tu Quoque, which does not actually address the arguments presented.115 Assuming, solely for the sake of argument, that this methodology does undermine Christianity, pointing this out is of value in the sense that the interlocutor needs to realize that his argument undermines his own principles, yet, even if it is inconsistent, the argument is not refuted because the arguer is inconsistent.

Secondly, applying historical analysis to texts is not antithetical to Christianity, it is essential for its survival. If, for example, a Protestant historian disregarded a priori any historical detail which claimed that a miracle occurred while making exceptions for his own belief in the Gospels, then this would be inconsistent. The thrust of this essay has been to assess the evidence in its social, historical, and linguistic context to see what the authors meant when they wrote. The combination of this evidence lends credence to some writers over others, but this is standard historical work. Methodologically I do leave room that Christianity could be falsified if the biblical witness was unreliable or an untrustworthy source, but the evidence does not undermine belief in the reliability of Scripture.

This is why the problem does not reside in methodological principles but in the assessment of the evidence. The strength of evidence for one position or another may be disputable, but the critic of this article would have the burden of proof to show that the methodology has unwittingly stacked the deck against Catholicism and Christianity. Regardless, this objection, if correct, would only serve as a helpful corrective to a Christian brother that his principles lead towards unbelief, but they don’t even begin to address the claims made in the article.

IX. Conclusion

I have undertaken the burden of proof in this article to prove that the church in Rome was led by a plurality of presbyters in the city which we have defined as “presbyterian.” In the second section I attempted to demonstrate that this view was not unique to Protestants and that the vast majority of well-respected Roman Catholic scholars who shared this view did so not because they had violated their interpretative paradigms, but because the evidence had persuaded them in that way.

In the third section we saw how every mention of church leadership in Scripture refers to a plurality of leaders. From Acts, the Pastorals, and 1 Peter we saw that the biblical witness always refers to leaders in the plural, often using “presbyters” and “bishops” as equivalent terms. This equivalence of “presbyters” and “bishops” was further articulated in the fourth section where the extant literature never speaks to a monarchical leader in Rome but instead to a plurality of leaders in the city.

In the fifth section I explored the historical context of the lists of bishops found in the writings of Hegesippus and Irenaeus. We determined that Hegesippus’s list was created as an anti-Gnostic polemic concerning the apostolic teaching and not concerned with the succession in the office himself. The list of Irenaeus borrows from Hegesippus’s utilization of succession lists (which Hegesippus borrowed from Judaism) and also uses a pre-existing source composed at the time of Eleutherus c. AD 180. We noted that Irenaeus’s list is either factually wrong about Peter and Paul founding the Roman church, or at least not supportive of the Roman Catholic idea of succession from Peter.

In the sixth section I gave a broad overview of the argument for fractionation of Roman Christianity as found in Peter Lampe. I then showed how the work of Roman Catholic scholar Allen Brent demonstrates the fractionation of Roman Christianity even further than does Lampe, as in the case of anti-pope Hippolytus.


Brandon Addison

In the seventh section I explored writers who disagree with the consensus on the fractionation of Roman Christianity and sought to understand their belief about the establishment of the episcopate by Jesus. We saw how Caragounis, Brent, and Williams all believed that the episcopate developed from the presbyterate in the second century. I noted that there was only one academic peer reviewed journal where I found any resistance to this consensus.

Finally, in the eighth section I showed the implications of the paper’s thesis and answered potential objections. I demonstrated how the failure to substantiate the claim that Jesus established the RCC undermines the apologetic attempts at showing the Roman Catholic epistemological advantage over Protestantism.

Retraction (March 25, 2014): I made an oversight in confusing the appointee to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Patrick Burke, with the Roman Catholic author and previous professor at Temple Univeristy, Patrick Burke. Before reading Dr. Burke’s article I had not heard of him and as I searched for information on him I found (what I thought) was his appointment to the CDF by Benedict. This was a case of mistaken identity, however.

Here is Patrick Burke’s biography from my cited article: Patrick Burke (Roman Catholic) was born in Australia, where he completed his undergraduate studies. He received a doctorate in theology from the University of Munich, and is currently [in 1970] an associate professor in the Religion Department at Temple University. He is the editor of Word in History (1966) and the author of Faith and the Human Person (1968).

Special thanks to Tom Riello for pointing out to me that Patrick Burke was born in 1966 while the article was published in 1970. As a result I have removed the line about Rev. Burke being an appointee to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. I apologize for this mistake and want to indicate that while such a mistake was unintentional, it did provide false information and for that I’m truly sorry.

  1. http://www.umass.edu/wsp/history/outline/silence.html. It is also worth noting that on the Wikipedia (the bastion of knowledge for the internet age) page for arguments from silence Lampe’s work actually comes up as an example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_silence. []
  2. The link Sean Patrick provides does not provide an example of where Lampe’s theology impacts his conclusions. []
  3. Liccione’s claim “to fault the doctrine of monepiscopal AS for being historically plausible but not historically demonstrable is to apply a double standard” needs to be fleshed out further because in terms of evidence, the evidence that Jesus founded the RCC and the evidence for the resurrection are in completely separate categories. The evidence for the resurrection is wide and early. The claim of Roman Catholics is of a completely different character. []
  4. My criticism, which I believe is still valid, is that Dr. Liccione begs the question. In response Dr. Liccione says, “I don’t think one can consider the historical issue of AS in its proper order without first having successfully argued, on philosophical grounds, the epistemic need for the sort of authority allegedly inherited by AS. And that’s the argument I provide. Calling the conclusion of that argument a ‘precommitment’ is unhelpful and even misleading, because it doesn’t address the quality of the argument, but merely suggests rhetorically that I’ve stacked the deck in advance.” Even in eschewing my criticism that he is using philosophical precommitments (which are grounded in his own fallible opinion), he mentions the epistemic necessity of a principled means of distinguishing human opinion from divine revelation. The problem is that if Jesus did not found the RCC, then his philosophical argument concerning Rome is as useful as the crazy man on the corner who claims to be God. He can still claim that it is necessary for divine revelation for there to be a principled means, but that is Liccione’s own personal opinion, which is not a principled means of distinguishing his philosophy from the Protestants, Mormons, or the crazy man on the corner. That is, Liccione is presupposing the “frame” of his house to build the “foundation.” []
  5. Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (Yale University Press: New Haven, 2006), 2. []
  6. The Imprimatur is the permission of the bishop for the document to be printed. It does not necessarily mean that the bishop agrees with everything in the document but it does mean that the bishop views the teaching contained in the document as being consistent with the teaching of the RCC. []
  7. Peter Brown, Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections, (Paulist Press: New York, 1970), 53. []
  8. Brown, 73. []
  9. I should state at the outset that while I believe there is tension between these statements and statements in documents like the Antimodernist Oath, I won’t rule out the possibility that God providentially brought about the Petrine office. If Brown is correct however, he does serious damage to the Called To Communion apologetic because he attacks the very thing proposed as the thing to identify the Church Christ founded: Apostolic Succession. []
  10. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/05/apostolic-succession-and-historical-inquiry-some-preliminary-remarks/ []
  11. Brown, 72. []
  12. Patrick Burke, “The Monarchical Episcopate at the end of the First Century,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 7 (1970): 499-518. []
  13. Hans Küng, Apostolic Succession: Rethinking a Barrier to Unity (Paulist Press: New York, 1968), 82-83. []
  14. Francis Sullivan, From Apostles to Bishops: Development of the Episcopacy, (Paulist Press: New York, 2001), 15 & 217. []
  15. George Edward Dolan ‘The Distinction between the Episcopate and the Presbyterate according to the Thomistic Opinion’ Dissertation submitted to the Catholic University of America, Washington DC, 1950, 4-5. []
  16. Dolan, 11. []
  17. ἐπισκόποι is generally used of an overseer while a πρεσβύτεροι is termed an “elder.” This term “elder” in the English translation possess a similar range of meaning in English as it does in Greek. It could refer to a leader but it could also refer to an older man. Considering that older men were often the leaders of congregations, the linguistic connection between “aged man” and “leader” seems like a natural development. []
  18. Raymond Brown, “The Unity and Diversity in New Testament Ecclesiology,” Novum Testamentum 6 (1963): 298-308. It is worth noting that Brown says there was a variety of church governance at this time (i.e. it was not exclusively episcopal nor exclusively congregational or presbyterian). The existence of a church established by Jesus does not require a sacramental Magisterium as is argued by Bryan Cross here: []
  19. For those looking for a detailed exegetical case consult Chrys C. Caragounis, Peter and the Rock (Walter de Gruyter: New York), 1990. Note as well that the first time this passage is utilized to connect Peter and Rome is in the dialogue between Pope Stephen I and Cyprian of Carthage c.255 A.D. []
  20. It is noteworthy that the presbyters are the ones in charge of the food distribution because this fits into Lampe’s thesis about the role of presbyter-bishops. []
  21. Hans Conzelmann and Martin Dibelius Acts of the Apostles in Hermenia Trans. James Limburg, et. al. (Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1987), notes on page 117, “‘to judge’ does not refer to the ‘decision’ (the whole assembly makes that, vs 22) but rather to the proposal.” []
  22. For the purposes of this essay we cannot be pulled the various directions Catholic or Eastern Orthodox individuals may want us to go, namely, that the decision of a council is binding on Christians. Infallibility and episcopal government are closely related, but they are distinct topics. To get into ecclesial (or even papal) infallibility would distract us from the question on hand—was the Roman church presbyterian? []
  23. To be fair, nothing in Acts 15 precludes the possibility that the Jerusalem council couldn’t have convened in a way that is also consistent with episcopal principles. To assume that episcopal structure necessitates a single leader lording his position over others is certainly not an essential (or even a tenet) of episcopal structure. I only wish to point out that everything we have read from Acts is consistent with presbyters deliberating in assembly with one another and reaching conclusions together. []
  24. Elsewhere in Acts we read of the πρεσβυτέρος where the word is used is generally in connection with the High Priest and the “elders” of the Sanhedrin. Some have postulated that Luke’s language of “apostles and elders” comes from the popular Jewish understanding of elders and high priest. This convention (if it could be persuasively connected to Luke’s idea of church government) still does not mean anything other than that the Apostles were distinct from the other presbyters in the church. []
  25. For those who would attempt to propose that Titus is introducing a new category, distinguishing presbyters in verse 5 and “the bishop” they would need to explain the grammatical connection Paul makes between verses 5-7 with γὰρ. []
  26. The article is not present, but it is not expected because πρεσβυτέρου is the object of preposition κατὰ. See Daniel Wallace “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 247. []
  27. Burke, 514, states, “[This] would be quite natural form of speech in either situation [presbyters or a singular bishop] and nothing can be inferred from it either way.” []
  28. Brown, 331. []
  29. A dissenting view is that of John C. Poirier “Spirit-Gifted Callings in the Pauline Corpus, Part 1: The Laying on of Hands” Journal of Biblical and Pneumatological Research 1 (2009) 83-99. In this article Poirier proposes that the importance of the laying on of a single hand and of two hands plays an important role in determining the meaning of the hand-laying. A single hand designates an “identificational gesture…signifying that the [officers] represented the community. Two hands represent a direct transfer of power. As such, for Poirier, the events are two distinct occurrences. While Poirier’s position is a possible option, it is unclear if the elders used both hands or not. The fact that τῶν χειρῶν τοῦ πρεσβυτερίου are in the plural makes it impossible to know making his argument unverifiable in the case of 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 1. []
  30. Conzelmann, 1-10; 98, points out that the literary character of 2 Timothy makes a more personal note necessary, explaining that Paul only mentions himself. []
  31. I. Howard Marshall, International Critical Commentary, The Pastorals, (T & T Clark: Edinburgh, 1999), 514. []
  32. Gordon Fee, “Reflections on Church Order in the Pastoral Epistles, with Further Reflection on the Hermeneutics of Ad Hoc Documents” JETS 28/2 (1985) 141-151. []
  33. Fee, 144, concludes, “It is therefore altogether likely, based both on the evidence of 2 Tim 3:6-7 (the False Teachers making their way into houses) and of 1 Cor 16:19 (Aquilla and Priscilla have a ‘house church’ in Ephesus), that corporate life in the church in Ephesus was not experienced in a large Sunday gathering in a single sanctuary but in many house churches, each with its own elder(s).” []
  34. Fee, 147. []
  35. William Lane, “Social Perspectives on Roman Christianity during the Formative Years from Nero to Nerva: Romans, Hebrews, 1 Clement” in Judaism and Christianity in First-Century Rome, Ed. Karl P. Donfried & Peter Richardson Wipf & Stock: Eugene, 1998. []
  36. Lane, 207 borrows this from the scholarship of W. Wiefel. []
  37. Lane, 215-216. For an extended treatment, see how Lane utilizes the evidence 217-224. []
  38. The reference to “Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13 could be a reference to the city of Rome, but it is unclear. []
  39. Bruce Metzger writes, “It is difficult to decide whether one should follow the authority of such important witnesses as [Alef]* B al and regard the inclusio of “episkopountes” in p^72 and Alef ^2 A and most other witnesses as an exegetical expansion (made perhaps in accordance with 2.25), or whether the shorter text is the result of deliberate excision, prompted either by stylistic considerations (namely, that after “poimanate” the word is redundant) or by ecclesiastical conviction (namely, that Peter could never have admonished presbyters [ver 1.] to exercise the function of bishops). In order to represent the balance of external evidence and of transcriptional probabilities, the Committee decided to include the word, but to enclose it within square brackets to indicate a certain doubt that it belongs in the text.” A Textual Commentary on the New Testament (2nd Edition) Ed. Bruce Metzger (United Bible Society: Germany, 2007), 623. []
  40. Raymond Brown, “Episkope and Episkopos: The New Testament Evidence,” Theological Studies 41 (1980), 336. Brown also says about James, “presbyters of the church are called in to pray over the sick person and anoint him in the name of the Lord, so that that ‘the prayer of faith will save the sick person.’ This passage in James confirms the existence of presbyters in a non-Pauline church of Jewish origins where the name of James (the brother of the Lord) was venerated, and may be related to the information found in Acts about James and the presbyters at Jerusalem” (idem.). []
  41. See Selby, 81-84, 90-94. []
  42. Brown, Episkope, 338. []
  43. Clement is clearly quoting from memory and does not properly cite the LXX interpretation of the passage, though Craig A. Evans in “The Citation of Isaiah 60:17 in 1 Clement” Vigilae Christianae 36 (1982): 105-107, argues that the tradition found in Acts 6 seems to have influenced Clement’s memory of the text. []
  44. This same position is advocated by Roman Catholic Patrick Burke “The Monarchical Episcopate at the end of the First Century” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 7 (1970): 499-518. Page 505 begins the discussion which is in agreement with my position. []
  45. Caragounis, 276.He also cites Welborn, 1056 agreeing with him in footnote 136 saying, “That the author did not possess the authority he claims is evident from the rhetorical character of the letter. He must persuade by argument and induce by example; that is, it is not yet his to command.” []
  46. William Lane “Social Perspectives on Roman Christianity during the Formative Years from Nero to Nerva: Romans, Hebrews, 1 Clement” in Judaism and Christianity in First-Century Rome, Ed. Karl P. Donfried & Peter Richardson Wipf & Stock: Eugene, 1998, 196-244. []
  47. Cardinal John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua (ed. David DeLaura; New York: Norton, 1968, 51) as cited by Andrew M. Selby “Bishops, Elders, and deacons in the Philippian Church: Evidence of Plurality from Paul and Polycarp” Perspectives in Religious Studies 1 Spring 2012: 79-94. []
  48. The work by J.B. Lightfoot is the most influential but subsequent work by Allen Brent has confirmed this consensus. Assuming that church government developed later (second century) and therefore that any discussion of government in early documents implies corruption or a late date is faulty reasoning. Catholics and Protestants can certainly agree here. It’s arguing from an a priori. []
  49. Translation from William R. Schoedel “Ignatius of Antioch” in the Hermeneia Commentary Series Ed. Helmut Koester (Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1985), 108. []
  50. Schoedel, 109. Schoedel also states that there is no conception of Apostolic succession in Ignatius. See p. 49 n10. []
  51. For a detailed explanation see John-Paul Lotz, “Ignatius and Concord: The Background and Use of the Language of Concord in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch” Vol 8 in Patristic Studies Gen. Ed. Gerald Bray (Peter Lang: New York, 2007), 177-187. []
  52. Burke, 501. []
  53. Burke, 513. []
  54. Burke, 512. []
  55. Selby, 85. Selby notes that in Paul Hartog’s publication (which at the time was forthcoming) Polycarpy Epistle to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp: Introduction, Text, and Commentary, Oxford Press: Great Britain, 2013, will argue that Polycarp was a bishop in a sense different than Ignatius conceived of. I have not been able to track down the book, but Hartog’s thesis is presented therein. []
  56. Selby, 85. Selby attributes this observation to Hartog. []
  57. To show the interchangeability of “bishop” and “presbytery” Selby notes, “In 6.1, he uses the participle έπισκεπτόμενοι, from επισκέπτομαι to describe the responsibilities of the πρεσβύτεροι” 88. []
  58. Lampe points out (pg. 399) that there was no bishop in Ancyra around 190 A.D. according to Eusebius in the Ecclesiastical History 5.16.5. []
  59. Burke, 508. []
  60. For further argumentation on this see James F. McCue, “Bishops, Presbyters and Priests in Ignatius of Antioch,” Theological Studies 28 (1967): 828-834. []
  61. See Lampe, 397-399, for how his thesis of fractionation corresponds with the Presbyterian governance of the church. []
  62. See Lampe 399. []
  63. Mandate 11.1f. Hermas goes on to explain, “First, the man who seems to have the Spirit exalts himself, and wishes to have the first seat, and is bold, and impudent, and talkative, and lives in the midst of many luxuries and many other delusions, and takes rewards for his prophecy; and if he does not receive rewards, he does not prophesy.” Also see Green, 93. []
  64. Burke, 509. []
  65. Accessible here. []
  66. Lampe, 404. []
  67. Johannes Quasten, Patrology Volume I (Ave Maria Press: Notre Dame, 1976), 286. []
  68. Note that there is sustained discussion about the reliability of the text. Some scholars such as Adolf von Harnack substitute διατριβήν (I took up residence during the time of Anicetus) for διαδοχην for textual reasons which could change the meaning of the excerpt. I don’t wish to enter into that discussion here, but it should be noted that there are perceived textual issues which would impact the interpretation for those arguing that Hegesippus is writing about a succession of bishops. []
  69. T.C.G Thornton, “High Priestly and Episcopal Successions in Hegesippus,” JTS 54.1 (2003): 160-163. []
  70. Thornton, 162. []
  71. Thornton, 162. Like Lampe, I want to avoid monocausalisms. It is possible that Irenaeus never read Hegesippus’s bishop lists. It is impossible to know how much Hegesippus’s list influenced Irenaeus, but given the Jewish antecedents of the succession arguments and the importance of Hegesippus as a chronicler and apologist, he would have exerted some sort of influence (even if only implicitly) over the apologetic of second century Christianity. []
  72. Lampe, 405. It is important to note that the more elaborate argument is set forth in the German publication by T.H. Klauser, “Die Anfange der romischen Bischofsliste,” Bonner Zs. F. Theol. 8 (1931): 193-213. []
  73. Lampe, 405, fn. 18. []
  74. Lampe believes that Irenaeus used a preexistent list and so does not believe in this way that he used Hegesippus as a source as some have argued. While Lampe does not state this explicitly, nothing in his thesis precludes Irenaeus’s use of the bishop list being shaped by Hegesippus’s “innovation.” []
  75. From comment #197″ in the “Apostolic Succession and Historical Inquiry: Some Preliminary Remarks” thread. []
  76. Against Heresies 2:22:4f. Some Roman Catholic apologists have tried to argue that Irenaeus is simply saying the Jesus lived between 31-50 years of age, but this perspective is identifiable only among conservative RC’s and has been refuted multiple places. For one example see this link. []
  77. The Jerusalem council takes place in the later part of the 40’s, most probably in 49 AD while Peter is still in Jerusalem and has been on missionary journeys to Antioch (Gal 2:10). This makes any idea that Peter founded the church there impossible. []
  78. As Joseph Fitzmeyer says, “It seems highly unlikely that Luke, if he knew that Peter had gone to Rome and evangelized that city, would have omitted all mention of it in Acts.” Source found here. Some have wanted to argue that Paul’s reference to “building on someone else’s foundation” is a reference to Peter. The most we could say is that this is a possibility that all of the mitigating factors speak against which is to say that this proposal is speculative in the highest order and not useful for determining when Peter arrived in Rome. []
  79. Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics Chapter 32. Accessed online here. []
  80. Jerome, On Illustrious Men Chapter 15 as found here. []
  81. Hopefully both the Protestant and the Catholic can acknowledge that neither position wants to commit either error. Both sides love the Fathers and want to learn from them as they transmit the Gospel. []
  82. Quasten, 303. []
  83. For a full and thorough treatment of Irenaeus and his arguments see John C. Peckham, “Epistemological Authority in the Polemic of Irenaeus,” Didascalia 19 (2008): 51-70. []
  84. This is yet another example of where Bernard Green misunderstands Lampe, critiques Lampe from that misunderstanding, and then says precisely what Lampe has said to resolve the tension. []
  85. Larry Hurtado states, “As reflected in most scholarly studies on the subject, there is no evidence that Peter was ever “bishop” in/of Rome. All the earliest texts, e.g., 1 Clement (ca. 90 CE) mention Peter and Paul together as martyrs in Rome, but make no claim about Peter as first bishop or any indication that a succession-line was in operation. The earliest such claim is from mid-3rd century CE, and that claim was disputed at that time…There is no claim that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and that subsequent bishops inherited his authority before the third century CE.” http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/peter-conference-edinburgh-2013/ Accessed on 12/20/2013. Please note that the quote comes from two distinct quotes that Dr. Hurtado makes. []
  86. Brent, Allen. “Was Hippolytus a Schismatic?” Vigiliae Christianae Leiden, 1995 (49) 215-244. []
  87. Brent, 217. To substantiate this functional definition Brent cites: Cyprian De Cath. Ecc. Unit 5-7, 23-24, Eusebius, HE VI 43:2-10; Cyprian EP 54, 13, 73 1-3; Eusebius, HE VI, 28-30. Note as well that Brent says that even if one does not accept this definition in its fullness, “I submit that there will not even be the kind of family resemblance between the events of El. IX, 11-13 [The supposed account from Hippolytus], in which some of the features of schism as defined could be found there.” []
  88. In this section of Brent’s work, 217-219 we will revisit when discussing Bernard Green because it demonstrates how those who disagree about the fractionation of Roman Christianity misconstrue Lampe and Brent’s thesis of organization. []
  89. Lampe (15-17; 310-313) even discusses how the conception of a corporation did not exist in the first century. []
  90. Brent, 219-220. []
  91. In 220-22 Brent also notes how Eusebius has a tendency to read his ecclesiastical situation into the texts that he was working with. []
  92. Brent, 223-25. []
  93. Brent, 224. []
  94. Brent, 226.f []
  95. They are not quoted by Bernard Green or Chrys Caragounis or any of the modern studies of Patristics because they are viewed as biased and unhelpful. []
  96. Bernard Green, Christianity in Ancient Rome: The First Three Centuries (T&T Clark: New York, 2010), 92. []
  97. Chrys C. Caragounis, “From Obscurity to Prominence: The Development of the Roman Church between Romans and 1 Clement,” in Judaism and Christianity in First-Century Rome, edited by Karl P. Donfried and Peter Richardson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 253. []
  98. Caragounis, 254-256. On these issues, Green actually agrees with the consensus. He states, “Roman Christians must have had multiple assemblies at quite an early stage on account of their own numbers.” (pg. 92). []
  99. Green, 92-93. []
  100. Eric G. Jay, “From Presbyter-Bishops to Bishops and Presbyters,” Second Century 1 (1981): 162. Of this resource Brent states, “For a full review of the evidence see this work.” I was unable to track down this publication but the quote is pulled from this page. []
  101. Green, 96. Even where Green claims to interact with Lampe, he misunderstands Lampe because Lampe’s thesis is that there was presbyterian government in Rome. None of Green’s conclusions would be rejected by Lampe and Allen Brent. Brent states it best when he says, “the thrust of his critique of my position is therefore unexplored, namely that before Victor the Roman Church was governed by a single presbyterate and hence was *not* a loose confederation of separate assemblies.” Allen Brent, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History 62 (2011), 564–5. This response applies equally to both Caragounis and Brent. []
  102. Caragounis does not cite anyone who shares his opinion and even in the Introduction to the book by the editors notes that there is near unanimous consensus in the academy on the issue of fractionation and that Caragounis views are idiosyncratic. []
  103. Caragounis, 275. []
  104. Caragounis, 279. []
  105. Robert Lew Williams, Bishop Lists: Formation of Apostolic Succession of Bishops in Ecclesiastical Crises (Gorgias Press: Piscataway, N.J.,), 68. []
  106. Williams, 45. []
  107. David Albert Jones, O.P., has written an article defending the traditional position in the British Journal New Blackfriars 80 No. 937 (March 1999): 128-143. I have yet to read the full article, but I have read the summary from Francis Sullivan. In addition Oswaldo Sobrino writes a rejoinder to Francis Sullivan. To get my take on Sobrino’s mediation of Jones see here. []
  108. Neal Judisch’s claim that he did not think that his claims relied on Apostolic Succession are odd considering it is *the* major part of his thesis as cited above and also mentioned in this one responding to Matthison. []
  109. Here is a popular recounting of this story. []
  110. This oath was to be taken by every clergyman and religious worker in the Catholic Church until 1967. []
  111. http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10moath.htm []
  112. Ludiwg Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 272. Ott says of de fide doctrines, “The highest degree of certainty appertains to the immediately revealed truths. The belief due to them is based on the authority of God Revealing (fides divina), and if the Church, through its teaching, vouches for the fact it a truth is contained in Revelation, one’s certainty is then also based on the authority of the Infallible Teaching Authority of the Church (fides catholica). If Truths are defined by a solemn judgment of faith (definition) of the Pope or of a General Council, they are ‘de fide definita.’” []
  113. See paragraph 77 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church accessible here. []
  114. The highly technical definition of “possible” is best exemplified by Mr. Lloyd Christmas here. []
  115. For a brief explanation and a few examples consult here. []
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  1. Best piece of scholarship I’ve seen on this website so far!

  2. Thank you, Brandon, for writing this, and thank you, CTC folks, for publishing it. I look forward to the discussion.

  3. To say each role the way it is today in the Church should have been understood then as it is today..and if it is not understood then the way it is today..that Catholics have a wrong misconception and our “epistemological advantage over Protestantism” is lacking…well I say the author is missing the point here. Sadly what is missing in this whole lengthy post is the Catholic belief of the development of doctrine…or rather the development of understanding of doctrine. Should there be evidence in the early church of a monarchial bishop over the Church?…yes. Is it fully understood then as it is viewed today?..no. This is where doctrine has developed over time.

  4. Thanks, Brandon, for doing the heavy lifting. This is a great piece of work.

  5. Victor #3, another thing that is not mentioned is that the historical account, about which “the historical facts are [generally] not disputed”, is completely different from the historical account offered by Rome for centuries, that Peter “traveled to Rome, established the episcopacy there, reigned for 25 years, and then passed his full authority on to the next guy, and the next, and the next, etc…” I grew up believing THAT story (as did many of the older former Roman Catholics who may be reading this). Now the history has changed.

    I realize, that doesn’t change how “the doctrine reads, as ‘currently developed’”, but for “the Church that Christ Founded”, if it is so, should it not be able to tell a consistent story about its own history? How could “the Church that Christ Founded” be so certain of its doctrine of the papacy, while its history of the early papacy is, well, somewhat radically changed?

  6. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an article by a Protestant here, before. There’s a first time for everything..

    I too look forward to the discussion. And I’ll participate as well as my time allows.

    Brandon, I hope all is well with your ministry. Thank you for your labor in the Gospel.

    -Andrew

  7. Regarding my own #5, for example, one of the ways to present the supernatural claims of the Old Testament is to show how the historical claims of the Old Testament are, and have always been, historically reliable. By showing the historical reliability of the Old Testament, it is then possible to say, “and therefore we take its truth claims with more credibility”).

    On the other hand, the Roman Catholic historical claim, namely the account of “Peter-as-bishop-of-Rome-for-twenty-five-years” is now seen as unreliable. How can Roman Catholic “truth claims” be viewed as credible in the light of its unreliable historical claims?

  8. John #5, “Consistent story of its own history?…” history has changed? Does not Rome still hold to this? What is presented in this blog post is nothing more than an account of speculation. This blog post did nothing to disprove the Catholic claim of the Petrine ministry in Rome.

  9. John #7, Historical reliability of the Old Testament can only be seen after the time has passed. This is the same for the Petrine ministry of the Church in Rome…we are in the age of the Church. The Catholic Church has lasted a long time now…developed the major beliefs of all the Christians throughout the world..yet you want to doubt the role of the Pope?

  10. Victor (8 and 9): Of course the history of it didn’t change, but Rome’s accounting of it has changed. That’s the key.

    Rome, as the bearer of its own historical foundations, got it wrong. And we are supposed to believe that they get “the divine revelation” “infallible”, when in fact, their history is wrong?

    The historical account here analyzed by Brandon is far different from “Peter-was-in-Rome-25-years” (as well as, what the history of the church in the city was like in the subsquent 150 years).

    What we have here is not “an account of speculation”. The history presented here is presented by historians who have studied the period in the same way that historians of the American Revolution have studied that period. It’s true, we have a sharper view of the American Revolution than we do of Rome c. 0-200 AD. But the rough outlines of that period of Rome are also held now more sharply — and far different — from the account that claimed “Peter-was-in-Rome-25-years” (as well as, what the history of the church in the city was like in the subsquent 150 years).

    Now, post-Vatican II, we are seeing a “Petrine ministry” whose role was not only undefined from the beginning, but which changed (and, given the status of the way that it “developed” during the first two centuries, it could be said to have been “not even there”).

    What point that Brandon makes here, for example, do you disagree with? And if you disagree, on what ground do you disagree with, for example, “Pope Benedict’s 2005 appointee to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Patrick Burke [who] likewise finds the claim to a monarchical episcopate in Rome to be flawed?

    Sure the Roman Catholic Church has been around for a long time. But it also had the chance to bury (eliminate) documents not conducive to its own history. We also know that “popes” such as Damasus went on long sprees actually to re-write the history of the city in such a way that was favorable to the church at Rome (not to mention, favorable to their own power structures).

    Now, I for one have “doubted the role of the pope” for a long time. But the summary provided by Brandon here really helps to seal the deal.

  11. Hey Victor,

    Thanks for commenting. You said,

    To say each role the way it is today in the Church should have been understood then as it is today..and if it is not understood then the way it is today..that Catholics have a wrong misconception and our “epistemological advantage over Protestantism” is lacking…well I say the author is missing the point here.

    I didn’t deal directly with the Catholic notion of development (most popularly advanced by Newman), but I did try to address it briefly in my objections section. In that section I appealed to the Oath Against Modernism and Ludwig Ott’s recognition of the historical Christ founding the historical episcopate as a De Fide doctrine. In addition to that I noted in Section VIII a. that Bryan and Neal Judisch’s statement that providence could not have brought about the hierarchical institution of the church are very important to this discussion because it is an admission (at least for the apologetic at CtC) that Jesus did not establish the episcopate. I then said,

    Invoking development in things like the infallibility of the successor of Peter, or even the Primacy of the successor of Peter is conceptually understandable, but the question is not a matter of development but of existence. If there is no episcopal office then there is no episcopal succession and if there is no episcopal succession then there is no Apostolic Succession as defined by the RCC.

    I should also note that my purpose in this article is not a refutation of Catholicism en toto, but is particularly focused on the apologetic provided at CtC. The many Catholic authors I’ve cited remain committed to the Pope because they believe the Petrine office providentially developed even though it was not established by Jesus. Those who hold such a position are not the object of criticism in this essay. I’m specifically concerned with an apologetic which argues that Apostolic Succession from an Apostle to his succeeding bishop is the means by which to identify the Church founded by Jesus. As I’ve attempted to argue, the evidence for this claim is lacking and therefore the apologetic of CtC is lacking as well. I hope to generate discussion about those claims as I’m certain not all Catholics will agree with me! I think though, that we can agree though that *if* there was no bishop in Rome for 150 years that this would undermine the CtC apologetic.

  12. Side note..one of weakest arguments in this blog by the author is: “Irenaeus is arguing that the apostolic faith has been handed down in the church and has been publicly taught in all of the churches (including Ephesus and Smyrna). In other words, Irenaeus’s focus is not on grounding Christian belief in the authority of church office, but of showing the continuity of the church’s teaching in history.”

    This does not coincide well with the actual quote from Irenaeus he used for this writing: “The blessed apostles, then having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate.”

    In this same quote Irenaeus is clearly concerned with the bishops of Rome succeeding one another and indeed of showing the continuity of the church’s teaching held by these men who succeeding one another in Rome.

  13. Victor #12,

    The operative word here is *focus.* In the sentence right after your quotation stops I state,

    Catholic must consider that while the Protestant may not believe that the particulars of Irenaeus’s argument (that this occurred in episcopal succession) are correct, that does not mean that we reject the substance of what Irenaeus is saying.

    It is true that Irenaeus believed that the bishops went back to Peter and Paul (not exactly great support for a particular Petrine office), but he was writing, as Quasten says, to show the developments from the tradition handed on from the Apostles. His focus is on a corruption of the teaching of the church, the passing down of doctrine and not on the offices of the church. His assumption about the Apostolicty of the episcopal office is used to buttress his argument, but it only serves to highlight that the Gnostics have departed from the Apostolic Tradition.

    Protestants believe that Irenaeus is historically wrong about the medium through which Apostolic tradition was passed–episcopacy–but that he is substantively correct in showing that the Gnostics do not have an Apostolic connection (via Scripture or Tradition). John C. Peckham’s article is really regarding the relationship between Scripture and Tradition in Irenaeus and I’d recommend taking a look at it.

  14. This is a terrific post and a worthwhile technical discussion.

    Right now I’m in the middle of writing a dissertation tracing the autonomy (or independence) of the local churches between Pentecost and Nicaea. (As a caveat: I am an evangelical Protestant free churchman.) I do like the idea of the field of study known as “The Quest for the Historical Church.” There is just as much difficulty in getting to this discussion as finding the “Historical Jesus” so I think the metaphor is apt.

    I’ll return with a more helpful engagement but preliminarily:
    1. When we recognize the pluriformity of the New Testament era, that is multiple church forms in the NT, there is rise of several key approaches in the immediate post-Apostolic age. As a result, if there isn’t one singular, monolithic church by CE 100, there are also multiple forms of approaching ecclesiology.

    2. The closest thing the NT gets to a singular, monarchical bishop, or even presbytery, is in the Lukan description of the (perhaps a caliphate) leadership of James over the Jerusalem Council prior to his own death in the late 60s and then the destruction of Jerusalem in CE 70. Outside of that, perhaps John’s eldership is to be understood as the first instance of a monarchical bishop that leads in a manner similar to an episcopal structure. Even in the Pauline, or post-Pauline, works it is difficult to find a structured presbyterate or any significant indications of a episcopal system.

    3. Even tracing the development of the church beyond the post-Apostolic period (since it seems clear that the office of Apostle ends prior to Clement and Ignatius) there is simply a lack of structure for a hierarchy to exist in Christendom. So many parts of the broader Church scattered throughout the world are without oversight, or the possibility of oversight to see an emerging pattern of structured leadership from Rome, much less one of the other metropolitan bishoprics.

    4. Finally, an important issue is the influence of Second Temple Judaism and Graeco-Roman Voluntary Associations on the emerging picture of the church in the first century. I just delivered a paper on the former and am working up a chapter on the latter. Both lean on autonomous federations of individuals rather than highly structured episcopal type leadership.

    Again, I’m thankful for inquiries like this. Perhaps through this discussion we will see that the post-Nicaea Catholic structure the eventually leads to the Roman Catholic Church in about the 600s, is something that was a process which took place over generations rather than an early establishment with high levels of coherence.

  15. I haven’t read all this yet (it’s like 40 pages in Word), but I’m glad to see this was hosted on CtC.

    I did a search to see if any Ecumenical Councils were mentioned and I didn’t notice any, but I think it’s important to bring them into the mix as well (if they haven’t already been mentioned). For example Canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea says: “The ancient customs of Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis shall be maintained, according to which the bishop of Alexandria has authority over all these places since a similar custom exists with reference to the bishop of Rome.”

    This is speaking of “ancient customs” and makes reference to Bishop of Rome in the singular. This Council took place in AD325, so the question is how ancient are these “ancient customs”? Do they go back 265 years to AD60, or do they only go back 100 years to AD225? If the former, then Rome’s claims are true, but if the latter, it would mean either the Church fell into heresy or some genuine development took place around AD225.

  16. Why do I get the idea that there are going to be issues with intepretations of Church Father writings that are going to be dissimilar (for instance how Brandon perceives just that one quote and uses one reference ((potentiality of the biases of the reference)) to prove that quote. I feel like we are going to hit a similar issue like we have with Biblical references and issues regarding reading into a phrase versus what that phrase was stated literally. I know much smarter men than me will debate this issue, but already I am kind of chuckling that “no this meant making sure that proper Christian beliefs were passed not Apostolic Authority through bishophrics versus no this meant authority through the office.” I just find it funny that people whose potential belief system (there is no historical indication of a Protestant church from the beginning) really makes much a difference if the Petrine Office is the “first amont equals” or not. Now if we were arguing with a Syriac, Greek, Russian, or Amenian Orthodox this makes for an interesting argument. Otherwise, the intent of the blog just does not pass its own test unless we place a different means of transferring the office of Christ’s church through (what I am assuming through subjective means as emotions regarding the bosom burning of the Holy Spirit like Calvin or “they are sinners and do not read Romans like I do of Luther) subjective means. The Laying of of Hands becomes anarchy and incredibly subjective pending the interpreter of the Bible passages and (now I am seeing in this blog) the Church Fathers.

    Just some musings from a layman confounded by just the point of the blog.

  17. Garret # 14,

    Thanks for your comments! I think points 1 and 2 are well taken. I didn’t take time to interact with it in the article, but as you may be aware, there are scholars who believe that James was a figurehead like the High Priest in Judaism. It is an interesting perspective (though I think it is pretty speculative), but it resonates with your statement about the “Caliphate” of James.

    Points 3 & 4 are essential for understanding the shape of post-Apostolic ecclesiology. I’d be interested to see what you have written on this topic!

    Nick #15,

    I am also glad CtC has decided to host my article. It is very gracious of them and I am very appreciative.

    Regarding councils, I did not mention them because the Nicean Council in 325 was an assembly of bishops. I don’t dispute that the Nicean bishops thought that their offices came from the Apostles, but I believe they were wrong for reasons enumerated in the article.

    Drew #16,

    I had a hard time understanding your criticism, but to clear up any confusion the point of this article is to prove that the Church of Rome was ruled by presbyters (and not by a monarchical bishop) until c. 150 AD. If that thesis is proved true, then I have continued to argue that my argument undercuts the apologetic of CtC and that the RCC does not possess the principled means of Apostolic Succession to distinguish human opinion from Divine revelation. Thus, the Protestant and Catholic are in the same epistemological “boat.”

  18. But they do not as one church has a history of bishops that have continued (let’s say you are right that Iraneus is incorrect and that there was no continuation of a specific route of apostolic succession like the Petrine ministry) there eventually was a line established so Rome is more similar to Alexandria and Constantinople say than Luther and Calvin who had no lines of succession from any historical critical standpoint. So I do not see your point as it is not similar if you are right or incorrect.

  19. Drew, he’s arguing that Jesus didn’t found only the church centered in Rome.

    If Jesus did that, we Protestants would be hard pressed to convert to Catholicism.

    That is something we Reformed Xtians here a lot from Catholics on this blog.

    Help any?

  20. Pastor Addison,

    Thank you for this very well-written and researched piece. This makes me feel good about the quality of students that are being produced by the programs at WTS Cal. I do think your overall argument has weaknesses though, and I speak as an Episcopalian.

    1. I think you fail to appreciate the extent to which modern academia denigrates and seeks to undermine cherished positions from earlier eras of ecclesiastical opinion. Roman Catholic scholars are not immune from this tendency. Their bias toward the past, and hostility toward theologically driven historical research has to be taken into account.

    2. Are we really to prefer the musings of Eamon Duffy over Irenaeus, Origen, Ambrose, and Augustine?

    3. You do not need to have a formal episcopate in place from the first-century forward to salvage the catholic position, only a functional one. Even Raymond Brown grants that Linus, Cletus and Clemens may have been singled out as prominent presbyter-bishops. So what if the more prominent presbyter-bishops were more formally designated as Monarchical bishops at a slightly later stage in some locations? James, for example, is clearly a functional bishop in Jerusalem in the first half of the first-century A.D. And in the NT era, nobody ordains pastors/elders for local churches other than apostles and others who are designated by the apostles with the authority to do so.

    4. You argue that the church of the first two centuries was more or less presbyterian. Even if we grant this point, what kind of presbyterian ecclesial structure was in place? One which fixed presbyterian church government as an established means of ordering the church’s life, or one which naturally gave rise to a more formal episcopal structure in the third century and beyond? Clearly the latter. Does that not matter? Does it not matter that the Christology of the Apologists like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus organically blossomed into Nicene orthodoxy rather than some form of Arianism (even though there is some development and clarification along the way)?

    5. I don’t see how Patrick Burke helps you, for he says there was no Monarchical Episcopate in place at the end of the 1st century “except in Asia Minor and Syria.” But that’s the soil of earliest Christianity! Just read the book of Acts. That seems to be a big problem for non-episcopal models of the church.

    6. It doesn’t really matter if there is substantial overlap between the words bishop and presbyter in the early church. The heart of the matter is functions, not titles. In the book of Acts, there are apostles, presbyters, and deacons (if one accepts the traditional reading of Acts 6). Yes, the title “bishop” sometimes appears to be used in a manner that overlaps with presbyter. This is natural in an era when: 1) the apostles themselves are the earliest bishops (Acts 1:20b: “let another take his episcopate”), and they are not yet passed from the scene in the first century; and 2) many locations would not yet have a delegated bishop whose title and office was formally distinct from the presbyters (since this transition took time to become universally normative). In the meanwhile, the episcopal office (at least in some places) would be shared by the presbyters (one of whom would have no doubt tended to become prominent along the lines of James in Jerusalem).

    7. Even if we grant that the earliest church was more or less presbyterian, one could see a natural scenario in which the death of the apostles would cause presbyter-bishops (in places without a monarchical bishop) to delegate one among them to take over the episcopal tasks of oversight of the church more broadly. The fullness of the priesthood would now be recognized in the designated bishop, and by extension to the presbyters who stand in his place in local congregations (whether they met in house churches or collectively in each city).

    8. 1 Peter 5:1-4 does not help you, because if Peter is a “fellow elder” while at the same time being a distinct apostle, it just goes to show that designating one person as an elder or bishop among others would not mean he did not function with a distinct degree of authority and oversight in their midst (as Peter surely did). Hence 1 Clement, the Didache and Polycarp are no more of a problem for the episcopal view of church structure than 1 Peter.

    9. 1 Clement 40-41 has obvious implications for the nature of apostolic succession in terms of a three-fold office. Especially since the idea of apostolic succession is already clear in 42:4 and 44:2.

    10. We should not make too much of the terminology for church offices in the Didache (especially pitting it against Ignatius), since it may contain (or may be intended to recall) relics of the more fluid terminology of an earlier “apostolic” era before titles for church offices became more fixed and regular in Syria (by the time of Ignatius).

    11. Your argument from silence about Monarchical bishops in the case of Ignatius’ letter to Rome, Hermas and 1 Clement assumes a lot about what we should expect a given writer to tell us about the titles and functions of church offices in texts that were not written to answer the questions of later historians.

    12. Your argument regarding Hegesippus and Irenaeus draws a false dichotomy between a succession of bishops and chains of bearers of correct belief. Why should the succession of bishops whose office has descended directly from the apostles not be the expected transmission of chains of bearers of sound teaching? In other words, it is an obtuse way of looking at the data. Yes, these men are interesting in the transmission of orthodoxy. It does not then follow that they were not interested in the chain of historical occupants of the episcopal seats. In arguing with Gnostics, the orthodox were able to prove that their succession of bishops was a more reliable chain of the transmission of apostolic doctrine, precisely because of the principle of apostolic succession from one bishop to another.

    13. Finally, it was sad to see such a dismissal of Cirlot and Dix. These men were brilliant scholars, and just because they are not taken seriously by modern academics (if that is even universally true) is no reason to dismiss them out of hand. The vast bulk of evangelical biblical scholarship could easily be thrown into the trash bin on the same grounds. You should know better.

  21. I for one am very interested in what Bryan Cross has to say in response, especially since he invited Pastor Brandon to submit this article and Brandon largely addressed Bryan’s Called To Communion articles.

    One question, and forgive me if I have missed something – I’ve been trying to read this in the midst of other work: Is it implausible to suggest that Apostolic Succession still occurred even given the submitted evidence against a “monarchical episcopate” form of government when the church was just becoming established?

    Tim

  22. Paul, I thought Brandon made somewhat clear he wasn’t arguing postively per se for a presby only vision of ecclesiology. Of course as presby, he prefers it. I understood his tone of more against monarchical episcopacy. More of a polemic against the views expressed at CtC.

    Interesting points though.

    Peace.

  23. Dr Owen,

    Thank you so much for your interaction and kind words. I’ll try to respond in kind to your statements.

    In addressing 1 and 2, I think you are right that in the academy that there is a suspicion of early ecclesiastical positions that is unwarranted. I certainly don’t want to advocate that we should prefer the musings of Duffy over Irenaeus or Augustine! My citation of Duffy was part of a larger polemical argument, namely that the reason for my skepticism of Catholic claims to Petrine Succession and episcopal government are attributable to my Protestant Interpretive Paradigm. I wanted to point out that Catholics of good repute and in full communion with the Church share my rejection of traditional Catholic claims.

    Regarding #3, I tried to address this briefly in my article by pointing out the importance of the origin of episcopal authority arising with Jesus. I recapped my brief discussion of this in comment #11. It is of course essential to my position (and that of the scholars I have relied on most heavily) that the episcopate did in fact develop from the presbyterate. It makes perfect sense that there were presbyter-bishops who exerted more influence than others but this is not evidence for a divinely established episcopacy, it is evidence of development.

    I also want to make two more subsequent notes in this regard. First, I do not believe that this development is inherently evil, bad, or even opposed to the oversight of the church that Jesus gave to the Apostles and the Apostles to the leaders of the Church. Second, my particular focus in this post has been to look at the episcopate in the city of Rome because it is in this city that the claims of Roman Catholicism hinge. While I’m not sure that I would agree that it is “clear” that James functioned as a bishop, I concede that there does not seem to be a uniformity to early ecclesiology, but I am not arguing for uniformity of presbyterian polity in Christendom—I’m arguing for it in the city of Rome. This speaks to your points 4 & 5.

    Regarding 4, Lampe proposes as a plausible thesis that the mechanism was the minister of external affairs who reported to the presbytery and was the precursor to the monarchical episcopate. We know that there was a minister of internal affairs and also external affairs according to Hermas. In order to maintain the catholicity of the church (a good thing!) it appears that this minister of external affairs began to be recognized as a prominent presbyter-bishop to the point that by the time of Irenaeus this position was seen as essential to the Church and preservation of orthodoxy.
    Regarding Patrick Burke your summary of his views is not completely accurate. Here is how Burke puts it,

    There is no evidence for a monarchical episcopate at the end of the first century except in Asia Minor and Syria, *and even in this region the evidence that it was still in process of development.*

    Burke then goes on to explain why we know that the condition of the church in Asia Minor cannot be as straightforward as Ignatius represents in chapter 2 to the Trallians. Much of my Section IV. B. comes from Burke.

    Your point in #6 is about the words “presbyter” and “bishop.” You say “The heart of the matter is functions, not titles.” One of the things that I tried to show though was that the work of the presbuteroi was episkope. The presbyters were given the function of oversight and there is no mention at any point of a distinct office of bishop. Principally, there is nothing about the interchangeability of the terms that means they are necessarily equivalent. My argument, however, is that when we see how these words are used they speak to oversight being exercised by a multiplicity of leaders, not a single figurehead or monarchical bishop. As I point out from Edward Dolan in section II, this lexical equivalence of these terms has informed the understanding of the offices even in Roman Catholic circles since 1950. Dolan appeals to Jerome to substantiate this perspective. All this to say that I believe that the fact that there is equivalence in the terms in the city of Rome up to the time of Hermas is more another piece of evidence which favors oversight of the church by plurality of presbyter-bishops.

    I agree with point #7 that this position is conceivable, but the question is whether or not this occurred. Is there evidence that there were offices that sprang up to take up the oversight of the Apostles like a monarchical episcopate? I don’t see any evidence for us to believe such a thing happened in the city of Rome. Perhaps you have something in mind?

    Point #8 is also partially true. It does show us that it is possible that it is possible to be a presbyter and an Apostle, but what evidence do you have that this means that there could be a presbyter and bishop (with one possessing the power to ordain and the other not receiving that charism)? As I attempted to argue in regard to 1 Peter 5, Paul commends these leaders (plural) to oversee the church. The presbuteroi are to exercise episkope. This is the reason that Raymond Brown concludes that Paul, James, and Peter all established presbyters [plural]. Seeing no distinction in office in 1 Clement, Didache, and Polycarp serves to further establish my position, IMO.

    In #9 I’m not sure exactly what you have in mind but if you are referring to Clement’s mention of the High Priest, priests, and Levites. Are you suggesting that Clement is making an allusion to the threefold office in this passage? I’ve not really encountered this in the literature, and it strikes me as trying to press Clements argument (that the Corinthians ought to conduct worship in an orderly way) too far.

    Regarding 42:4 & 44:2, Clement is talking about the proper order put in place by the Apostles and that they installed leaders. Clement says it is inappropriate to remove leaders properly installed for no reason—that would be to subvert the wisdom of the Apostle who had established the office of elder. This information fits seamlessly into my thesis; the Apostles installed elders in each city.

    In #10 you are right to say that we should be careful to press the Didache too hard, but, it is simply another piece of evidence to show in the area of Asia Minor that the threefold office was not as widespread as Ignatius indicates at the end of the 1st century/beginning of the second century.

    Your comment in #11 is something that I figured would come up consistently but I find it frustrating because the way I’m looking at it, your position is the one arguing from silence. I don’t mean this in a condescending way, but go back and read every point you’ve written to me. All of it amounts to “Well, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a bishop.” I am putting forward the relevant data which speaks to church office in the city of Rome and I’m the one arguing from silence? It is true that I’m extrapolating information from silence of writers like Ignatius, but his silence is particularly noteworthy. With Hermas and Clement though we are not talking about silence, we are talking about the substance of what they have to say about the officers in the church at Rome.

    Comment #12 states that I’ve built a false dichotomy between succession of bishops and chains of bearers of correct belief. I agree with you that it would be an obtuse way of looking at the data if I looked at it in that way but I don’t think that is what I’ve done. Instead, what I’ve done is tried to place Hegesippus in context while also showing that Hegesippus is not speaking about episcopal succession. He doesn’t even mention episcopal succession, but he does mention the passing on of the “teaching.” This has contemporary affinity with the succession lists from Josephus and other Jewish writers and given Hegesippus’s Jewish ancestry the belief is that Hegesippus is borrowing the Jewish argument for his polemic against Gnostics. This develops as the episcopate solidifies and Irenaeus actually believes that the information as passed along via episcopal succession (from Peter and Paul). He uses a list composed c. 180 AD to trace the passing of the apostolic doctrine in the apostolically established episcopate. I’ve tried to show why Irenaeus is mistaken in terms of his mechanism for passing on tradition while his emphasis is upon the teaching. I don’t deny that Irenaeus believed that the apostolic teaching was inherently tied to the episcopal succession, but he was mistaken on this point.

    Finally (#13), Cirlot and Dix are dated and the scholarship has moved passed them in terms of the consensus on fractionation in Roman Christianity. I’ve also not encountered a favorable citation of either scholar (Eric Jay, as I understand it, takes Dix to task, though I have not read his article). If there is anything in particular from these men that you think should be incorporated though, I’m certainly willing to revise my assessment.

    I wish I could be a bit more thorough but I need to run. Thanks for your comments Paul!

  24. The big flaw in the article is this: “Christ didn’t institute monarchical episcopacy as it exists today” is equated with “Christ didn’t institute episcopacy”. It very well could be that the situation in the early Church was such that the differentiation between bishop and priest was much more fluid than today. But that doesn’t mean that the mission of the episcopacy wasn’t instituted already right at the beginning by the “historical Jesus”. In any case, the “divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry” is Holy Orders, which is exercised in different degrees. As CCC 1554 teaches, both priests and bishops (but not deacons) exercise the sacramental priesthood of Christ. It wouldn’t be too surprising then that was fluidity between the two terms used at an earlier stage.

  25. Drew,

    “Why do I get the idea that there are going to be issues with intepretations of Church Father writings that are going to be dissimilar… I feel like we are going to hit a similar issue like we have with Biblical references”

    True which is what Newman saw:

    “For myself, I would simply confess that no doctrine of the Church can be rigorously proved by historical evidence: but at the same time that no doctrine can be simply disproved by it. Historical evidence reaches a certain way, more or less, towards a proof of the Catholic doctrines; often nearly the whole way; sometimes it goes only as far as to point in their direction; sometimes there is only an absence of evidence for a conclusion contrary to them; nay, sometimes there is an apparent leaning of the evidence to a contrary conclusion, which has to be explained;—in all cases there is a margin left for the exercise of faith in the word of the Church. He who believes the dogmas of the Church only because he has reasoned them out of History, is scarcely a Catholic. It is the Church’s dogmatic use of History in which the Catholic believes; and she uses other informants also, Scripture, tradition, the ecclesiastical sense … and a subtle ratiocinative power, which in its origin is a divine gift. There is nothing of bondage or “renunciation of mental freedom” in this view, any more than in the converts of the Apostles believing what the Apostles might preach to them or teach them out of Scripture.”

    “…history and the patristical writings do not absolutely decide the truth or falsehood of all important theological propositions, any more than Scripture decides it. As to such propositions, all that one can safely say is, that history and the Fathers look in one determinate direction. They make a doctrine more or less probable, but rarely contain a statement, or suggest a conclusion, which cannot be plausibly evaded. The definition of the Church is commonly needed to supply the defects of logic.”

    “Judges in our Courts of law are primarily witnesses to the law, written and unwritten, but still they are called judges of the law, and are truly such. And who can deny that a Jury judges of facts? The facts of Antiquity are not too clear to dispense with the exercise of a judgment upon them.”

    That is not to say of course this thorough well-presented article has no merit or should just be dismissed, any more than inerrantists or conservatives should not ignore challenges from liberal or secular scholarship and vice versa. It’s just to give perspective to the inherent provisional nature of scholarship.

  26. I have a question about “presbyterian polity” that could be crucial: how do we know this polity excluded/precluded a seniority among the bishops? The idea that there was a voting body, each with a vote of equal weight, without any regard to seniority or a Protos (first at the table) seems dubious both on historical and rational grounds. Who decides jurisdiction, tied votes, and the status of Bishops who separate?
    The idea that the group was held together merely by a bond of good will doesn’t sound plausible. The Diotrephes example of 3rd John 1:9-10 was mentioned only in passing, but it shows there were insubordinate bishops, a coveted ‘protos’ position, and that John had seniority over him.

  27. Hi Brandon,

    Thanks for the interesting article.

    One question:

    I see in your article an argument against the concept of a monarchical bishop in the early church, but I am failing to see an argument against apostolic succession. I suspect I have missed something, or misunderstand in the conclusions where it seems you are stating that a lack of monarchical bishop in the early church means that apostolic succession is false.

    Another way of asking this question – do you have any evidence or do you believe that bishop-presbyters in the early church were ordained in a way other than the laying on of hands by existing bishop-presbyters?

  28. In reading both the piece and the (still relatively few) comments, I worry that there may be a confusion of different kinds of authority and how they overlap in a single person, and which configurations are, or are not, permissible under the Catholic ecclesiology.

    Consequently, I think it’s helpful to enumerate them, to break them out:

    1. A person might have PRIESTLY authority; i.e., divine authority to perform the Eucharistic sacrifice;

    2. A person might have authority to ABSOLVE; i.e., divine authority to hear and absolve sins;

    3. A person might have authority to ORDAIN; i.e., to pass on to another some divine authority he himself already has;

    4. A person might have authority to LEGISLATE such rules and disciplines as are important for maintaining order in the Church which, since they do not pertain directly to irreformable matters of faith and morals, might change over time but must be considered binding on the faithful while they are in effect.

    5. A person might have authority to JUDGE DISPUTES in the Matthew 18 sense, which necessarily includes authority to rule on matters of “faith and morals” (for of course if one Christian accuses another of heresy/immorality, a judgment will require a ruling on whether XYZ is heretical/immoral or not);

    I think those are all the relevant kinds of authority; but type 5 has a further distinction to consider:

    5.a. A person might be one among many with Judicial authority; but his might be the highest court to which one might appeal a ruling by any other court — we might call this FINAL APPEAL JUDICIAL authority: The ability to “bind/lock/tie” what other courts have “loosed/unlocked/untied” (and vice-versa). This is relevant to the unique role of the Petrine authority in Catholic ecclesiology, due to the distinction drawn between the “Chief Steward” office and the other “Steward” offices in the Davidic kingdom (and other near-eastern dynasties).

    I bring all this up because it seems to me that this discussion will get along much better if such distinctions are made clear.

    I am avoiding the use of “bishop” and “priest” for the obvious reason: By naming which authority-type was in use I hope to abstract away from the nomenclature, which everyone admits shifted in meaning — as one might expect for loan-words reappropriated from existing Greek usage! I hope to get to the “meat” of the issue: What kind of authority was in use when? Is that plausibly in accord with Catholic ecclesiology, or not?

    I think it especially important that the Catholic side clarify which kinds of authority can be held at which times in the Church at Rome, while still being consistent with their ecclesiology.

    It seems to me that even a very Protestant-friendly interpretation of the passages from Scripture and the Fathers, cited in the piece, would still allow the Catholic ecclesiology to be perfectly valid. I can even envision a way that Irenaeus could claim that Peter and Paul “founded” the Church at Rome, while still being aware that prior to Peter’s arrival there were clergy already in Rome with power to Ordain, and exercising some Legislative and Judicial authority among the Christians there.

    And I see no particular reason (in Catholic ecclesiology) why an office having Authority Types 1-5, including 5.a., couldn’t co-exist in the city with other ministers having Authority Types 1-5 but lacking type 5.a. In such a circumstance the most likely arrangement would be that some would focus on one area of ministry (e.g. caring for the poor) and others on a different area of ministry. And in all likelihood when disputes arose they might discuss them together in a collegial way, or even dispute about them as the Jerusalem proto-council did. This all seems to me perfectly consonant with the Catholic view.

    But that is a point for further discussion. For the time being, my intent is to clarify the Authority Types so that we don’t get confused by the evolution of the terms “bishop” and “priest.” If my categories aren’t quite right, I hope someone else will propose a different set so that, having agreed upon the relevant Authority Types, we can focus on who was using what, when.

  29. Nick (26),

    Fair point:

    Myth Number One: We interpret the Bible, but not the Westminster standards. Now, sometimes that gets said, and I understand where that is coming from, but let’s think through that together. It’s an understandable error given the nature of the standards, as I argued earlier, as clear statements of doctrine. I agree – the standards are clear statements of doctrine. The Scriptures contain obscurities at points. It tells us that itself. The standards aren’t supposed to contain obscurities of that kind so much. If they do, we should straighten them out, we should make it clear. But, one I think could wrongly assume in saying we interpret the Bible but not the standards that they need no interpretation. Rather, they need only to be received in their teaching. Well, this is similar to the fundamentalist’s error about the Bible – “No book but the Bible, no creed but Christ” – applied to the creeds. Let’s not think that creeds neither warrant nor need interpretation. Of course they need interpretation. The hermeneutical task can’t be escaped. They are going to have to be interpreted. The Word is interpreted in the creeds and confessions and then we are going to together interpret our creeds and confessions and we are going to administer them. You can’t escape that. That’s the hard work of the church. Sometimes we want at some level everything done for us. It’s like, I tell my students this all the time – I teach church polity – and I say you can’t have reformation by tweaking the polity and getting it just perfect because the best polity that we could have from the Word of God if it’s administered by men of ill will will fail. Please don’t be shocked here. I’m not Episcopalian at all. But, then I’ll go on to say episcopacy if the bishop is a good man could have some good things happening. Now, I don’t think that’s the Biblical form of government – I think Presbyterianism is, but I don’t think because we have the form Presbyterian that we’ve got a lock on things. That’s just not the way it works. We have to always be faithful. We have to come before God and in humility look to Him and serve Him together, communing with him and each other as members of His mystical body. There is a real spiritual aspect to this that can’t be gotten around. So, one can’t preserve doctrine by saying, well if we could perfect our confession (I’m not saying we don’t need to – our confession doesn’t need to be as clear as we can make it), but to say, you know, this is how we’re going to have reformation and everything we need by getting it all down. No. We have to continue to serve faithfully and humbly. Interpretation, the hermeneutical task, is at every level inescapable. The question, then, is not whether we interpret the standards – we do. The question is whose interpretation prevails. My possibly idiosyncratic one? Or the one that the imposing body acting in integrity holds? And, of course, as I’ve said, that really refers ultimately to the whole church. One may object that the imposing body might be wrong, and it might – we don’t believe in the infallibility of the church. I don’t. I don’t know about you. I don’t believe the church is infallible. I believe the Word is infallible. One may object that the imposing body might be wrong, or is not acting in integrity, but that’s another matter and remedies for such exist in our Book of Church Order. There are ways that we have to address unfaithfulness, but we need to recognize here that we do interpret our secondary standards. Variations of interpretation on a particular matter in the imposing body could signal on the one hand, it could mean departure from the faith. If you say, there is this interpretation and there is this interpretation, maybe this interpretation means departure from the faith, but it can’t be assumed. What do I mean? Please follow me here. You’ve got a doctrine stated in our confession. You’ve got some various ways of understanding or interpreting the confession. It may be that this party over here is faithless or it may be that this particular doctrine in terms of some of the specifics has about it or there is a proper elasticity. There are certain doctrines that we say- no, we want this in the narrowest way confessed this way. Or, there are other things that we may say, well, there is a permission here. I think John will be talking about the millennial issue. And, I think you can read the standards in certain ways that would have a certain millennial point, but we have not read them that way. Now, maybe you think we should read them that way. But, that isn’t the way we read them. We haven’t read them as clearly excluding certain historic positions. And, so, here’s what I am saying: The fact of different interpretations on a particular matter doesn’t mean that there is a terrible departure from the faith, but it may mean a proper elasticity in enforcing the confession on that particular point is at issue. Think of the issue of exclusive psalmody. Now, I understand that those who may be committed to exclusive psalmody say, well, you’re wrong. But, the fact is that we have an elasticity on it. You may not like that there is an elasticity on it, but there is. That’s just a fact. One has to judge and act accordingly. There is no escaping that hard work. We can’t eliminate the hard work that the church is called to do always by reducing everything to rules – have as many rules as you wish. That’s what I was saying earlier. Governing bodies have to apply and interpret and make hard decisions. You just can’t get around making hard decisions. You just can’t get around it.

  30. Brandon,

    “Your comment in #11 is something that I figured would come up consistently but I find it frustrating because the way I’m looking at it, your position is the one arguing from silence. I don’t mean this in a condescending way, but go back and read every point you’ve written to me. All of it amounts to “Well, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a bishop.”

    Conversely, and taken with reference to the list of Irenaeus, as well as the near universal testimony of subsequent fathers (including Augustine), everything you have written in your article amounts to “Well, that doesn’t mean there was a bishop”.

    On this view Irenaeus, and nearly all of the fathers after Irenaeus, were mistaken that apostolic teaching is inherently tied to episcopal succession (and I note, the Christian world at the time of Irenaeus apparently embraced this novelty with nary a protest – if ever there was an argument from silence . . .). How do support this story of the grand mistake? By “extrapolating” from those silences which you deem to be “particularly noteworthy”, in conjunction with the “relevant data” (relevant according to what criteriology?) which speaks to church office in the city of Rome. “Relevant data” such as the famed academic “consensus on fractionation” and conjectures such as Lampe’s “minister of external affairs”. You then weight the “substance” of what writers like Hermas and Clement have to say (or do not have to say) as being more in accord with the constructs of 21st century academic historico-critical scholarship than with the Christian men who followed them in close chronology within the early Christian community.

    The point, of course, is not that this proves your position false, nor even that it shows you position implausible. The point is merely that, given the raw documentary evidence, your narrative – like the Catholic (or Orthodox or Episcopal) narrative – is only as good as the broader methodological assumptions which you (and/or the scholars you rely upon) bring to the data.

    In your article you wrote:

    Finally, I also want to press back on the notion that Christians cannot utilize the discoveries of those who hold unorthodox beliefs. The fact that Lampe does not hold to biblical inerrancy is irrelevant to his discussion of Roman Christianity. There is nothing that Lampe says in terms of Roman ecclesiology that threatens any of the confessional standards of Reformed churches.

    The problem with this attempted deflection is that it entirely misses the point which Catholics here at CTC have urged upon Reformed apologists who center their attack on episcopal ecclesiology by immersing themselves in the postulates of modern historical-critical scholars with respect to a very narrow post-apostolic time frame (roughly that between the deaths of SS Peter and Paul and the time of Irenaeus). The point is not to deny that anything can be learned from those who hold unorthodox beliefs. I have never encountered anyone on this site making such a silly claim, whether with respect to modern historical-critical scholarship, or with respect to any field of inquiry – so long as the distinction between a verifiable “discovery” and a mere hypothesis or construct is kept clearly in view.

    Moreover, it is certainly true that Lampe says nothing “in terms of Roman ecclesiology that threatens any of the confessional standards of Reformed churches”. However, as a man formed within and by the intellectual presuppositions dominating academic historical-critical scholarship, the methodological assumptions behind Lampe’s approach to the documentary monuments of the earliest Christian centuries are precisely the same methodological assumptions which determine his approach to the sacred canon. While on the one hand, those methodological assumptions lead Lampe to derive a narrative respecting early church governance contrary to that which we find explicitly voiced by nearly all of the fathers from the time of Irenaeus up until the dawn of the Reformation; on the other, those very same methodological assumptions lead Lampe to reject confessional doctrines (Reformed or otherwise) concerning the inerrancy of sacred scripture. No doubt, many biblical-historical scholars operating within the same methodological orbit are often lead to rejection of traditional beliefs concerning the virgin birth, the resurrection, or even the historicity of Jesus!

    Far from irrelevant, Lampe’s methodological assumptions most certainly threaten the confessional standards of Reformed churches – and that is the point at hand. If you were forced to defend the Reformed confessional stance with respect to the inerrancy of sacred scripture against the “evidences” or “discoveries” of Lampe or others within his guild, I very much suspect that at least part of your response would involve a critique of the “critique” – that is, a critique concerning methodology. With respect to a confessional Reformed notion of the inerrancy of scripture, I think it is quite safe to say that the overwhelming “consensus” of modern biblical scholarship has “moved passed” such biblical naïveté’, seeing such a position as, at best, an embarrassing holdout within the intellectual ghettos of Reformed or Catholic conservatism and, at worst, as blatant intellectual dishonesty (I am here simply expressing a sentiment which is commonplace among many academic biblical scholars). I doubt you would accept such a consensus as compelling (and rightly so).

    So when Dr. Owen wrote:

    “13. Finally, it was sad to see such a dismissal of Cirlot and Dix. These men were brilliant scholars, and just because they are not taken seriously by modern academics (if that is even universally true) is no reason to dismiss them out of hand. The vast bulk of evangelical biblical scholarship could easily be thrown into the trash bin on the same grounds. You should know better.”

    and you responded with;

    “Finally (#13), Cirlot and Dix are dated and the scholarship has moved passed them in terms of the consensus on fractionation in Roman Christianity. I’ve also not encountered a favorable citation of either scholar (Eric Jay, as I understand it, takes Dix to task, though I have not read his article). If there is anything in particular from these men that you think should be incorporated though, I’m certainly willing to revise my assessment.”

    You seem to be entirely evading his point and mine. A point often voiced on this site, particularly when technical debate concerning pre-Irenaean documentary texts has ensued here. Dr. Owen is manifestly correct. It is a fact that the very same methodological assumptions which lead academic biblical scholars to view Cirlot and Dix as “dated”, such that the new guard has “moved passed” them; are the same methodological assumptions which would, without doubt, lead these same scholars to throw “the vast bulk of evangelical biblical scholarship” into the trash can. In short, what is largely unacceptable within historical-critical academic circles is to allow any confessional theological position to supervene upon, or in any other way impact, one’s research or conclusions. And it is precisely that stipulation which is decidedly not philosophically or methodologically neutral. Relying upon a methodology which yields a result which one favors in one instance, while decrying or challenging that very same methodology when, in a different context, it yields a result one dislikes; is the deep inconsistency which Catholics (and in this case Dr. Owen an Episcopalian) are pointing out, and which you are not facing squarely IMO.

    At the end of the day, what we have are two post-apostolic narratives about the origin and structure of the Church, both of which are plausible trajectories in light of the raw and indecisive biblical data. One narrative puts the accent upon the explicit witness of Irenaeus and the post Irenaean patristic consensus, interpreting the pre-Irenaean documentary evidence (and silences) as implicitly in continuity with (and bridging the gap between) the NT and the explicit testimony of the fathers.

    The other narrative holds the explicit witness of the overwhelming patristic testimony regarding episcopal succession at arms length, while attempting to discredit the patristic witness at its chronological roots through the application of the “discoveries” (sic plausible constructs) of scholars applying a presupposition-laden methodology to documents and events 20 centuries removed. Presented with such choices, and being familiar (and largely unimpressed) with the fundamental philosophical and theo-methodological supposition underwriting much of contemporary biblical-historical criticism, I remain enthusiastically Catholic.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  31. Dear Brandon,

    Thank you for your interesting and thought-provoking article. I’d just like to address some issues in your conversation with Dr Owen:

    (I’m not too familiar with the block quote system so I hope my markup is correct.)

    My citation of Duffy was part of a larger polemical argument, namely that the reason for my skepticism of Catholic claims to Petrine Succession and episcopal government are attributable to my Protestant Interpretive Paradigm. I wanted to point out that Catholics of good repute and in full communion with the Church share my rejection of traditional Catholic claims.

    I don’t think Bryan or his audience would be moved by such an argument – they would simply say that Catholic scholars are free to adopt a paradigm of disruption in their scholarship, which has nothing to do with their standing with the Roman Church. I think this same difficulty exists in the Protestant world, with the debates over creation, biblical inerrancy, and the value of historic confessions.

    It makes perfect sense that there were presbyter-bishops who exerted more influence than others but this is not evidence for a divinely established episcopacy, it is evidence of development

    I am not clear how casting the transformation of presbyter-bishops into the monarchical episcocapy as ‘evidence of development’ shows that it is not evidence of a divinely established episcopacy. The apostles functioned autonomously after the departure of Christ, introducing innovations such as the removal of the food laws and developing the government of the church (e.g. installation of ‘elders’, cerating the diaconate). Given the admission of at least a presbyterial government, and perhaps the notion of a hierarchy within the presbytery, why should subsequent decisions carried out by the leadership appointed by the apostles not also be regarded as bearing the divine imprimatur?

    Your comment in #11 is something that I figured would come up consistently but I find it frustrating because the way I’m looking at it, your position is the one arguing from silence. I don’t mean this in a condescending way, but go back and read every point you’ve written to me. All of it amounts to “Well, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a bishop.” I am putting forward the relevant data which speaks to church office in the city of Rome and I’m the one arguing from silence? It is true that I’m extrapolating information from silence of writers like Ignatius, but his silence is particularly noteworthy. With Hermas and Clement though we are not talking about silence, we are talking about the substance of what they have to say about the officers in the church at Rome.

    I think Dr Owen was pointing out that Hermas and Clement can be read in a way that is consistent with Ignatius’ explicit claim that the idea of the bishopric was extant throughout the Christian world. Certainly, the silence of Hermas and Clement (if Clement is actually silent) can be read in a way that contradicts Ignatius’ claim, but the sources don’t explicitly contradict each other.

    Finally, regarding Hermas: according to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepherd_of_Hermas), the explicit evidence concerning the authorship of Hermas states that it was written by the brother of a Roman bishop in the mid-2nd century. It is plausible that the author’s close relationship with the leader of the Roman church obviated any need for him to mention the bishop in his rebuke to the presbyters – perhaps he was afraid of offending his brother, perhaps his brother had requested his help in bringing his unruly presbytery under control, perhaps he could speak directly to the presbytery riding on his brother’s prestige. It is also plausible that Hermas became such a respected piece of writing in the early church precisely because it was written by someone so close to the top. Of course, one might plausibly argue that the author of Hermas would have explicitly talked about this brother’s episcopate, but then again, he might not have seen the need to.

    I have no information beyond what wikipedia and your article have provided, but the silence of Hermas seems interpretable both ways, and I don’t think that the problem is as great as Burke makes it out to be.

  32. Ray and all,

    Relying upon a methodology which yields a result which one favors in one instance, while decrying or challenging that very same methodology when, in a different context, it yields a result one dislikes; is the deep inconsistency which Catholics (and in this case Dr. Owen an Episcopalian) are pointing out, and which you are not facing squarely IMO.

    Excellent! And, I think, we would distinguish this tactic from the work of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI insomuch that he affirms the observation, the intellectual movement of the hist/crit tradition, shows its worth, but ultimately shows where it is insufficient or overlooks important evidence.

    The other narrative holds the explicit witness of the overwhelming patristic testimony regarding episcopal succession at arms length, while attempting to discredit the patristic witness at its chronological roots through the application of the “discoveries” (sic plausible constructs) of scholars applying a presupposition-laden methodology to documents and events 20 centuries removed.

    To put another way, it is a reading back into history without the lens a grace. As our Lord said, “To the holy, all things are holy.” Or in contrast, it is seeing St. Paul as someone mostly fighting his internal demons within the context of a prevailing misogynistic culture. It is viewing St. John as a closeted effeminate, resting upon our Lord’s “breast,” hanging out with women, and waking up startled in the night with disturbing visions. It is reading the Apostles as a loose confederation of individualists captivated by the charismatic message of their surprisingly dead leader, scattering and grappling for power. It is Hume reading Christ. It is all plausible. However, what is more plausible, and what is not concealed by a mind darkened with conceit for the holy, is the possibility that Christ was God, that he breathed upon his Apostles, and that when they laid hands on successors, despite Christ never doing that once in the Gospels, they weren’t doing something novel. They were following instruction.

    The point of this article (I gather) though is not AS per se, but the AS of the Bishop of Rome. However, one cannot dodge the main to discredit the minor. Therefore, I think what would need to be established in this article for it to hit its target is a shared sense of what is being discredited. What, precisely, is the Protestant looking for in the early Church? What doesn’t he find, and what does that mean? What does he think is necessary to find to justify the development of the Roman bishopric?

    I don’t have a lot of time, but I would be interested to see the discussion move in this direction. For one, the Protestant and Catholic should not evade these questions. Clearly defining what is in dispute is most germane if one is not to endlessly beg the question. The Catholic and Protestant, in this particular discussion, will beg the question if the threshold of “proof” is not the same. We will talk past each other. And, I hope, the discussion could merit a measure of grace – seeing God’s grace at work where the pagan sees fortune. If the early Church is not a place to “see” that, and if we cannot agree upon that premise, we have no way to proceed.

  33. Interesting comment, Ray.

    I think it’s good to remember Brandon is arguing we are in the same “boat,” epistemologically speaking, as prots compared to caths.

    As I understood him anyway.

    I’m enjoying following along.

    Peace.

  34. Ray Stamper #28, you said:

    as a man formed within and by the intellectual presuppositions dominating academic historical-critical scholarship, the methodological assumptions behind Lampe’s approach to the documentary monuments of the earliest Christian centuries are precisely the same methodological assumptions which determine his approach to the sacred canon.

    How do you know this? Do you know the man? Or are you just speculating?

    Further down you say:

    Far from irrelevant, Lampe’s methodological assumptions most certainly threaten the confessional standards of Reformed churches – and that is the point at hand.

    In fact, Lampe’s work on Chapter 16 of Romans (arguing that it was a part of the original document and not something added-on later) is state-of-the-art conservative scholarship, cited by Schreiner and Moo (themselves conservative exegetes who honor the text), for example, in their commentaries on Romans. Both of those men are knowledgeable, confessional Protestants, fully versed in “Lampe’s methodological assumptions”, and not, in any way, as you say, “threatened”.

    So if this is your “point at hand”, then it seems as if you need to re-think it.

    While on the one hand, those methodological assumptions lead Lampe to derive a narrative respecting early church governance contrary to that which we find explicitly voiced by nearly all of the fathers from the time of Irenaeus up until the dawn of the Reformation;..

    Lampe’s work considers everything that came before Irenaeus. So if Irenaeus was wrong about things, well, those mistakes were repeated, and repeated, and repeated, down through the centuries, until someone finally stood up and questioned it.

    Regarding Irenaeus, he was wrong about several things. Of course, you know that he had Jesus’s age pegged at 50 when he died, which is significantly different from what we know from the Gospels.

    Second, he claimed that “Peter and Paul founded and established the church at Rome”. The idea of church-as-visible-institution goes by the wayside, however, as Paul himself notes that “Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me” … “are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.”

    To adhere to the Irenaeus account is to discount what Paul actually tells us is important in Rome in 56 AD. Of course, there were Christians at Rome far earlier than Peter ever got there. And they had roots and sanction among “the Apostles”. What were they doing there, in the meantime, before Peter and Paul got there to “found” and “set up” the church at Rome? What was it that they were doing?

    It is also different from the “Peter-founded-the-Church-of-Rome-and-was Bishop-there-for-25-years” account, which I, who had a taste of the pre-Vatican II church, grew up believing. That, in fact, was a story that was believed for centuries. Do you see how such myths, repeated, need to be challenged at some “critical” level?

    Third, Irenaeus did pass along a verified whopper: “For now we have to mention him so that you may know that all who in any way adulterate the truth and harm the church’s preaching are disciples and successors of Simon the Samaritan magician”. He goes on like that at some length.

    The stories of Simon Magus are pure fiction, and here is the great piece of truth that verifies “the history of the papacy” for you?

    This is not to say that everything he said was totally wrong. But what it says is that he needs to be looked at with a critical eye, because not everything he says can be taken at face value.

    the point which Catholics here at CTC have urged upon Reformed apologists who center their attack on episcopal ecclesiology by immersing themselves in the postulates of modern historical-critical scholars with respect to a very narrow post-apostolic time frame (roughly that between the deaths of SS Peter and Paul and the time of Irenaeus).

    You seem to lump all “critical scholars” together. As I’ve demonstrated above, there is a need to exercise critical judgment when working with ancient sources. That does not, in every case, open the door for rampant skepticism. For example, here is a snapshot of Lampe’s method:

    He gets every document from ancient Rome in front of him; every piece of paper, every inscription, every archaeological finding. One by one he analyzes these. He looks at a thing and says:

    What do we know? He writes it down.
    What do we know? He writes it down.
    What do we know? He writes it down.
    What do we know? He writes it down.
    What do we know? He writes it down.
    . . .
    What do we know? He writes it down.
    What do we know? He writes it down.
    What do we know? He writes it down.

    Once he gets to the end of the pile of things in front of him, he assembles the pieces – and the pieces do interlock – cross-referencing and such – and he produces a picture of the ancient Roman church. Note that he does this using what we actually know.

    This is quite the opposite of the “enlightened” Descartes or Hume, who doubted everything for which there was not evidence. It is also quite different from actual “speculative” critical scholarship, which, again, doubts the actual accounts of the Bible, and seeks to assemble largely speculative theories.

    Those speculative theories go away as we know more and more things. “Critical” scholars were dating the Gospel of John in the 150s AD until they found the Rylands papyrus, which contains a fragment from that Gospel dating to 125 AD. More, it was found in Egypt – how long did it take to get there, having been written in Asia Minor?

    Not sure if you have heard of the “J.E.D.P.” hypothesis (in Old Testament studies). That too was born through a method of speculative “critical” evaluation. That thesis, too, is fading away, thanks to a growing body of knowledge and cracks within that thesis. It will soon be washed away, likely (in my opinion) to be replaced by the understanding that the Old Testament actually is more truthful about its own origins than was previously thought.

    Now this is not to say that every critical scholar is going to come to this understanding overnight. But there is much in ancient literature that needs to be questioned. Not simply taken at face value.

    Ray Stamper #28:

    Relying upon a methodology which yields a result which one favors in one instance, while decrying or challenging that very same methodology when, in a different context, it yields a result one dislikes; is the deep inconsistency which Catholics … are pointing out, and which you are not facing squarely IMO.

    Such as when Roman Catholics use Caragounis’s argument about 1 Clement, but fail to take into account his massive work “Peter and the Rock”?

    Ray Stamper, #28:

    You seem to be entirely evading his point and mine. A point often voiced on this site, particularly when technical debate concerning pre-Irenaean documentary texts has ensued here. Dr. Owen is manifestly correct. It is a fact that the very same methodological assumptions which lead academic biblical scholars to view Cirlot and Dix as “dated”, such that the new guard has “moved passed” them

    I think “dated” is a mischaracterization. And “moved past” is also a mischaracterization.

    In the light of my previous comment, outlining Lampe’s methodology, it seems fair to say that the understanding is rather that “they are lacking in some information”. Now, to be sure, that doesn’t invalidate everything they say. And nor does it entail harsh skepticism. But it does involve re-reading what they say and understanding that in some areas, their analyses may simply be lacking.

    are the same methodological assumptions which would, without doubt, lead these same scholars to throw “the vast bulk of evangelical biblical scholarship” into the trash can.

    This comment betrays a lack of knowledge as to what “evangelical biblical scholarship” is all about, over the last 50 years or so.

    “Evangelical biblical scholarship” is not in a position to be thrown into the trash can. “Evangelical biblical scholarship”, though it may not be respected by some “critical scholars”, has largely adopted and refined and made its own many of the “methods” (if not the “assumptions”) of critical scholarship.

    Notice what Daniel Wallace says:

    I can speak to issues in New Testament studies at Dallas Seminary, which I know best. Our NT faculty have degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, Aberdeen, Sheffield, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Dallas Seminary, and Glasgow. We teach a historical-critical method of interpretation, tempered by our presuppositions that the universe is not a closed-system but one in which God has been active. Our students are trained extensively in exegesis of the New and Old Testament, are conversant with the secondary literature, and are able to interact with various viewpoints. Something like 80% of our doctoral dissertations are now getting published—and in prestigious, world-class series no less. (The same, by the way, is true of our master’s students who earn their doctorates elsewhere.) When Harold Hoehner was alive, there were three members in the department who were members of the prestigious Society of New Testament Studies. Now, down to two, we are anticipating several others getting voted in, in due time.

    Wallace is leading the effort to document and catalogue New Testament manuscripts. We know more today than we ever did about the ancient church. Elsewhere he says that these efforts “reveal some text that has not been seen before”.

    It’s not “evangelical biblical scholarship” that’s in “hunker-down-with-fingers-in-our-ears” mode. Michael Kruger, author of “Canon Revisited” (among other works) is leading a team of New Testament scholars to produce a work on Christianity in the Second Century.

    That promises to be one of the most exciting works to come out of “evangelical biblical scholarship” to date.

    What were you saying about a “trash can”?

  35. Nick, at 26, we don’t know, to be completely honest.

    As a presby, I find our polilty most closely resembling what we see in the NT.

    This is debatable though. Granted.

    Peace.

  36. Peirce #24,

    You said,

    The big flaw in the article is this: “Christ didn’t institute monarchical episcopacy as it exists today” is equated with “Christ didn’t institute episcopacy”. It very well could be that the situation in the early Church was such that the differentiation between bishop and priest was much more fluid than today.

    To be clear, this is not exactly what I have argued. I argued that Christ instituted leadership in the church but that this leadership (particularly in the city of Rome) was lead by a group of presbyter-bishops. There is nothing like monarchical episcopacy existing at all in Rome into the second century.

    You’ve asserted, “It very well could be that the situation…was much more fluid.” I won’t rule that out as a possibility, but I’ve argued that it is highly unlikely. In order to counter my argument you would need to present why you believe such fluidity existed.

  37. Nick #26,

    You asked,

    how do we know this polity excluded/precluded a seniority among the bishops? The idea that there was a voting body, each with a vote of equal weight, without any regard to seniority or a Protos (first at the table) seems dubious both on historical and rational grounds. Who decides jurisdiction, tied votes, and the status of Bishops who separate?

    There is nothing that precludes seniority or prominence among presbyters. For example, in my denomination, the PCA, Ligon Duncan and Tim Keller have an influence that most other ministers don’t, but that doesn’t mean that they possess an office superior to any other presbyter. I’d be interested in your analysis of the “dubious historical and rational grounds” for this position.

    And your final question is asking questions that were not solidified in the early church. Jurisdiction appears to be held by the presbyter-bishop at an individual house church, it’s unclear how “tied votes” worked on the presbyterial level because we don’t have any information about it. The question itself assumes that there is strong centralization, which is exactly what is under dispute. And finally, see my section on Peter Lampe and Allen Brent on disputes between “bishops.” Brent examines the dispute between Callistus and Hippolytus.

  38. John (re #34),

    First of all, I want to join you and others in thanking Brandon for this well-written article. Thanks Brandon! Your contribution to this website, and thus to Catholic-Protestant dialogue in our little corner of the world, is much appreciated.

    John, in light of our conversation over at your website, I was particularly interested in the following bit from Daniel Wallace, in which he points out the specific difference between the genus, critical scholarship, and the species, *evangelical* critical scholarship:

    We teach a historical-critical method of interpretation, tempered by our presuppositions that the universe is not a closed-system but one in which God has been active.

    This is exactly how we, as Catholics, approach the study of Church history (based upon the Church’s teaching about the authority of tradition).

    In short, our historical-critical method of interpretation is tempered by our faith that the Church is not a closed system but one in which God has been (and remains) active. Such deference to tradition (and consequent rejection of “ecclesial deism”) is among what Ray has called the “methodological suppositions” (what Wallace calls “presuppositions”) that distinguish the two approaches to Church history evinced in this discussion.

  39. Jonathan #27,

    Thanks for your question because this is important for understanding my article. You asked,

    I see in your article an argument against the concept of a monarchical bishop in the early church, but I am failing to see an argument against apostolic succession. I suspect I have missed something, or misunderstand in the conclusions where it seems you are stating that a lack of monarchical bishop in the early church means that apostolic succession is false.

    When talking about Apostolic Succession the Roman Catholic Church is not talking about tactile succession (Peter ordaines Joe who ordains Steve who ordains Johnny), it is talking about episcopal succession and where one presbyter-bishop retains the Apostolic prerogative. For the Catholic, this is a sacramental process (as I noted from Bryan and Neal in my article). I’m arguing this sacramental notion of Apostolic Succession is falsified by what we know about the organization of the Roman church.

    What I’m willing to concede is that in the normal process of things you have a tactile succession, but you don’t have an episcopal office (which originates with Peter) being passed down to a single successor (or even to a group of particular successors).

    Does that help clear up my position?

  40. R.C.,

    Thanks for your comment. The important question is, is there any indication that this authority was given to particular individuals and not others? I’ve argued that there is no evidence to that effect. Do you have anything in mind that would show this division of authority?

  41. Brandon,

    Just a quick clarification on the Catholic concept of Apostolic Succession, in response to your comment to Jonathan:

    You wrote:

    When talking about Apostolic Succession the Roman Catholic Church is not talking about tactile succession (Peter ordaines Joe who ordains Steve who ordains Johnny), it is talking about episcopal succession and where one presbyter-bishop retains the Apostolic prerogative.

    Because Holy Orders is a sacrament the matter of which is the laying on of hands by one who has the power to ordain (cf. Sacramentum Ordinis), tactile succession is very much a part of the Catholic practice and doctrine of Apostolic Succession.

  42. Brandon, #39, I am sorry but you never disproved the Catholic understanding of Apostolic Succession through Episcopal Succession in Rome…all you did was show that there was no mention of a particular leader of the church in Rome during the time period being mentioned until years after. That does nothing to prove your case either…since you fail to acknowledge Irenaeus list as true, in which he mentions Clement’s letter, and you fail to believe Clement was a leader of the church in Rome at that time he wrote his letter, contrary to Irenaeus’ writing. Which I believe this evidence is practical enough to be seen simply as it says.

  43. Victor,

    Hi.

    Is a hierarchical form of church government the only acceptable form of polity, in your view?

    Please read again these words of Mr. Addison:

    In a deconstructive case the burden of proof is on the person providing the argument for a positive case (e.g. Roman Christianity was organized around a presbytery OR a monarchical bishop). In a constructive case, the burden of proof resides on the one making the positive claim. For the purposes of this article I am assuming that burden; but I will emphasize again, falsifying my argument does not make the case for the RCC.

    He is arguing for a presbyterial form of Polity, positvely construed. Why bring up Roman episcopacy except that that is your view?

    Yes he goes at length why presby form is correct. It’s something we are discussing. No one is saying yours is definitely wrong. We feel ours is superior and that’s what this article is written to do.

    We could be wrong. Do you want to discuss his article, friend?

    Peace.

  44. Ray,

    Thank you so much for your comment.

    You believe that my case is amounts to “well that doesn’t mean there was a bishop.” I’m not sure that is as precise as it should be. My case is that there is absolutely no evidence that anything like a bishop exists. As I mentioned in my Objections section, it is possible that there was a bishop but we don’t have any evidence to substantiate this. Do you have any evidence in mind that would substantiate this?

    It appears that you want to appeal to Irenaeus. You want me to elaborate on how this “grand mistake” could have entered with “nary a protest.” First of all, we don’t know what level of protest Irenaeus’s list was meet with. At the very least we know the Gnostics still rejected what Irenaeus was arguing. Second, why is it that I have to account for development as described with Irenaeus while you don’t have to integrate Irenaeus into everything else that we know about Roman Christianity? Third, I’ve tried to explain how this development could have happened. Social pressures (persecution and the loosen of that persecution in the second century), the political climate (the fact that “corporations” didn’t exist in Rome until the second century), the ecclesiastical context (the diaconal scope of the Roman church continued to expand and grow in influence making the minister of external affairs as a manager of large amounts of money), and the theological climate (debates with Gnostics over being a true heir to the Apostolic faith) all contributed to this development.

    You go on to say,

    By “extrapolating” from those silences which you deem to be “particularly noteworthy”, in conjunction with the “relevant data” (relevant according to what criteriology?) which speaks to church office in the city of Rome. “Relevant data” such as the famed academic “consensus on fractionation” and conjectures such as Lampe’s “minister of external affairs”. You then weight the “substance” of what writers like Hermas and Clement have to say (or do not have to say) as being more in accord with the constructs of 21st century academic historico-critical scholarship than with the Christian men who followed them in close chronology within the early Christian community.

    First of all, I am not “extrapolating from silence.” I’m taking the evidence we do have and forming conclusions based on that evidence. The “relevant data” is far greater than just Irenaeus. It contains every scrap of literature and archaeology we possess from the city of Rome for the first two centuries. It also includes explicit statements from Hermas about a minister of internal affairs as well as a minister of external affairs (there is absolutely no conjecture there). This data is then synthesized, comparing conflicting pieces of evidence and working to bring a synthesis to the data and make a coherent argument explaining all of the relevant data. Your statement about the “constructs of 21st century historico-critical scholarship” miss the point, IMO. We know for a fact that things which were very important to the formation of the Papacy, like the Donation of Constantine, were forged documents that many people believed were authentic. Later study of the documents, however, proved them to be forged documents. Sometimes good and godly men arrive at bad conclusions from bad data.

    You continue by saying,

    Far from irrelevant, Lampe’s methodological assumptions most certainly threaten the confessional standards of Reformed churches – and that is the point at hand

    You continue by saying,

    With respect to a confessional Reformed notion of the inerrancy of scripture, I think it is quite safe to say that the overwhelming “consensus” of modern biblical scholarship has “moved passed” such biblical naïveté’, seeing such a position as, at best, an embarrassing holdout within the intellectual ghettos of Reformed or Catholic conservatism and, at worst, as blatant intellectual dishonesty (I am here simply expressing a sentiment which is commonplace among many academic biblical scholars). I doubt you would accept such a consensus as compelling (and rightly so).

    This is not true. There are many people who reject biblical inerrancy in the academy, but even Bart Ehrman admits that some of the best people in his field are Evangelicals. He doesn’t share their beliefs, but he recognizes their presence and contributions. In terms of the Roman episcopate, I have a single article. Perhaps to show the equivalence you are seeking for you could provide peer-reviewed sources where scholars are defending that Jesus established episcopal authority. There is a difference between a minority position and a field rejecting a claim outright.

    This is exactly why I’ve not explicitly interacted with Dix or Cirlot in this article. It’s not that they were dumb or are worthless but the development of scholarship has moved on from them. Of course, I’m more than willing to interact with them should you find something that they write that contradicts what I’ve written. But my statements about Dix and Cirlot are twofold. The first is manifestly true and undebatable, Dix and Cirlot do not speak to current discussions concerning fractionation and are dated. The second is that modern scholars don’t find Dix or Cirlot to be persuasive or compelling. As such, they didn’t warrant mention in my “Dissenters of Consensus” section.

    You still assert however,

    It is a fact that the very same methodological assumptions which lead academic biblical scholars to view Cirlot and Dix as “dated”, such that the new guard has “moved passed” them; are the same methodological assumptions which would, without doubt, lead these same scholars to throw “the vast bulk of evangelical biblical scholarship” into the trash can.

    This assertion requires substantiation and I don’t see any argument connecting Lampe’s methodology with his rejection of biblical authority. Given the way you describe the “historico-critical method” you would assume that every scholar in the academy inevitably reached the same conclusions about everything. That is an absurd position and that is why you need to more explicitly show the methodological similarities between my grammatical-historical approach to texts and Lampe’s methodological approach.

    You continue to assert similar things when you say,

    In short, what is largely unacceptable within historical-critical academic circles is to allow any confessional theological position to supervene upon, or in any other way impact, one’s research or conclusions. And it is precisely that stipulation which is decidedly not philosophically or methodologically neutral. Relying upon a methodology which yields a result which one favors in one instance, while decrying or challenging that very same methodology when, in a different context, it yields a result one dislikes; is the deep inconsistency which Catholics (and in this case Dr. Owen an Episcopalian) are pointing out, and which you are not facing squarely IMO.

    This is such a sweeping statement and description of every field of early Christianity that it would be difficult to interact with it if it was not so clearly false. John’s comments highlight this below, but conservative Christians are coming from the academic centers like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Oxford, Tubingen, Durham, on and on we could go. These individuals publish in major scholarly journals and produce monographs published by top tier publishing companies.
    What is truly perplexing to me is your conclusion,

    At the end of the day, what we have are two post-apostolic narratives about the origin and structure of the Church, both of which are plausible trajectories in light of the raw and indecisive biblical data

    The question that any inquirer should ask in response to this conclusion is, who is Ray Stamper that he believes that there are multiple plausible trajectories and that the data is indeceisive–particularly since Ray’s assessment is in contradistinction from every scholar in Patristics?

    What you’ve done in your comment is make assertions about the methodological assumptions used by *everyone* in the academic guild and then conclude that the evidence is unclear and allows for the idea that Jesus established the RCC. You caricature the position that I’ve argued and that scholars hold in this statement,

    The other narrative holds the explicit witness of the overwhelming patristic testimony regarding episcopal succession at arms length, while attempting to discredit the patristic witness at its chronological roots through the application of the “discoveries” (sic plausible constructs) of scholars applying a presupposition-laden methodology to documents and events 20 centuries removed.

    You come to this conclusion without so much as interacting with one piece of evidence I have set out. I think that it is much more accurate to say that you hold the evidence from the first 150 years of church history at arm’s length while uncritically accepting testimony from someone who we know made factual errors about early Christian history. I have explained why I believe this is the case in my article, but you have done nothing to justify your belief in Catholicism.

    I really do appreciate the interaction, Ray, and I almost always think you provide incisive and important insight. I believe that your comment, however, obfuscates the case that has been set out in the article.

  45. Andrew #41,

    Of course, tactile succession *is* part of the Roman Catholic teaching, but that is not *all* that the Roman Catholic Church teaches about AS. My position is that tactile succession was the normal procedure for the church but that sacramental AS did not.

  46. This is a pretty good article, with solid arguments, extensive use of sources and interaction with current scholarship. And is very good and surprising to read it at CTC (perhaps, no one expected that!). I am glad to corroborate the high degree of respectability, intelectual honesty, sincerity and charity of most of the interlocutors in this site, both Protestant and Catholic.

    However, like many others in the comments above, I would suggests that even if we accept the fundamental thesis of the article without further criticism (the inexistence of the monarchical episcopate in the First Century, at least in Rome), the ultimate conclusions (the falsity of Apostolic Succesion), simply do not follow from it.

    It is evident that the Apostles appointed authorities in the churches, that is, they established a hierarchy to whom they delegated auctoritas (to teach, to rule, and to perform the mysteries) through the communication of grace by an special rite (imposition of the hands), and after much prayer and careful selection. These authorities appointed new authorities as the time went.

    There is clearly in the Pastoral Epistles, in Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, etc., the notion a Ecclesia docens, distinct of the rest of Christians, of apostolic origin and continous renovation. There is, then, an institutional chain connecting Our Lord Jesus Christ, who founded the college of Apostles, to those who actually received that sacramental inheritance of authority and charisma from tbe Apostles, and from these to the current inheritors.

    To what extent the Apostles delegated authority to their appointed leaders might be debated, for sure, but the fact that there was a delegation of authority of some amount is clear.

    Whether these authorities governed the particular churches collegially, or in a monarchical mode, has nothing to do with incontestable apostolic origin of their auctoritas. Even the members of that hipothetical collegial presbitery of Rome could have been able to trace their line of succession back to the Apostles.

    Apostolic Succession simply does not depends on the monarchical episcopate, nor any specific mode of government. It depens on the Sacrament of Order. Catholic discourse, is true, usually emphasizes the episcopal succession, but an emphasis does not necessarily coincide with the essential. I would say, then, that the inexistence of the monarchical episcopate in some Christians churches in the First Century (or even all of them, though debatable), does not prove the inexistence of Apostolic succession.

    I was familiar with that thesis through Catholic sources (the development of the monarchical episcopate). However, I did not see any conflict among that and Catholic doctrine, and I sincerely do not see it now.

  47. Brandon (re #45),

    I was correcting the following claim, which you made in comment #39:

    When talking about Apostolic Succession the Roman Catholic Church is not talking about tactile succession … it is talking about episcopal succession …

    In fact, when talking about Apostolic Succession the Catholic Church is talking about tactile succession, namely, ordination by the imposition of hands by those who have the power to ordain. Of course, that is not all that she (the Church) is talking about, but it is an important part of the discussion (which is a point worth taking up in more detail, re your original post, some time soon). Thus, your comment to Jonathan invokes a false dichotomy.

  48. Brandon,

    Roberto A.C. put my thoughts up more succinctly, but if I was using your Historical-Critical Method there are not many historical events like the creation of the Canon and when scripture that was written that can effectively be proven since we cannot use the effects of the action for proof. This “silence” hypothesis takes away common sense from the equation. There were Bishops in Rome who are using tactile apostolic succession and no other means of having AS continue on. I do not see how “silence” proves your point. All it does is lend creedence to other ancient churches that Protestants do not agree with or have similiar practices.

    Drew

  49. To go further, if we take for granted the thesis of the article, I do not see any problem with the existence of a college presbyter-bishops in Rome in the First Century, and the doctrine of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop or Rome.

    Catholic doctine does not teach that the Petrine prerrogatives are transmitted through sacramental means, or by direct legation. There is no “papal ordination”, nor a ceremony of “papal transmission” from one bishop to other. The Papacy is not a sacrament, but a jurisdictional office.

    Catholic doctrine teaches that the Bishop of Rome possesses the prerrogatives of Peter, because he exercises the same office held by Peter before his death, that is, supreme leader of the Church of Rome. If there was no single Bishop in Rome per 100 years after St. Peter’s death, but a college of presbyters-bishops, it would simply mean, in the Catholic perspective, that the Petrine office was not exercised (was vacant) until much time after.

    That is why, despite historical long periods of vacancies in the See of Rome in the Middle Ages, Catholic doctrine maintains that the current Bishop of Rome is the sucesor of St. Peter.

  50. Pastor Addison,

    Thanks for your helpful follow-up. Perhaps it would be helpful if I added a few more thoughts.

    1. I think far too much is made of Irenaeus’ comment that Peter and Paul “founded and built up” the church in Rome. This need mean nothing more than that these men lived in Rome and ministered there prior to the passing on of episcopal authority to Linus. It does not need to mean there was no Christian presence in Rome prior to the arrival of Peter. Once one relaxes the claims of the text, it is not at all obvious that this is in error. Peter may have “founded” the church simply in the sense that he was the first person of apostolic authority to live and pastor in Rome.

    2. On the argument from silence. Shall we conclude there were neither bishops nor presbyters in Asia Minor at the end of the first century, since John fails to mention any of them in his letters to the churches (Rev. 2-3)? Given what we know from Ignatius, that would be impossible. Likewise, we might conclude that since there are no presbyters mentioned in the greetings of Romans 16 (or anywhere else in Romans), there must not have been any presbyters in Rome in the first century. Clearly that is wrong. Now we can make some educated guesses as to people in the list of names in chapter 16 who might be the presbyters, but we could also make an educated guess that Clement was the bishop of Rome (or presiding presbyter-bishop) when he wrote 1 Clement.

    3. The transition from the apostolic age to the patristic age necessarily would involve a change of church structure. If we allow Ignatius to be our touchstone, and we take seriously the claim of Jerome, it would appear that the original three-fold office was apostle, presbyter, deacon, which corresponds to the High Priest, Priest, Levite structure of the OT (1 Clement 40-41). The apostles ordained presbyter-bishops for the churches under their care, with the apostles themselves serving as the de facto episcopate (Acts 1:20b). As the apostles began to pass away, they needed to make preparations to fill the void in leadership; so they saw to it (so far as was within their limited power and time) that each city had a presiding presbyter-bishop who was appointed from among the presbyters (the process which appears to be in view in Titus 1:5-7). These presiding presbyter-bishops were the bishops who were to “rule” the church in each city (hence the distinction between different types of presbyters in 1 Tim. 5:17). This presiding or ruling presbyter could still be spoken of as one of the bishops or presbyters, but he could also be aptly described as “the” bishop (so 1 Tim. 3:1). This is the process which the apostles themselves set in motion, which in time became the normative and universal form of the church. I don’t see anything in such a process which would conflict with orthodox Roman Catholic notions of the development of the episcopate, especially since in Western theology both bishops and presbyters to this day occupy the same order of ministry (the priesthood), though in differing degrees.

    Anyways, I recognize that some of these issues come down at some point to a cordial “agree to disagree,” but I hope that helps you see where I am coming from, and why I don’t think the RCC is particularly vulnerable on this particula issue.

    Grace and Peace,
    Paul

  51. Andrew #47,

    Yep, you’re right. Thanks :) I was just reiterating what you had stated and trying to clarify what I had written earlier. I will note though that Raymond Brown disputes that tactile succession is part of the Roman Catholic doctrine, but I’m not really sure how that makes sense. I’m with you on that one.

    That clarification–that we would expect tactile succession–also applies to what Roberto says in #46. Leadership in the church was instituted, but my argument has been that it was not sacramental episcopal succession. And if it was not episcopal succession this subverts the arguments made by the traditional Catholic argument. See Comment #11 for more on that.

  52. Pastor Addison,

    Thank you for your article. And for all the commentators, thank you for your comments. As one who was very active in the Protestant church for 25 years and took 11 years coming into the Catholic church, I appreciate all the skills and knowledge that everyone here has and, more importantly, the love of God.

    The problem with being an active lay person in several different denominations in the Protestant community is you begin to understand a theology of “this” and “not that” instead of the Catholic emphasis in many areas of “this and that”.

    I agree completely with Roberto A. C. comments that emphasizes this understanding of Church history and the Petrine office.

    [Apostolic Succession simply does not depends on the monarchical episcopate, nor any specific mode of government. It depends on the Sacrament of Order. Catholic discourse, is true, usually emphasizes the episcopal succession, but an emphasis does not necessarily coincide with the essential. I would say, then, that the inexistence of the monarchical episcopate in some Christians churches in the First Century (or even all of them, though debatable), does not prove the inexistence of Apostolic succession.]

  53. Brandon,

    I would like to comment on your article. As a former Protestant and convert to the Catholic Church I would like to comment on your notion ‘that Jesus founded his church structured around presbyterian structures.

    Under section I. you define ‘presbyterian’ with the following words…The meaning is broader and refers to the leadership of the church of a particular geographic area being led by a plurality of leaders (elders or presbyters). This definition would exclude a notion of a monarchical episcopate or the notion of a threefold office. When I was a Protestant I would have had a loose understanding of ‘the church’ using that definition. Ten years ago as a US Air Force Officer, who at the time, was teaching/studying military doctrine issues I came to realize that Jesus would not have founded His Church under that organizational or doctrinal standard. It became clear to me that Jesus would have instituted or created a church that was consistent with the organizational structure that was modeled by the family structure and is utilized by the military and civilian/business structures in all areas of our life. Departing from that structure will eventually lead to failure.

    I would like to briefly describe the military doctrinal tenant of Unity of Command, then briefly describe my simple understanding of Catholic Church teaching using examples from the Bible and then touch on the difficulty within the military to follow the doctrinal tenant of Unity of Command and fill in my thoughts on how the early church may have struggled (and still continues to struggle) with this doctrine element.

    First, please consider reviewing the US Air Force perspective on Unity of Command please review document -> http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/afdc/afdd1-chap3.pdf). The document at link is a representation of the US Air Force’s perspective of unity of command but it is also understood by all other branches of the US’s military and also Joint Doctrine at ALL levels of command. I don’t intend to go further with this point but understand volumes could be written about this point.

    Second, there is a plethora of examples of unity of command in the Bible beginning with Adam and Eve continuing through Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, the Kings back to the New Testament with Jesus as the head of the Church…All of those individuals were sole leaders…they didn’t share leadership responsibility…shared responsibility is a recipe for failure. I would like to stop right here and mention that Jesus ‘gave the keys of his kingdom’ to Peter and, I believe, his office in the same way a king/president/military commander would give his responsibilities to his ‘chief of staff’ while he was away. Jesus, while he is away, has provided Peter and his office the responsibility of leading his church. Jesus WOULD NOT have left his organization…his church to a ‘presbyterian styled’ organization…it is illogical that he would…if that structure was followed it would lead eventually to the defeat of christianity.

    Third, please consider that it is a challenge of paramount importance within the US Military Structure to ensure unity of command. Thousands of individuals work daily to ensure that unity of command is planned for, trained for, and eventually executed in military operations. That being said the military has failed many times and military history is replete with examples of failing at unity of command. I would like to submit to you that the early Catholic Church could have easily failed in the utilization of the principle of unity of command that Jesus provided His Early Catholic Church. Peter and his followers in his office could easily have strayed off the path from time to time and more than likely still do.

    I’m not a theologian but I would like you to consider the notions of first, Peter and his latter on office holders, were provided the keys of the kingdom. Second, Peter resolved the issue described in Acts chapter 15. Paul in his epistles describes the husband as HEAD of the household as Christ is the head of the church. Also, consider the notion of Peter being the head of the Church and his Bishops under him being in authority under their organizations followed by Priests being in authority under their parishes…it is a natural progression…very similar to what the military is organized by.

    I would like to finish my present comments by stating that it is irrational and illogical that ‘presbyterian’ organizational structure would have been instituted by Jesus for his church. Your points about the early church may all be correct but it may only indicate that the early church struggled in how it was organized. I would submit that the Catholic Church today still struggles with organizational challenges and a quick review of business news articles will reveal that business organizations face similar challenges.

  54. Brandon (Re #37)

    You agreed with me that a plurality of Bishops doesn’t preclude a senior/protos Bishop among them. You gave the example of Ligon Duncan and Tim Keller in the PCA having an influence above what other ministers have, but said that doesn’t mean they possess an office superior to other ministers. A Catholic can agree with this in a certain sense, because the Bishop of Rome is a Bishop like other Bishops, but he holds certain prerogatives that others do not. The whole notion of “protos” captures this where Peter is signified as Protos (Matt 10:2) yet he is listed as an Apostle along with the other 11.

    The influence/sway of folks like Duncan/Keller is not trivial, even if they would deny they hold a Protos type position themselves. The more popular/influential Protestant ministers always have a way of carrying other votes and leaving dissenting voices silenced in the event the popular ministers get fed up and decide to leave and start their own denomination.

    You also said to me: “And your final question is asking questions that were not solidified in the early church. Jurisdiction appears to be held by the presbyter-bishop at an individual house church, it’s unclear how “tied votes” worked on the presbyterial level because we don’t have any information about it.”

    I think this admission on your part ultimately favors the Catholic position, because it means you’ve been championing a Presbyterian Polity that really was never that well defined, and I believe to be shown unworkable without addressing certain questions. In other words, the ecclesial model you’re advocating doesn’t have enough structure “solidified” to actually work in practice, and I believe once those questions are raised and answered according to what makes the most sense (even if we have to fill in the gaps ourselves) you’ll see how the Catholic model fits quite easily.

  55. Hi Brandon,

    I join the various commenters in asking why you think that, even if we take all the claims in the substantial portion of your thesis (III-VI) uncritically, this argument disproves the Catholic/Orthodox notion of Apostolic Succession.

    You cite Pius X:

    I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time… I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles.

    and then note:

    The teaching of the Church in this regard is that the episcopacy was instituted by the “real and historical Christ,” but when we only see leadership of plurality into the middle of the second century from documents written to Rome (even then the 2nd century documents do not speak of a unique Petrine ministry) the plausibility of such a doctrine is suspect.

    This is not quite right. The teaching of Pius X w.r.t. the Church is that it was instituted by the real and historical Christ, something I think Protestants would agree with. Pius X does not state that he thinks the episcopacy, in the form that it eventually took, was instituted by Christ, but presents weaker statements such as ” I firmly hold … the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles,” and “the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time”. These last two statements are compatible with a hierarchy within the presbytery, with ‘succession of episcopacy’ being understood as functional in the early stages of development.

    The same for your critique of Bryan’s arguments – you note:

    This assumption, however, is false because Christ did not found personally found the episcopal system of government nor was it handed down from the Apostles to their successors.

    Again, when I read Bryan’s arguments I did not understand him to be claiming that Christ himself instituted the monarchical episcopate – I understood Bryan as claiming that authority in the church flowed from the top to the bottom: Christ delegated his authority to the apostles, who then proceeded, with the divine imprimatur, to develop the government of the church all by themselves. The subsequent leaders of the church, themselves installed by the apostles, irrespective of whether they were organised in monarchical episcopacy or hierarchical presbytery, would plausibly also retain the nimbus of divine will about them after the death of the apostles.

    Regarding Burke’s reading of Ignatius that there was no bishop in Rome, I wonder whether an alternative could be proposed: Dr Owen has noted in #50 that:

    As the apostles began to pass away, they needed to make preparations to fill the void in leadership; so they saw to it (so far as was within their limited power and time) that each city had a presiding presbyter-bishop who was appointed from among the presbyters (the process which appears to be in view in Titus 1:5-7). These presiding presbyter-bishops were the bishops who were to “rule” the church in each city (hence the distinction between different types of presbyters in 1 Tim. 5:17). This presiding or ruling presbyter could still be spoken of as one of the bishops or presbyters, but he could also be aptly described as “the” bishop (so 1 Tim. 3:1). This is the process which the apostles themselves set in motion, which in time became the normative and universal form of the church.

    The further development of church government as the apostles’ lives drew to a close is a reasonable conjecture – we see the apostles actively developing church government in the NT itself. Returning to Ignatius, I wonder if his silence could be read, not as indicating that there was no bishop in Rome, but that Rome was the first to embark upon the road to full-blown monarchical episcopacy. If this is true, it would explain why Ignatius would have no need to remind Rome to follow its bishop (since that is precisely where the practice originated), while he would have to constantly remind the rest of the churches to accept the Roman innovation. This would also provide an explanation of Irenaeus’ claim that Peter and Paul founded the Roman church: as noted by Dr Owen, much scepticism of Irenaeus is founded upon understanding ‘founded’ in the very strong sense of ‘first to preach and set up the church in Rome’. I wonder if the statement could be understood as “Peter and Paul began the transition to monarchical episcopacy, thereby forming the Church as Ignatius knew it then,” which would tie in well with the alternative reading of Ignatius’ silence. Perhaps Lampe’s Roman fractionation helps us here – the division of the church across various boundaries would provide an impetus for the consolidation of power in order to achieve unity. A church that was once fractionated doesn’t always have to remain fractionated.

    The previous paragraph was pure conjecture and I don’t have the resources to fully evaluate my suggestion. I will just note that I don’t see that it is readily falsified by the discussion of Hermas and Clement in this article. Perhaps those of greater learning can comment?

  56. Let’s assume AS is necessary.

    Why is it not possible to have happened through Luther?

    And if it’s possible, Protestantism exists legitimately.

    And if it’s possible, get this thread back to Presby polity proper.

    But anyone should talk as they feel led.

    I’m just throwing out ideas

    Peace.

  57. All of this is a very fascinating discussion, and one that reminds me of my undergraduate thesis. The assumption of that thesis was that the wheels came off the cart at the very beginning, setting the “church” on a trajectory culminating in The Reformation. And, is this not what must be necessarily true for the Protestant position to hold? For my purpose then, I looked at other doctrines, grace specifically, and I found a similar movement: away from (my interpretation) of the New Testament toward something I thought was novel, a bad seed or at least incrementally at fault.

    This all made sense! I was right! Christianity left the pure gospel, increment by increment, until finally God used a lowly German friar to bring us home to the pure Gospel of Christ. Him, along with others, gradually righted the ship, throwing off Roman accretions. The world was right, and I was right.

    Then I paused for a moment and considered another possibility. If I but suspended for a moment my assumption that my interpretation of Scripture was that right one, and laid aside my assumption of incremental digression, another thesis emerged. Instead, I could assume that these early witnesses, these martyrs, were the best interpreters of the deposit of faith. That my novel idea of sola scriptura (almost functionally impossible in the early Church), was wrong, and that Sacred Tradition was something the Holy Spirit was doing in the Church – not myth to be dismissed. This meant that Christ was not a Victor only to have his victory unraveled, but rather a Victor who was only getting started and who promised that we would do greater things upon his ascension. If this thesis were true, the data tells me something else, and requires a different response from me.

    I am Catholic.

  58. Andrew Buckingham:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. From my previous comment, you can see that Luther, or at least some Protestant, must re-establish the line of authority. John Smith noticed this, and he started Mormonism.

  59. Dr. Owen (#50),

    Before beginning another response, I want to make sure that I don’t give the impression that interested in quid pro quo interaction. That can become less about ecumenism and more about self-justification. With that said, I also want to respond to what you have said to continue clearing up disagreement or ambiguity. I will again respond in kind.

    1. I’ve not argued that Irenaeus statement is necessarily false. The only thing I’ve said is that we need to be careful how we understand this statement because if we force it to be read in an overly literal fashion it creates problems. The reason I’ve pointed that out is because Church Fathers like Eusebius perpetuated the notion that Peter and Paul actually went there and were the first to bring Christianity to Rome. So I agree with you that it is not obvious that it is an error, but it can also be interpreted in such a way as to make it an error.

    2. I believe you are misapplying my statements about arguments from silence. We can certainly assume there were church officers in the churches that John writes to because we see them mentioned everywhere in Scripture. If we saw an example though where John addressed 6 of the 7 churches as possessing a bishop and yet in the seventh church—and in the church that supposedly housed the successor of the head of the episcopal college—that silence would be highly suggestive. And that is exactly what we have in the case of Ignatius.

    Regarding Paul’s lack of mention of leadership in Romans, that is a contested claim, though what is not contested is that the formal use of the word “presbyter” or “bishop” was not present. Making a suppositions about the leadership position of the owner of a house gathering and assuming that Clement is a bishop in Rome are in a completely different category, however. We can make assumptions about the former because Paul often addresses leaders in churches and those whom he addresses seem to play an important role in the church. In terms of the latter though, there is no mention of a monarchical bishop, much less that the author of Clement was that person. It is possible but it is not plausible.

    3. We can certainly agree that there would be a transition after the death of the Apostles, but I’m not sure why Ignatius and Jerome are used as touchstones. Ignatius’s view appears to be one among many (as even he vaguely alludes to) while the view of Jerome is cited by Edward Dolan as reason to believe that presbyters and bishops were equal. His letter To Evangelus can be found in my article and also at this link: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.v.CXLVI.html

    Your connection with the threefold office and Clement is the first that I’ve encountered such an argument so I would be truly interested to hear your further thoughts on it or if you could point me somewhere that is a good summary. As I read Clement, however, I see Clement making a point about the importance of order in the church, not about the number of offices in the church. Furthermore, I was only able to briefly skim BDAG this morning on my way to work, but my suspicions regarding Acts 1:20b were confirmed. I don’t have a direct quote, but it does state that this is not a formal Christian office but is to be translated as “office” and that it does not carry the connotation of an “episcopate” as you have rendered the translation. When I get a chance I will provide a full citation from BDAG.

    Continuing you state,

    As the apostles began to pass away, they needed to make preparations to fill the void in leadership; so they saw to it (so far as was within their limited power and time) that each city had a presiding presbyter-bishop who was appointed from among the presbyters (the process which appears to be in view in Titus 1:5-7). These presiding presbyter-bishops were the bishops who were to “rule” the church in each city (hence the distinction between different types of presbyters in 1 Tim. 5:17).

    Your subtle use of language here seems to make your case appear stronger than it actually is. It is true that we see 1 Tim. 5 that some presbyters function in different roles, but that in no way gets us to the notion that “each city had a presiding presbyter-bishop.” There is nothing from the canonical or extra-canonical data that shows any evidence of a single presbyter-bishop presiding over a city. The presbyter-bishops may have had different responsibilities (and Hermas even mentions this), but this does not entail that there was a monarchical leader or even a separation in terms of office. Paul simply refers to those πρεσβύτεροι (again plural) who rule well (προεστῶτες) being worthy of double honor, especially those who teach.

    I do appreciate the amicable dialogue and there are some points where we must “agree to disagree.” It is very important to note though, that we are not only dealing with the biblical and extra canonical evidence only speaking to a plurality of leaders (with no mention or indication of hierarchy in the presbyter) but we also have the social realities of first and second century Rome to take into account, which Lampe and Brent have done well. Everything that we know about that period speaks directly to presbyters, without hierarchical distinction, ruling the church. At best the texts we’ve discussed point to possible allusions that there could have been a division among presbyters. We may well have to agree to disagree in our assessments, but can we agree that the best that we have from the Roman Catholic position is possible allusions to distinction in office? Do you believe that such allusions really are not troubling to the Roman Catholic position that the historical Jesus founded the RCC? This may be a point where we agree to disagree, but the consensus among most scholars (and even consider the way Hurtado puts in his blog) to the contrary makes me think maybe I’m missing you in some way or that you agree with me more than I realize.

  60. John,

    I’m sure Ray will respond but I’ll jump in.

    “In fact, Lampe’s work on Chapter 16 of Romans (arguing that it was a part of the original document and not something added-on later) is state-of-the-art conservative scholarship, cited by Schreiner and Moo (themselves conservative exegetes who honor the text), for example, in their commentaries on Romans. Both of those men are knowledgeable, confessional Protestants, fully versed in “Lampe’s methodological assumptions”, and not, in any way, as you say, “threatened”.”

    Is Lampe’s work concerning the pastorals not state-of-the-art conservative scholarship? Do you think he had different methodological assumptions when analyzing Romans vs the pastorals?

    “But what it says is that [Irenaeus] needs to be looked at with a critical eye, because not everything he says can be taken at face value.”

    As far as we know, his opponents took his argument using Rome at face value when if ever an objection should have been laid out, that was the time to do it.

    “For example, here is a snapshot of Lampe’s method:
    He gets every document from ancient Rome in front of him; every piece of paper, every inscription, every archaeological finding.”

    Do you think ANE scholars such as Dever and others who reject the historicity of the OT also are not just as thorough in their methods?

    “Note that he does this using what we actually know.”

    Just as ANE scholars do with OT analysis, or liberal scholars do with the same manuscripts conservatives also have. Analysis in the “soft” sciences is not just some standard black box input-output affair. We’re not dealing with deduction or science here. Analysis in the ever-shifting seas of so many fields – linguistics, hermeneutics, philology, history, sociology, textual analysis, archaeology – have erudite scholars on all sides who study same raw data and come to differing/opposing conclusions, who can differ on what data even should count as the raw data to study, and what proper methods should even be used to interpret and analyze that data, and how those methods should be applied, and who all have their own biases/presuppositions that will influence how they abductively reason about and filter the data to reach their tentative revisable conclusions. And all of that can change based on new evidences that were not discovered or considered before, as well as new analyses/ideas that are added to scholarship that had not been considered before. Which is part of exactly what we see here with Dix and Cirlot for example, or the dismissal of certain patristic evidence – it’s the same raw data but how it is analyzed and interpreted will vary.

    The “knowledge” being accumulated is largely based on which conclusions are accepted. Do you think Ehrman’s conclusions are “knowledge” as opposed to Wallace’s where they disagree?

    “It is also quite different from actual “speculative” critical scholarship, which, again, doubts the actual accounts of the Bible, and seeks to assemble largely speculative theories.”

    That is a broad brush indeed. All erudite scholars who disagree with conservative Protestant scholarship are simply engaging in speculative theories?

    “But there is much in ancient literature that needs to be questioned. Not simply taken at face value.”

    Which is exactly what liberal scholars do with Scripture.

    “Such as when Roman Catholics use Caragounis’s argument about 1 Clement, but fail to take into account his massive work “Peter and the Rock”?”

    The difference being RCs don’t base their adherence to articles of faith based solely on the shifting sands and inherent limitations of historical and related fields scholarship. As the citations of Newman above pointed to.

    “But it does involve re-reading what they say and understanding that in some areas, their analyses may simply be lacking. ”

    Which could just as easily happen with the analyses of Lampe and others given heretofore unconsidered or undiscovered evidences or ideas/analysis. That’s just inherent in the field, especially when dealing with matters far back in history where we have limited visibility and must abductively/inductively reason.

    ““Evangelical biblical scholarship”, though it may not be respected by some “critical scholars”, has largely adopted and refined and made its own many of the “methods” (if not the “assumptions”) of critical scholarship. ”

    If everyone held to the same methods and assumptions, they would all reach agreement and either all be part of the same denomination, or all not be Christian. Not only that, they would all reach the same conclusions regarding that particular field/discipline. A “historical-critical method of interpretation” as Wallace says doesn’t make people’s biases and presuppositions vanish (which he freely admits). GHM doesn’t make everyone interpret the OT/NT and reach conservative Protestant conclusions.

  61. Brent, sure about Joseph Smith.

    What’s your point?

    Can’t I just retort that I am with Luther, you Boniface 8, and Mormons with J. Smith?

    Help me out here.

  62. A. Buckingham:

    My only point was to note the force of AS – if true. It was in reply to your comment about Luther. My observation was simply to note how Mormonism was born – from a similar observation (yours being conjecture).

  63. I’m far too underqualified to contribute, but I just wanted to pop in and thank Brandon for graciously taking the time to write this up. I can tell he put his heart and soul into this piece, and the caution he gives in the beginning about pride is all too true. I’m a 20 year old Catholic convert with a staunchly Protestant family, and pride has really damaged our relationship, on both sides. Things aren’t so bad now, but I’ve learned a lot about how my own puffed up intellectual arrogance can hurt even the closest of bonds.

    Prayers appreciated. And keep thinking!

  64. Brandon,

    If I understand one point of your thesis – it is that the church in Rome, in the time of Justin Martyr, was actually the churches in Rome due to “fractionation.”

    Could you comment on this quote from Justin Martyr:

    “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits… Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly.”
    (Apology, 1:67)

    Does this contradict other things you claim he wrote about separate house churches? Around what year did he write this? And how might *the churches* been pulled together into one church every Sunday if each had its own presbytery (if not by a central bishop?)

    Thanks.

  65. Andrew Preslar, #38, I’m responding regarding this comment:

    … I was particularly interested in the following bit from Daniel Wallace, in which he points out the specific difference between the genus, critical scholarship, and the species, *evangelical* critical scholarship:

    We teach a historical-critical method of interpretation, tempered by our presuppositions that the universe is not a closed-system but one in which God has been active.

    This is exactly how we, as Catholics, approach the study of Church history (based upon the Church’s teaching about the authority of tradition).

    Andrew, I can think of a variety of reasons why this is not true. Wallace’s “presuppositions” are limited to the following two items:

    1. The universe is not a closed-system

    2. God has been active in the universe

    Of course, one paragraph isn’t enough to outline all the presuppositions that DTS may have, but for the most part, I would say that the exegetes and biblical theologians there try very hard to keep their presuppositions from doing much more than 1 and 2 above.

    On the other hand, Roman Catholic “presuppositions” (especially those espoused here at CTC) involve excluding any result in exegesis that we get which apparently contradicts current Roman Catholic dogma. More, in many cases, Roman Catholic “exegesis” really becomes eisegesis to support Catholic dogma. I’m thinking of 1 Tim 3:15, which, in context, is clearly referring to the behavior of a local church providing the kind of evidence that confirms that one’s faith is genuine. On the other hand, Lumen Gentium 8 holds that this verse is a support for “the Magisterium of the Church”.

    Now, it’s clear that there was no “Magisterium” in the New Testament, and Paul clearly intended to say the things that Lumen Gentium puts into that verse.

    That is merely one example.

  66. Brent, I still don’t understand your point in bringing it up (not understanding your last sentence), but no matter.

    Rightly understood, I think my origianl point was to try to steer this convo back to presby polity. And your comment about Mormonism brought things into the discussion that aren’t helpful for ecumenical dialog IMO.

    Luther did what he did out of his view of corrpoution in the church.

    To go on would mean we are taking the discussion of course, which is the opposite of what I was originally trying to do.

    Ultimately, I am thankful that CtC allowed a Prot to post an article. I’m confident Brandon can ably defend his own writing here. But my desire is to support him, but for now, I must take my leave of you all.

    @CtC: Thank you for allowing me to express myself as well in these comboxxes.

  67. Cletus #60, I don’t have much time to comment right now but I wanted to respond to this:

    JB: “In fact, Lampe’s work on Chapter 16 of Romans (arguing that it was a part of the original document and not something added-on later) is state-of-the-art conservative scholarship, cited by Schreiner and Moo (themselves conservative exegetes who honor the text), for example, in their commentaries on Romans. Both of those men are knowledgeable, confessional Protestants, fully versed in “Lampe’s methodological assumptions”, and not, in any way, as you say, “threatened”.”

    Cletus: Is Lampe’s work concerning the pastorals not state-of-the-art conservative scholarship? Do you think he had different methodological assumptions when analyzing Romans vs the pastorals?

    No, Lampe is not a scholar of the Pastorals, as he is a scholar of ancient Rome (and Romans 16). In this case, he is simply taking the word of the academy – and that’s why commentaries on the Pastorals don’t choose to include his opinion. Everyone specializes, and his specialization did not happen to be the Pastorals.

    If you had read the work, you would note (and this applies to anyone who takes this position) that Lampe’s mention of this is merely a mention — no significant portion of his argument is dependent upon his view of the Pastorals.

  68. Brent and Andrew B., please continue your conversation about Luther off the thread. Thank you. – Moderator

  69. John – # 65

    You complain that Catholic interpretations of the text exclude any exegesis which you believe contradicts Catholic dogma. You then accuse the Catholic side of just being involved with ‘eisegesis’ to prop up Catholic dogma.

    However, Reformed theologians have their exegesis which interprets things in a Reformed way. Meanwhile, there exists an abundance of exegesis that contradicts Reformed exegesis in every imaginable way. Yet, Reformed Churches don’t turn around and change their dogmas to conform to the varying exegesis at every turn. But this is what you are asking the Catholic Church to do. You want the Catholic Church to conform to exegesis that you agree with but we could just as easily complain that the Reformed Churches exclude exegesis that contradicts Reformed exegesis and so Reformed exegesis is really just ‘eisegesis’ used to support Reformed dogma.

    If we all did what you are asking, we’d be Universalist Unitarians in two weeks’ time.

    How do we get past this? Putting aside the option of becoming Unitarians we are left with two options.

    1) We go on throwing each other’s exegesis at each other in a question begging manner like you do with 1 Tim 3:15
    2) We find a way to address the differences in interpretation in a non-question begging way.

    Option # 2 is what Called to Communion is all about. To that end, we have been putting forth the argument that the only non-question begging way to address the mountains of differing exegesis is to locate the Church that Christ founded by finding the successors to the apostles. Once we find the successors to the apostles, we approach that Church and conform our understanding to the exegesis and dogmas that the apostolic Church preaches.

    In summary, our approach is exactly the approach that Irenaues used and other early fathers used when fighting against the Gnostics. Their answer to the Gnostic exegesis was not to embrace the Gnostic exegesis but to say, “No, we are the Church that Christ founded. We are the Church of the apostles. We have the succession of the apostles and the Church says that Gnosticism is false…”

    There are many such examples. Here is one:

    “But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst Of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,–a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. …To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine…Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic… Tertullian, Prescription against the Heretics, 33 (A.D. 200).

    Source

    (Of course the debates with the Gnostics went further/deeper than that but this is why the early Church looked to her succession in the first place. )

  70. John (re #65),

    In comment #38, I was drawing an analogy between God’s activity in the universe and His activity in the Church. In this way, Wallace’s comment about evangelical critical scholarship is apropos to Catholic critical scholarship. Like you said, Wallace’s methodological assumptions (or presuppositions) are probably more fine-tuned than a simple affirmation of theism; e.g., he probably would not accept any historical-critical conclusions that undermine the authority of Sacred Scripture. Again, the analogy with Catholicism, relative to tradition, is apparent.

    [Of course, within the guild of critical scholars, it might very well be the case that the specific methodological suppositions which Evangelicals and Catholics, mutually and respectively, bring to their work are held to disqualify that work as "critical"; i.e., where "critical" means that the only acceptable methodological suppositions are naturalistic.]

  71. Ted,

    If you see my review (http://reformation500.com/2014/01/24/extended-review-of-peter-lampes-from-paul-to-valentinus/) in Section V you can see a little more detail on how to best integrate Justin’s statements in Apology 1.67 with his statements in his trial transcript. Furthermore, it really only appears to be Chrys Caragounis who believes that there was a centralized place of worship–which is curious to me considering that the existence of titular churches in Rome seems to speak strongly against such a thesis in addition to all the other social, economic, and political realities that would have made such a large gathering impossible and imprudent.

  72. Just to toss Eastern Orthodoxy into the mix here, Zizioulas brings many of the pertinent facts of this debate together in his explanation of the development of the Bishop/Presbyter distinction:

    “the Divine Eucharist was from the beginning identified with the Church of God. . . . in the earliest historical documents, Paul’s Epistles, the Eucharistic assembly is unreservedly identified with the Church of God which is in a given city. . . . The division of those taking part in the Eucharist into those who led and those who responded . . . appeared already in the first century as a clear and now permanent canonical division of the members of the Church into clergy and laity. At the same period the ‘president’ of the Eucharistic assembly . . . was elevated in the consciousness of the Church.”

    So the mark of this presiding minister (“Bishop”) was his ability to celebrate the Eucharist, a role not shared by every presbyter (“Elder”):

    “the Bishop, surrounded by the presbyters and deacons, was from the beginning the leader of the Eucharist.” Thus, “Ignatius’ exhortation to maintain one Eucharist under one Bishop at one altar corresponded to an historical state of affairs. It was thus established that there was in fact only one synaxis to perform the Eucharist and one Bishop in each Church. . . . This principle of one Bishop presiding over the one Eucharist in each Church held good for all geographical areas.”

    As to the establishment of current roles and titles, Zizioulas says:

    “Insuperable practical needs, such as the rapid rise in the number of Christians during the first half of the third century and the prolonged absence of Bishops from their Churches during the persecutions in the middle of that century, led to the appearance in history of parishes, as separate, presbytero-centric Eucharist assemblies within the episcopal Church. This event brought with it corresponding developments in the functions of Bishops and Presbyters. . . . whereas originally only the Bishop was ordained to offer ‘the gifts of the episcope,’ in the fourth century this ministry of the Bishop was added into the original prayers for the ordination of Presbyters in such a way that the right to ordain was the only difference remaining between these two ministers. . . . The Presbyter thus, celebrated the Eucharist in the name of the Bishop who remained the only true head of this mystical body of the Church of God.”

    http://www.oodegr.com/english/biblia/episkopos1/perieh.htm

  73. Thanks everyone for the comments. I’ll will leave my thoughts on comments, though I may not be able to respond to every individual I hope that I can respond to the substance of most comments up to this point.

    Drew (#48), Roberto (#49), Mike Keller (#52), Clyde Nelson (#53), & Abelian (#55)

    All of you seem to argue in one way or another that even if there were not episcopal office that this would not violate the idea that Jesus founded the RCC. Roberto even puts it this way in #49,

    If there was no single Bishop in Rome per 100 years after St. Peter’s death, but a college of presbyters-bishops, it would simply mean, in the Catholic perspective, that the Petrine office was not exercised (was vacant) until much time after.

    The reason that this is a problem for those who are arguing that a Petrine office is the principled means to distinguish opinion from divine revelation is that upon what principle does an individual assume to take up the role of Peter if his “office” was vacant for 100 years? If there was no successor to Peter and all of the presbyter-bishops assumed the same office how did you appoint someone to this office?

    Furthermore, Ludwig Ott identified the founding of the episcopate by Jesus as a De Fide doctrine of the RCC by citing the Antimodernist Oath. No doctrine of the RCC requires that Ott is infallible, however, Ott is generally presented as a reliable guide to the teaching of the RCC and his belief and citation of the Oath to substantiate it is important. Combine this with the logical problems introduced and the fact that the church believed for hundreds and hundreds of years that Jesus *did* establish the church with bishops, presbyters, and deacons and the position all of you are advocating begins to encounter serious difficulty. Even consider the Catholic Catechism says,

    In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority. Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.”

    I’m sure that people like Brown and Duffy will be inclined to say that all of the presbyter-bishops preserved the Church as the Apostles left them as their successors, but it sure sounds to me like the Catechism is teaching that the Apostles established “bishops” in the threefold sense of the term. Similar statements appear in the Catechism. For example paragraph 881 states,

    The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.” This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

    And on the necessity of the role of the Petrine successor the Catechism states,

    The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”

    There is of course, nothing inconsistent with the office being vacant for a time in transition from one Pope to another, but even in Roberto’s statement he leaves us a gap of 100 years with no one fulfilling the alleged perpetual office of Peter immediately after his death. I think that even the Catholic will have to admit that if this gap did exist that this introduces insuperable problems for any argument which makes Apostolic Succession as a principled means to distinguish human opinion from Divine revelation.

    As such, if my argument about the presbyterian manner of church government (which excludes monarchical episcopacy and a threefold view of ministry) is correct then it necessarily follows that the Roman Catholic does not have Apostolic Succession as a principled means to distinguish human opinion from Divine revelation.

  74. Brandon (71),

    Yes, thanks – I had gone to your website before I asked you my question in wrote my in #64, but was left confused which I why I posted. Perhaps you provide answers to my question in your footnotes but your links are broken.

    The salient quote from your web site is verbatim with your salient point in this article:

    The implication is that while Justin also talks about Sunday liturgy “in one place,” a central assembly of Christianity is not envisioned.[50] He is instead describing the assembly of a typical house-church community that takes place on Sundays.[51]

    But I’m having a hard time reconciling how Justin’s “one place” where all the Roman Christians met on Sunday (Apology, 1:67) somehow means to Lampe (and yourself?) that they actually met in separate house churches, each with their own presbyters (plural).

  75. I can’t remember if anyone has mentioned this, but what’s to say a ‘plurality of bishops’ that are so often mentioned doesn’t simply mean 2-3 in a given city? This model has always been the case even today in most cities where there is an archbishop and one or two auxiliary bishops. And didn’t Jesus send out the disciples in pairs? So, again, a plurality of bishops says nothing against a Protos bishop among them.

  76. Hey Ted,

    This is a good question and requires more elaboration than I can give at the moment, but let me give a cursory sketch first.

    Justin himself talks about how worship did not take place at one place, it took place in houses. His particular house church met “above the bath of Myrtinus.” What Justin is describing was the meeting of Christians on Sunday he is describing that Christians throughout the city would gather together to meet at a designated location (this house church or that house church). Justin is not saying that every Christian met at one particular location. If the church did meet at a central location this would contradict Justin’s other statements about gathering in house churches, but it also provides a number of logistical issues and conflicts with the other information that Lampe had investigated in his fifth section. How could you get thousands (or even hundreds) of Christians into one area on a Sunday? How do you account for the rise of titular churches? There are a whole host of issues that Lampe looks to in the fifth section (which includes Justin’s own writing on the topic) which make it highly unlikely that Justin is referring to all Christians in Rome gathering in one building for worship on Sundays.

  77. Cletus # 60,

    While I will respond to the claim that use of critical scholars I want to emphasize what I stated in my article, namely,

    This is a form of Ad Hominem, the Tu Quoque, which does not actually address the arguments presented. Assuming, solely for the sake of argument, that this methodology does undermine Christianity, pointing this out is of value in the sense that the interlocutor needs to realize that his argument undermines his own principles, yet, even if it is inconsistent, the argument is not refuted because the arguer is inconsistent.

    It’s not a vicious ad hominem attack (Brandon is wrong because he is a lousy person), but the substance of the article will be ignored if we stay on this topic. It is also worth stating that I cite multiple Evangelical scholars in my article as well. Gordon Fee, for example, is someone that I utilize extensively in my Pastorals section. I could come up with a host of quotes from Evangelical biblical scholars who also find the claims of the RCC to be specious. In order to show that this is a methodological issue you would need to explain a few things:

    1. Why scholars from nearly every theological and philosophical background in the academy agree that there was no Roman bishop.

    2. How the methodology used by these individuals unduly prejudices their conclusions to fairly evaluate evidence.

    3. Why people from the same methodological position come to (sometimes radically) different conclusions.

    4. How specific OT claims are equivalent in their evidence to the case for the Papacy and how the reason one would reach a corroborative conclusion for the historicity of the OT is methodologically inconsistent with a negative assessment of the historicity of the Papacy.

    Until you can spell those things out you’ve only asserted your opinion about potential methodological pitfalls. And again, even if you do these things you are not addressing any portion of the actual argument but pointing out the inconsistency of the arguer. I’d be personally appreciative if you would do that, because I want to pursue truth but if we spend our energy here I believe we are actually distracting ourselves from case that has actual been set forth.

    I also wanted to address something that you said that I think is unhelpful,

    The difference being RCs don’t base their adherence to articles of faith based solely on the shifting sands and inherent limitations of historical and related fields scholarship. As the citations of Newman above pointed to.

    This is problematic on a number of levels. The first of which, is that the article of faith being touted at CtC is an historical claim. Upon what basis is this claim being made? We need to evaluate such a claim based on the tools we use to do historical study. There are clearly limits to the scope of historical study and it historical inquiry (much less any discipline, the hard sciences included) can never provide certainty, however, the work of historians is to evaluate the credibility of historical claims. You seem to conclude therefore that because history does not provide certainty this does not really impact your beliefs about the RCC.

    [Shift in scholarly consensus can]just as easily happen with the analyses of Lampe and others given heretofore unconsidered or undiscovered evidences or ideas/analysis. That’s just inherent in the field, especially when dealing with matters far back in history where we have limited visibility and must abductively/inductively reason.

    It’s true that scholarship changes, but it changes through critical engagement with current scholarship. Scholarship is never furthered because people say that “Scholarship changes all the time so I’ll just keep my opinions.” That is fideism. What needs to be done is the argument needs to be examined, the points discussed, and the conclusions debated. That is the process for validating historical claims. I believe the evidence I’ve presented makes the claims of the RCC incredible, why do you think my argument fails to prove this?

  78. Brandon,

    In reading your scholarly, well-written, lengthy article and all the comments since (particularly your most recent sentence), I wonder, in order to simmer all the din, if it wouldn’t be helpful for you to put your argument into a simple syllogism. We can look for all your proofs within the material, but it would help to clarify things in my mind (and I may be alone in this). It would enable the Roman Catholics on this site to either find an ambiguous term, a false premise or a logical fallacy. If there are none, then you, sir, are correct and have pulled the proverbial rug out from underneath 2000 years of ecclesial historical scholarship.

    Just a suggestion.

    Tim

  79. Brandon (#73):

    You say, “There is of course, nothing inconsistent with the office being vacant for a time in transition from one Pope to another, but even in Roberto’s statement he leaves us a gap of 100 years with no one fulfilling the alleged perpetual office of Peter immediately after his death. I think that even the Catholic will have to admit that if this gap did exist that this introduces insuperable problems for any argument which makes Apostolic Succession as a principled means to distinguish human opinion from Divine revelation.”

    I don’t understand: Why will a Catholic have to admit that?

    As I understand it a Chief Steward under any son of David was first a Steward, but one which the king at his pleasure, by a juridical/legislative procedure — or perhaps even the other stewards, by an established juridical/legislative procedure — selected to exercise an additional office or role. When he died, and no living person was exercising that additional office or role, it was vacant until another was selected.

    I don’t, myself, see that the available evidence shows there was no successor for Peter in exercising this role or office after his death. There is plenty of room, so far as I can see, for thinking that either Linus or Cletus could have been exercising that role.

    But suppose they weren’t? The only requirement would be that some valid juridical/legislative procedure exist for selecting a bishop to exercise it. I assume that procedure would involve some action of other person or group of persons. Whenever that person/group decided to execute that procedure, as soon as the selection was complete the office would be filled. How does it hurt Catholic ecclesiology if they wait 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years, or 5 decades to do so?

    But of course, when the office is filled, the office is filled. It **would** tend to falsify Catholic ecclesiology if a large cohort of the Fathers showed a persistent habit of seeing that office rather differently. For example, if they **did** identify a Petrine office, and then proceeded to “appeal” the decisions of the person in that office to some other bishop or group of bishops.

    N.B.: I am using the term “bishop” here anachronistically, in a 3rd-century rather than a 1st-century fashion. If anyone is concerned for precise meaning, please assume that when I say “bishop” referring to a first-century clergyman, I am using this a shorthand for “a first-century clergyman who, at minimum, has authority to sacrifice, absolve, and ordain.”

  80. Brandon (76),

    Thanks again for your reply.

    Am I misunderstanding both Lampe and Justin? When Justin speaks of the place of assembly “above the bath of Myrtinus” does he not speak of his own domicile where he regularly educates students, and not a church? Lampe seems to think so. Or do I misread Lampe here? Please advise.

    In your own “Extended Review” article on your blog you assume the place of assembly is not a school where Justin educates anyone willing to learn from him, but a church:

    The implication is that while Justin also talks about Sunday liturgy “in one place,” a central assembly of Christianity is not envisioned.[50] He is instead describing the assembly of a typical house-church community that takes place on Sundays.[51]

    Is your conclusion that his domicile is a church because Justin uses the words “the place of assembly” to refer the place he receives students?

    It is not regarded that way in a 2007 Harvard Theological Review article, “Above the Bath of Myrtinus: Justin Martyr’s ‘School’ in the City of Rome” by Harlow Gregory Snyder. Nor is it the conclusion in another article in the Harvard Review, “Orthodoxy and Heresy in Second-Century Rome” in 2004 by Einar Thomassen. Presumably these writers pass muster on recent scholarship.

    Do you have another source beside Lampe for claiming Justin’s house was a house church, because its hard to take Justin’s words in Apology 1:67:

    “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place…, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits… Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly”

    as meaning the exact opposite – not one place.

    Thanks.

  81. Brandon,

    “but the substance of the article will be ignored if we stay on this topic”

    I agree. I only brought it up due to Ray and John’s interaction (which is why I addressed John and not you) which engaged similar meta-analysis. You did not shut them down so I gathered you weren’t inherently opposed if parallel discussions on that topic occurred here. I certainly have no desire to hijack or derail the discussion.

    “And again, even if you do these things you are not addressing any portion of the actual argument but pointing out the inconsistency of the arguer.”

    I never said you were inconsistent. I am merely pointing out the limitations inherent in the relevant fields when speaking of theological claims.

    “The first of which, is that the article of faith being touted at CtC is an historical claim.”

    If a pope says “The Trinity or [doctrine x] has always been taught since the beginning” is that a historical claim as well?

    “There are clearly limits to the scope of historical study and it historical inquiry (much less any discipline, the hard sciences included) can never provide certainty, however, the work of historians is to evaluate the credibility of historical claims.”

    If you mean metaphysical certainty, I guess. Pretty sure historical inquiry can provide us certainty that WW2 happened and who was president in 1995. But in many historical claims – especially with limited visibility as when we are examining things farther in the past – erudite and sincere scholars disagree or oppose each other’s conclusions/analysis because of the intersection of so many related fields that each have their own issues with methodologies, biases, application, raw data, etc.

    “You seem to conclude therefore that because history does not provide certainty this does not really impact your beliefs about the RCC.”

    If one had a knock-down argument against the Resurrection of Christ or such, I would alter my beliefs about Christianity. If one had a knock-down argument against the RCC’s historical claims, I would alter my beliefs about RCism. It seems you think part of the unassailable knock-down argument is the fractionation issue (which you said above is partly why you dismissed Dix and Cirlot and presumably other early-mid 20th century patristic scholars who do not agree with your position). You offer “an alternative to their positions” – but that again just reaches into the meta-analysis issues above. An alternative is not as strong as a decisive refutation – perhaps you mean that it does though? If you just think Cirlot and Dix (you could also add William Moran) offer plausible takes on the patristic evidence (but just disagree with it) – that is exactly my point.

    “It’s true that scholarship changes, but it changes through critical engagement with current scholarship. Scholarship is never furthered because people say that “Scholarship changes all the time so I’ll just keep my opinions.” That is fideism.”

    I agree.

    “I believe the evidence I’ve presented makes the claims of the RCC incredible, why do you think my argument fails to prove this?”

    Because I do not think your analysis of the patristic evidence is knock-down definitive, nor did many others for centuries leading up to Lampe/fractionation thesis, and others after Lampe/fractionation thesis.

  82. Brandon (#59),

    I’m going to call you Brandon because I’m starting to feel silly addressing you with a formal title. I agree with what you said above, with respect to just trying to win an argument. I view this more as a collective exercise in thinking together.

    1. As to Irenaeus, I appreciate the clarification. It almost sounded to me like you had been saying, “Look, Irenaeus was wrong about all sorts of things, so lets not take too seriously his claim about episcopal succession in Rome.” The fact is, Irenaeus was in a better position to know such things than any modern scholar trying to reconstruct the history. At least that’s my opinion. Same goes for Tertullian. There is no patristic memory of there being only a collection of presbyters in Rome up to the time of Eleutherus (allegedly the first bishop in the catholic sense). The texts from which modern scholars infer that idea are not trying to answer that question. Whenever any patristic writer does actually intend to speak to that issue, they give more or less the same answer. And the issue of whether Peter was succeeded by Linus or Clement is a mere trifle, if we simply assume the careers of Linus and Anencletus to have been short and/or inconsequential (hence easily skipped).

    2. With respect to arguments from silence, I still don’t see why we should think the absence of an explicit reference to “the bishop” matters in Ignatius’ letter to the Romans, 1 Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas, but doesn’t mean anything in John’s letters to the churches of Asia Minor (Rev. 2-3). The fact is, we know from Ignatius that these churches had bishops, even though John fails to mention them. Furthermore, Ignatius doesn’t mention presbyters in Rome either. Does that mean there were none? His failure to mention the bishop and presbyters simply means that (for whatever reason), when writing to the church at Rome (which he sees as a singular church, not a collection of loosely associated house churches with presbyters), he does not feel the need, or does not feel qualified, to exhort them to support their pastoral leaders (cf. 4:3). Ignatius almost seems to have a bit of an inferiority complex when addressing the church at Rome (cf. 2:2).

    I want to make another point here. There seems to be the presumption that if there were a plurality of house churches in a city, they could not have been under the authority of a singular bishop (whose approval would be required for the sanctioning of their eucharists). But that does not at all follow. A bishop would not have to be bodily present in each specific assembly in order for them to be under his care, for presbyters could be appointed to stand in the place of the bishop in each gathering in any given city (cf. Smyrn. 8:1).

    3. As to Ignatius and Jerome being touchstones, what I meant is that these are two writers who give us facts to consider (facts in the sense that this is what they take to be common knowledge, and hence confidently assert). First, episcopal church order (bishop, presbyters, deacons) is the standard form of the church in the Christian world (so Ignatius). Second, originally the bishops/presbyters held the same office and duties, but in the course of time it was judged prudent to reserve certain powers for a singular bishop who was elevated above the ordinary presbyters (so Jerome). How do we get from an original equality of bishops/presbyters (during the period when the apostles were on earth) to the form of church goverment we see in Ignatius (and which Ignatius, on his way to Rome, takes as now the ordinary model)? That is the question that I think we have to answer. If we assume that Ignatius didn’t know what he was talking about (since supposedly this form of goverment was not even uniform in Syria yet), we are going to start off on the wrong foot.

    To give an example, there are no references to Nazareth in non-biblical texts until the third century A.D. (and certainly no confirmation of a synagogue in Nazareth at that time for Jesus to preach in as in Luke 4:16ff.). Should we presume then that the notion that Jesus grew up in a place called Nazareth and preached in a synagogue that once was there are pious fictions? Some scholars do that very sort of thing, despite the gospel references to the location by that name set in the first half of the first century A.D. Is it not better to say that the NT writers probably knew what they were talking about, even if we don’t get extrabiblical confirmation of this until the third century?

    4. As for 1 Clement 40-41, I don’t have any references off the top of my head, though I know I have seen allusions to this reading of the passage in the literature. Let me just say that it seems clear enough, for after highlighting the order of high priest, priests and Levites, and laymen, in the Old Covenant (40:5), Clement follows this up by saying: “Let each of you, brothers, in his proper order give thanks to God, maintaining a good conscience, not overstepping the designated rule of his ministry” (41:1).

    5. As for the meaning of episkope in Acts 1:20b, the BAGD lexicon (I don’t have the updated BDAG with me) says (p. 299), “position or office as an overseer. . . Esp. the office of a bishop.” The occupant of the office of an overseer is of course precisely what a bishop is. I don’t see anything in the lexical reference to exclude an “episcopal” association with the office described in that verse, since when it renders it in the entry “let another take his office” it means “let another take his office as an overseer.” I doubt this exegetical subtlety can be answered by a lexicon anyway.

    6. Finally, you say there is no evidence of a single presbyter-bishop presding over a city (in responding to my reading of the evidence from 1 Tim and Titus). But I am citing the biblical text as evidence (whether or not you find it convincing is another matter). In Titus 1:5-7, Titus is instructed to “put presbyters in charge kata polin” [according to city, or city by city]. While it is commonly assumed that this means there would be a plurality of presbyters in each city of Crete, it could just as well mean that each city was to have a “ruling presbyter.” And in fact, verse 7 points in that direction when it speaks of the singular “bishop” as the office to which men are being installed. This is the office I think is alluded to in 1 Timothy 5:17.

    In Christ and Our Lady,
    Paul

  83. A very good, very well thought out, very well argued, very well written, and very charitable article. I am looking forward to a commensurate response from someone from the Catholic perspective.

  84. Thanks, Ted. I really appreciate the feedback!

    Regarding Lampe’s own position though, consider what he says at the very bottom of the page,

    Justin and his followers do not go on Sundays to another location and to another house community for the worship

    For Lampe, Justin’s school is both a school as well as a “house church.” In addition, I just completed a cursory read of Snyder and I only see him discussing the location of Justin’s school–I don’t see him talking about Apology 1.67. Perhaps I overlooked that section, but could you maybe point me to the pages that you believe address it?

    And here is Thomason’s take,

    For a long time such house congregations were all there would be, and meetings in private homes served as the only organized frame of reference for the collective identity of the worshipers…Neither Clement, nor [Hermas], nor Justin in the middle of the second century give us any reason to believe that there existed something like a central leadership for all the Christians in Rome.

    In summation, I think you raise a very good question and I hope to re-read the portions of Lampe that are cut off in the link that you sent, but I think it may help clarify that this is not an either/or, instead it is a both/and.

    Please feel free to follow up!

  85. Brandon (#73),

    Thank you for your reply.

    I still do not see the claims made by the Catechism as incompatible with the gradual development of the teaching office of the bishop. You are free to understand those statements in the very strong sense of ‘Jesus/the Apostles set up a clear monarchical episcopate’, but I think that some sort of hierarchy within the church, such as that which existed between the apostles, presbytery, and laymen, and perhaps subsequently within the presbytery after the passing of the apostles, is enough to support the statements in the Catechism, the Antimodernist Oath (at least the portion that you cited), and the alleged belief of the Church for ‘hundreds and hundreds of years’.

    It would be a pleasure if you could comment on my proposed alternate thesis at the end of #55, beginning with “Regarding Burke’s reading of Ignatius that there was no bishop in Rome…”. The main points of my thesis are:

    1. Development of Church government during the time of the apostles;
    2. Fractionation as an impetus for a stronger, centralised form of government with clearly defined structure;
    3. Interpretation of Ignatius’ silence, together with the internal evidence of his high regard from Rome, as suggesting that Rome had innovated the bishopric much earlier than the rest of the cities, that it was working well, and that it was taking time to spread to the other cities;
    4. (From #31) The explicit testimony that the Shepherd of Hermas was written by someone affiliated with the top of the hierarchy, and the internal evidence that the author managed to exercise significant influence over the presbytery (he stopped dissension among them, and also indicates that he fully expects his orders for the distribution of the document to be obeyed). This also accounts for the high esteem held by the work for some time (that it was written by an authority or someone who had access to it).

    I think that the advantage of such a thesis is that it incorporates fractionation (or what I can gather about it from your article), together with the testimony of Irenaeus and subsequent fathers. It also allows Hermas to serve as a bridge between Ignatius and Irenaeus while accounting for explicit testimony about its authorship and the internal evidence of authority. I am unfamiliar with and do not have access to the material on the subject, and would like to hear if such a view has been considered by the academy.

  86. Brandon (84),

    In my own reading of Justin, in the place where he speaks of his living above the bath of Myrtinus, and my reading of Lampe’s conclusion, I must be blind or too inflexible.

    I just don’t see Justin calling his students a church. He simply doesn’t use the word ecclesia, does he?, which really is the litmus test for a man like Justin who thinks so theologically (or a definitive mention of the eucharist). It puts the burden of proof on you to assume he speaks of his domicile being a church when he doesn’t use the word. Otherwise, it seems like an overreach, or agenda driven.

    Why couldn’t he have a school in his domicile, or the equivalent of a weekly home group, in addition to being part of an institutional church? Or in other words, why are we so quick to utterly dismiss his “one place” words of Apology 1:67? Could anything be clearer? Is it to justify a form of presbyterianism that has dispersed elders around the city in house churches?

    Wouldn’t presbyterianism be rather strengthened by one group of unified presbyters overseeing a single church in Rome?

  87. Brandon,

    If we’re reading into the silence and going on that, rather than the earliest though not contemporary witnesses to the early church in the first century, why Presbyterianism? Why couldn’t the earliest church have been congregational? Or maybe an alternating group of men serving as leaders? Or maybe leadership as plurality passed on through bloodlines?

    If episcopal government is out of the question because the ‘silence’ says so, than why the assumption that it must have been Presbyterian in style?

  88. Paul Owen (#82),

    In regards to your comments about “his bishoprick let another take” (Acts 1:20b KJV), looking up the term in an online lexicon (here) the Greek term is episkope. The term isn’t used much in the NT, but it does appear in 1 Timothy 3:1 (“If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” KJV) – a chapter clearly talking about the office of bishop – all of which you’ve already mentioned in past responses. So I don’t understand the issue here, if there is one. The Greek word is clearly directly related to episcopate/oversight in contexts of Church leadership.

  89. Abelian (#85)
    It has always seemed to me that the idea of some development in Church polity does not mean that Jesus didn’t foresee and intend the development. In particular, as you comment here, it does seem perfectly possible that the monarchical bishopric may have made little sense when the Apostles were alive – but that the Spirit-guided Church may have reacted to it by setting one presbyter/episkopos over the others in a city.

    It seems surprising to me that no one points out that something very like this appears to lie behind the office of deacon. Acts 6 seems to show the Apostles reacting to a need by instituting the order of deacons. Isn’t it possible that the Providence of God is behind this?

    To me, the idea of trying to identify the right Church by whether it follows the right polity puts the cart before the horse. If the Catholic Church is the subsistence of Christ’s Body on earth, then its polity can be expected to be what Christ intended. If it is not, then it’s not clear to me that we have any way of knowing what polity (if any) Christ intended. Why are the Quakers wrong? This seems to me what Sean Patrick is asking in #87 above.

    jj

  90. Sean (#87),

    The two competing models of ecclesiology that the fathers and the NT present are the episcopate and some form of presbytery. Brandon’s argument is that the episcopate developed late in Rome and so the alleged link between Peter and his successors does not exist in the Roman sense. Much of his thesis is reliant upon the theory that fractionation of churches in Rome implies a loose, non-hieararchAl presbytery. With this as background evidence, Brandon attempts to interpret the silence in Patristic sources as showing that the episcopacy developed late in ROme.

    The forms of church government you list are not supported by the Fathers and so are not under consideration. However, if your point is to note that we can read even more into the silence and declare that even the presbytery was a corruption of the original apostolic intent as evidenced by the NT, then I think that has some merit.

    John (#89),

    I agree with your comments and that is the point that I and several other commentators have been making. If you look at my previous posts you will see that I adduced the innovation of the diaconate in acts as support for point 1 of my alternative thesis that the move towards the bishopric might have begun in Rome. I am still not clear why Brandon thinks that an interregnum invalidates the chain of succession, nor why (and this is my preferred option) a presbyterial hieararchy, no matter how inchoate, invalidates rome’s claims. I think Brandon needs to do more work to show how the theory of fractionation implies that there was no hieararchy in the presbytery, since he is willing to cite Brown who does. I think my previous comments on Hermas have shown that the work can be read to support the notion of a hieararchy rather than taking away from it.

  91. John (re: #89),

    You wrote:
    It seems surprising to me that no one points out that something very like this appears to lie behind the office of deacon. Acts 6 seems to show the Apostles reacting to a need by instituting the order of deacons. Isn’t it possible that the Providence of God is behind this?

    Response:
    I cannot see how Catholic Modernists would disapprove.

    PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS
    Dogma and Sacraments
    For them the Sacraments are the resultant of a double need – for, as we have seen, everything in their system is explained by inner impulses or necessities. In the present case, the first need is that of giving some sensible manifestation to religion; the second is that of propagating it, which could not be done without some sensible form and consecrating acts, and these are called sacraments.

  92. Eric (#91),

    Unsure of the substance of your comment? If you are an atheist or agnostic this argument is proceeding against a background that you do not share. If you are some form of Christian, then realise that the Apostles, epistemologically speaking, function as God. Their decisions, like the Jerusalem Council, and their writings are taken to be speaking on par with Christ.

  93. abelian,

    “However, if your point is to note that we can read even more into the silence and declare that even the presbytery was a corruption of the original apostolic intent as evidenced by the NT, then I think that has some merit.”

    Yes, that was what I was getting at. I mean, if reading into the silence be our guide and all, its all up in the air isn’t. The years of ‘silence’ could very well have been episcopal, presbyterial, congregational or quaker. Its just a happy coincidence (for us Catholics) that the moment the fathers started writing about church structure, they affirmed apostolic succession and nascent Petrine primacy.

  94. Hi Brandon,

    You did a whole lot of work here in your article, and I sincerely commend your erudition as well as your interest in humble dialog. Before I converted, I was frankly very frustrated that my former pastors were unwilling to sit down with me and go over the articles that I found illuminative. Even though the hurt is now, for the most part, water under the bridge, I still scratch my head at the seeming incredulity that there is anything remotely convincing in Rome’s claims especially when they are considered as a whole. I had found “things” that at least I thought compelling enough to cause me to take steps that were certainly going to upset my entire life and hurt my family, and so, I believed that even if I was horribly mistaken, the claims themselves still warranted a deeper investigation; and this is especially true since there have been people a whole heck of a lot smarter than me who were convinced enough to convert. So again, thank you for engaging with one Catholic claim even though I think it takes tackling a different number of them to make headway.

    I wish I was able to engage with your article, but because I don’t know exactly how to respond to a lack of evidence for a bishop with supremacy prior to the middle of the second century as being proof that there was no magisterial authority, I would like to say that as a Catholic that doesn’t concern me. As historical evidence, I don’t know what a Protestant does with Irenaneus’ list even if another list causes a discrepancy, for both demonstrate that the church at this juncture saw itself as hierarchal. I guess you could say that I figure that whatever the church “is”, it definitely isn’t Protestant. I came to this conclusion because of there being no way, at this late juncture, for any contestant to the Catholic expression to draw a picture of a primitive church. Any group could say they did this successfully but it wouldn’t be provable. Here is where we are not in the same epistemological boat for even if the things that Protestant call accretions are not supposed to be part of the Christian faith, they have no way to discover otherwise, and further, another thing that I find really interesting is that both the EO and the RCC are not bound to a scripture alone as a rule of faith, and this is harmonious to its own professed paradigm and therefore not subject to a Protestant critique. And so, regarding something like the doctrine of The Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, a Protestant is forced to be silent concerning it, but what is really cool is that it is Catholic dogma therefore significant for all Christians in the same way that Protestants are brought into the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic through the Catholic Sacrament of Baptism. It’s the Protestant’s treasure even if he denies it currently because it is a catholic truth.

    I believe that when people are looking for the primitive church they have already decided that whatever it looked like it didn’t look like this or that aspect of the RCC; but that is a prejudice look and there is no historical or anthropological evidence to back that claim. Plus it just makes the doctrinal decisions commonly arrived at by the Westminster divines arbitrarily trump what was commonly held by the Church of Rome for 1500 years prior( or 1200 yrs prior as is claimed by Protestants without any proof). And that pretty much turns St. Vincent’s Rule into a meaningless measure, as Cardinal Newman has explained. I don’t feel like I’m approaching the question like Pascal’s wager anymore because there is such a thing as the Catholic Church that has in fact withstood the test of time, that looks like an ancient religion, is mentioned in the Church Fathers, and is taught explicitly in the scriptures. As my priest put it a few weeks ago, “Why not accept the Petrine Office by an Occam’s Razor approach?” :)

    Again, Brandon I was very happy to read your scholarly article in a forum where the conversation is for the mutual acquisition of the truth( as Dr. Cross says). You did an awesome job, presenting your case. btw, I didn’t know that you were local. I go to an Ordinariate of the See of St. Peter/ Anglican Patrimony located in Fullerton even though I live in Upland. If you are ever interested in talking I’d enjoy meeting you. If you remember me from previous conversations my whole family are Reformed(URCNA) and I converted by myself a little over a year ago. My adult children have many friends from Providence Christian College too. Wonderful people!

    God Bless,

    Susan

  95. Sean (#93) ,

    Indeed :) But to be fair to Brandon, and this also addresses the final point that John makes in (#89) regarding letting church polity decide the true church: that isn’t Brandon’s argument. Brandon’s argument is twofold: that Petrine Apostolic Succession cannot be reconciled with Roman fractionation; and that he cannot see how a Church that has declared as de fide an erroneous belief could possibly be the true church.

    However, I am puzzled why Brandon does not belong to a denomination with episcopalian authority. Brandon is willing to concede that the development of the monarchical episcopate could have been a legitimate ecclesiological development – his main beef here is that Rome just didn’t have it till late. Why one would accept the eventual decision of the churches to accept Revelation, 2 Peter, James, and 2 & 3 John and reject Hermas and 1 Clement as Scripture, but subsequently reject the form of church government that had solidified well before such decisions were made is curious. But that is another discussion for another time :)

  96. Abelian (#92);Eric (#91)
    I take Eric’s point to be that if one can argue that the Holy Spirit providentially guided the Church to create the deaconate in AD48 (or whenever it was); to distinguish the monarchical episcopate from the presbyterate (at, perhaps, the death of the last apostle?), why could a modernist not argue that in 2014, the Holy Spirit might guide the Church to create an order of deaconesses, or perhaps priestesses?

    I would think – from very much a layman’s point of view – that the answer depends on whether the Catholic Church is in fact the unique substance of the Body of Christ. If it is, and if deaconesses, or priestesses, are not God’s Will, then the Holy Spirit will not, in fact, providentially bring such a thing to pass.

    Which is why it seems to me that the essential thing is to identify the Church first – well, prior to that, to decide if Jesus in fact intended to set up a Church in any but the notional, ideal, sense – the set of all the elect or something. If so, then one might argue for this or that Church polity on purely practical, prudential grounds – that this or that polity ‘works better,’ but I don’t see how one can argue that this or that polity is Christ-ordained.

    jj

  97. Abelian,

    “However, if your point is to note that we can read even more into the silence and declare that even the presbytery was a corruption of the original apostolic intent as evidenced by the NT, then I think that has some merit.”

    Lampe holds a similar view – that the hierarchical structure outlined in the pastorals emerged much later (driven by his view that the pastorals are non-Pauline and later) – holding that the original apostolic intent was charismatic offices and the offices of the pastorals reflect a change:

    “That the legacy of the imminent eschatological expectation had moved in the background makes one wonder. Obviously a lively end-time expectation has socially-integrating power. What, however, happens when the expectation fades as in post-Pauline Christianity?…Apart from the slave-master relationship and the role of women, we would like to address a third aspect of the “patriarchalism of love”: the increasing formation of hierarchical offices on the congregational level. A hierarchical ordering of the congregation with firmly instituted offices begins to emerge. We will only indicate the complexity of the problems. The churches of the pastoral letters have a fixed structure with a collegium of presbyter-bishops at the top…Subordinated to the presbyters-bishops are the deacons.”
    (Lampe and Luz, “Post-Pauline Christianity and Pagan Society”, in Christian Beginnings: Word and Community from Jesus to Post-Apostolic Times, ed. Becker, pp 251-252)

    “The household rules of the New Testament are often named as chief witnesses when one wants to describe how post-Pauline Christianity adapted to the world in a “civilized” way. They are often considered the prime example of how in post-Pauline times Christian ethics became conformed to the world and conservative and how the original “revolutionary” impetus of Gal. 3:28 (“there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female”) was lost. In what ways do the household rules represent assimilation to the world? They do indeed adapt to prevailing pagan structures of oikos….
    Also the structure of offices that emerges in post-Pauline Christianity has been frequently seen as an “assimilation” to the social forms of the world. The churches of the pastoral letters have developed a firm structure within the congregation with the collegium of presbyters at the top…It also seems premature here to speak of assimilation to the world. Although the christian churches adopt for their organization certain elements of pagan society…they develop their own characteristic form which even Tertullian recognizes as autonomous and distinct from the “world”.”
    (ibid. pp 272-273)

    “The writer of Revelation nonchalantly ignored the hierarchical structures that had also emerged in the Christian congregation by the end of the first century. Prophecy was the only church office he wanted to acknowledge in the earthly Christian congregation….the new Christian context became partly accommodated to the Hellenistic Roman context. Thus, over time, hierarchical structures also developed in the church in spite of the doctrine of equality.” (Lampe, “Early Christian House Churches: A Constructivist Approach”, in Early Christian Families in Context, ed. Balch, Osiek pp. 82-83)

  98. Abelian, (#95), please see the first paragraph of our comment guidelines. Don’t talk *about* Brandon; talk to/with him. Thanks. – Moderator

  99. Sean 69:

    You complain …. You then accuse ….

    I do neither. I simply make statements of fact, the first of which is descriptive of a well-known phenomenon for Protestant readers of this site, the second is an example right from a Magisterial document, which I’ve written about extensively elsewhere. I didn’t expect that either statement would be controversial.

    However, Reformed theologians have their exegesis which interprets things in a Reformed way. Meanwhile, there exists an abundance of exegesis that contradicts Reformed exegesis in every imaginable way.

    There are always going to be dissenters. The question is, whether the “abundance of exegesis” that you are talking about has any merit to it. How can you tell if the dissenters merit to be taken seriously?

    In some cases it does, and there are legitimate questions; in other cases, it is clear to see why the Reformed have chosen certain meanings. The Reformed hermeneutic, at least, is clear.

    Yet, Reformed Churches don’t turn around and change their dogmas to conform to the varying exegesis at every turn.

    Reformed theology and confessions came about through very long, thoughtful, and prayerful chains of events.

    But this is what you are asking the Catholic Church to do.

    This assumes that the Roman Catholic Church is right about everything. But this article by Brandon is not simply talking about “biblical exegesis”, where there are questions. This article challenges the account of history that Roman Catholicism talked about for centuries (“Peter went to Rome, founded the church there, reigned as monarchical bishop there for 25 years, while still being the ontological head of the ontological church, with universal jurisdiction at that very time, and then handed that same authority on to the next guy, and the next guy, etc.)

    A non-critical reading of Vatican I arrives at this conclusion and supports it. Over the last 50 years, as more and more is learned of the ancient Roman world (as well as a better understanding of the “second temple” world as espoused by some of the very writers you would cite in some instances), the “25 years” account that was taught for so long has been shown to be false.

    You take comfort in the fact that the 25 years portion – the historical portion – wasn’t taught as an “infallible dogma”.

    However, beginning with Damasus, Roman Bishops clearly based all of their prestige (worldly and ecclesiastical) on a re-writing of history that included inserting “the church of Rome” as a hero of the faith, as well as excluding other, legitimate history.

    The Church of Christ ought to be very careful about being honest. However, in light of not only this article, but of many other sources, the Church of Rome seems to put maintaining its own authority above truth.

    If we all did what you are asking, we’d be Universalist Unitarians in two weeks’ time.

    If you are concerned about falling prey to UU teachings, you may want to immerse yourself in Turretin’s work. He addressed them quite thoroughly.

    How do we get past this? Putting aside the option of becoming Unitarians we are left with two options.

    1) We go on throwing each other’s exegesis at each other in a question begging manner like you do with 1 Tim 3:15
    2) We find a way to address the differences in interpretation in a non-question begging way.

    Option # 2 is what Called to Communion is all about.

    That may be the stated goal, but what is or isn’t determined to be “question-begging” is not the ultimate standard. Learning what is true ought to be the ultimate standard, and presuppositions that are questionable ought to be challenged. However, anything that challenges the Roman Catholic presuppositions held here (and according to Brandon’s article above, these presuppositions are not even widely held among Roman Catholics), then it is dismissed and not addressed at all.

    In summary, our approach is exactly the approach that Irenaues used and other early fathers used when fighting against the Gnostics.

    No it’s not. See here:

    Their answer to the Gnostic exegesis was not to embrace the Gnostic exegesis but to say, “No, we are the Church that Christ founded. We are the Church of the apostles. We have the succession of the apostles and the Church says that Gnosticism is false…”

    This is not how it was. Brandon outlined this above, and I’ve written about it many times. The response was never “we are the Church that Christ founded”. The response was, “we have teaching of the Apostles”, and we can name the men from the beginning till now, who did not alter that teaching – who knew nothing of Newman’s “development” – men who have taught the same things from the beginning, who “taught or knew nothing of the sort [Gnostic teachings] that they madly imagine”… For they wanted those whom they left as successors … to be perfect and blameless in every respect.” (3.3.1). This is completely the opposite of what Augustine said to the Donatists. “If these men acted rightly it would be a great benefit, while if they failed it would be the greatest calamity”.

    Yet you conveniently ignore that same text in the same section that you are otherwise willing to trot out so boldly.

    We have the succession of the apostles and the Church says that Gnosticism is false…”

    Not “we have the succession” but “we have men who have taught the same thing all along…” Your citation of Tertullian, also, was not “these men are right because they are in the succession” but “these men are in the succession because we can produce the original records of their churches” (the New Testament documents) “and these men have taught the same things.” “They are akin in doctrine”.

    * * *

    Andrew Preslar #70:

    In comment #38, I was drawing an analogy between God’s activity in the universe and His activity in the Church. In this way, Wallace’s comment about evangelical critical scholarship is apropos to Catholic critical scholarship. Like you said, Wallace’s methodological assumptions (or presuppositions) are probably more fine-tuned than a simple affirmation of theism; e.g., he probably would not accept any historical-critical conclusions that undermine the authority of Sacred Scripture. Again, the analogy with Catholicism, relative to tradition, is apparent.

    The disanalogies are glaring. In the Evangelical hermeneutic that Wallace was discussing “exegesis begins with a patient and humble listening to the text, with the willingness to hear an alien word,” according to one writer. The text is “the boss”, and the exegetes are the servants of the text.

    The Roman Catholic hermeneutical method, on the other hand – “the mind of the church” – is well described by popes and scholars. In this hermeneutic, “the Magisterium” is the master of the text. I know, the Magisterium claims to be the “servant” of the text. However, through its manipulation of the “authentic interpretation” (as I noted about 1 Tim 3:15 and Lumen Gentium 8), the “authentic interpretation” is something different from what the text actually says.

    This is no accident. It is, in fact, and has been, the official policy to do that sort of thing. Pius IX’s articulated this method in his Letter, “Gravissimas inter,” to the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, Dec. 11, 1862. Pius XII cited and reiterated this in his statement in Humani Generis: “theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition.” Start first with Roman Catholic teaching, and then make the text fit the teaching.

    This is further explained in a variety of sources. One Roman Catholic theologian wrote, “We think first of developed forms for which we need to find historical justification. The developed forms come first and the historical justification comes second.” (“Ways of Validating Ministry,” Kilian McDonnell, Journal of Ecumenical Studies (7), pg. 213, cited in Carlos Alfredo Steger, “Apostolic Succession in the Writings of Yves Congar and Oscar Cullmann, pg. 322.) Steger calls this type of historical revisionism “highly questionable if not inadmissible.”

    Aiden Nichols, “The Shape of Catholic Theology” (253) notes that for the last several hundred years, according to these popes, “the theologian’s highest task lies in proving the present teachings of the magisterium from the evidence of the ancient sources.”

    Clearly, it is not a “patient listening to the text”. It looks quite a bit like selective proof-texting.

    * * *

    Cletus #60:

    Do you think ANE scholars such as Dever and others who reject the historicity of the OT also are not just as thorough in their methods?

    Just as ANE scholars do with OT analysis, or liberal scholars do with the same manuscripts conservatives also have. Analysis in the “soft” sciences is not just some standard black box input-output affair. We’re not dealing with deduction or science here. Analysis in the ever-shifting seas of so many fields – linguistics, hermeneutics, philology, history, sociology, textual analysis, archaeology – have erudite scholars on all sides who study same raw data and come to differing/opposing conclusions, who can differ on what data even should count as the raw data to study, and what proper methods should even be used to interpret and analyze that data, and how those methods should be applied, and who all have their own biases/presuppositions that will influence how they abductively reason about and filter the data to reach their tentative revisable conclusions. And all of that can change based on new evidences that were not discovered or considered before, as well as new analyses/ideas that are added to scholarship that had not been considered before.

    The one thing you’ve left out here is “a patient and humble listening to the text”, which is the hallmark of the Evangelical hermeneutic. Neither the critical scholars, nor the keepers of the Roman Catholic “Tradition” (in the case of the New Testament) will “patiently and humbly” accept the text at what the author’s face-value intention is. (And again, I’d point you to the use of 1 Tim 3:15 in Lumen Gentium 8, as I’ve described it above).

    If everyone held to the same methods and assumptions, they would all reach agreement and either all be part of the same denomination, or all not be Christian. Not only that, they would all reach the same conclusions regarding that particular field/discipline. A “historical-critical method of interpretation” as Wallace says doesn’t make people’s biases and presuppositions vanish (which he freely admits). GHM doesn’t make everyone interpret the OT/NT and reach conservative Protestant conclusions.

    The one thing you continually miss is that “patient and humble listening to the text” as to the very Word of God, inspired, as Paul tells us, “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

    [By the way, where is the “infallible canon” by which these people whom Paul is talking about, are “without excuse”?]

    Here is where the real dividing line is: respect the text, or be the master of it. One way or another.

    And no, it does not make sense that “everyone would reach the same agreement”. You have Roman Catholics here reaching different conclusions on different things. The Reformers agreed on one thing: “Roman Catholicism is bad, we need to get out” – yet they differed not in that question, but rather, they differed in how far away they should go.

    * * *

    John Thayer Jensen #89:

    It has always seemed to me that the idea of some development in Church polity does not mean that Jesus didn’t foresee and intend the development. In particular, as you comment here, it does seem perfectly possible that the monarchical bishopric may have made little sense when the Apostles were alive – but that the Spirit-guided Church may have reacted to it by setting one presbyter/episkopos over the others in a city.

    You had best be careful, because in saying this, you are very close to Raymond Brown and Francis Sullivan, who said “While most Catholic scholars agree that the episcopate is the fruit of a post-New Testament development, they maintain that this development was so evidently guided by the Holy Spirit that it must be recognized as corresponding to God’s plan for the structure of his Church”.

    However, this “guidance by the Holy Spirit” is not so evident, especially in light of the way that “development” continued into the evils of the Medieval “structure of the church”.

    There are two things to say about this:

    For the Council of Trent, “development” was by no means “self-evident” – in fact, for Trent, both episcopacy and the priesthood were instituted by the hand of Christ – visibly (“no development required”).

    And second, if we are to see it as a “development”, not only has Rome’s history changed about this, but are we not then free to reject these “developments” as being unfaithful in “little things” – that is, temporal things, and therefore, Rome is also to be seen as not faithful in “big things” – that is, doctrinal things?

    After all, what did Jesus actually say? Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”

    Rome has been unfaithful in history, and in the telling of its history. Why should we think its doctrinal accounts should be faithful?

  100. John (#99)

    You said that Catholic exegesis is mere ‘eisgesis’ because the Catholic Church does not adopt exegesis that contradicts Catholic dogma.

    Here, again, is what you said in # 65

    On the other hand, Roman Catholic “presuppositions” (especially those espoused here at CTC) involve excluding any result in exegesis that we get which apparently contradicts current Roman Catholic dogma. More, in many cases, Roman Catholic “exegesis” really becomes eisegesis to support Catholic dogma.

    And then you gave what you thought was an example of exegesis that the Catholic Church gets wrong (1 Tim 3:15).

    So, nothing I said in #69 is incorrect as far as what your argument entails. If it’s my labeling of that argument as a ‘complaint’ and ‘accusation’ that bother you then I can edit that out. My point still stands.

    I simply make statements of fact.

    What fact is that John? That the Catholic Church does not change her doctrines based on the varying and often changing exegesis of the world? In that, I agree.

    Nothing is controversial about that, you are right. What I pointed out, and which you’ve seemingly missed, is that Reformed theologians and churches are guilty of the same thing. But, there is a fundamental and visible difference to this problem for the Protestant because the Protestant has only their exegesis and their scholars whereas the Catholic Church has the succession of the apostles and sacred Tradition.

    There are always going to be dissenters.

    Dissenters John? Since less than perhaps 5% of Protestants adopt Reformed exegesis, that leaves 95% of Protestants as ‘dissenters?’

    How do you know that it’s not the Reformed exegesis that is dissenting John?

    Reformed theology and confessions came about through very long, thoughtful, and prayerful chains of events.

    Is that how you know that the Reformed exegesis is the right one John? Because it was thoughtful and prayerful?

    As opposed to the Anabaptist exegesis or the Evangelical exegesis?

    Are you suggesting that we locate the true exegesis by finding that exegesis which took the longest and where the men and women who came up with it were the most thoughtful and prayerful?

    For now, I’ll let the rest of what you wrote to me untouched because the issue I laid out in # 69 is untouched.

  101. Sean Patrick (#87),

    I’ve got a number of other things going on so please don’t take my directness for curtness.

    My argument uses various argument’s from silence, but your argument is predicated on silence. My argument uses what we know, your argument postulates what may have possibly been even though there is nothing written that would indicate that a monarchical episcopate existed. My argument deals with the earliest evidence and what it does say, your evidence appeals to later evidence and what it does not say.

    The reason something like a presbyterian model (notice that I have not capitalized it so as to bring in confusion) is the most accurate way to label the Roman church is because the church did have a consciousness of a catholicity. Even though there were house churches they regarded one another as members of the Christian body and part of the church at Rome. The presbyterian label is used because it explains how 1st Clement could be written, how Hermas could have his book read throughout the entire city of Rome as well as having someone from the church take his book and distribute it to others. These and factors are the reason that the presbyterian model provides the best explanatory power.

    All of this is based on what we know and from the literature and social conditions of Rome and not based on the silence regarding a bishop. To construe my argument in this manner (as it appear a number have) is not accurate. The fact that we do not see the identity of a monarchical bishop of course reinforces the other information, but the strength of my case is not based upon the silence. Your case (as represented in your comment), on the other hand, is ensconced by the argument that the evidence we do have does not say a bishop could not have existed. Such an argument is exclusively an argument from silence.

  102. Paul,

    Please call me Brandon. I meant to address this earlier but I am not ordained so the application of the title “pastor” can be slightly misleading. I was a functional pastor (leading a session, preaching, etc.) for 16 months but am no longer engaged in that work.
    1. You said,

    There is no patristic memory of there being only a collection of presbyters in Rome up to the time of Eleutherus

    My article has argued to the contrary. This is what we see n Hermas and Clement in particular, who speak directly to this issue.

    2. I’m still not seeing the connection in terms of an argument from silence between what I’ve provided and what you’ve suggested from Revelation. You are also falsely presupposing that because John mentions churches and that Ignatius mentions some of them as bishops that therefore there were bishops when John wrote. It would seem to me that you would need to work to substantiate that connection.

    Furthermore, I think you propose another subtle distortion of my position when discussing Ignatius’s letter to the Romans when you say,

    His failure to mention the bishop and presbyters simply means that (for whatever reason), when writing to the church at Rome (which he sees as a singular church, not a collection of loosely associated house churches with presbyters), he does not feel the need, or does not feel qualified, to exhort them to support their pastoral leaders (cf. 4:3)

    There is nothing about my thesis that rejects the notion that the church understood itself as a corporate body. As such, it makes perfect sense for Ignatius to write to the church in Rome, but assuming that monarchical leadership is a necessity for him to do so is to make an assumption about the very thing in question.

    Also, you’ll notice that your comparison is asymmetrical to what I’ve argued. You are saying that John’s refusal to mention leadership must mean (under my working assumptions) that there were no leaders in the church, but we know that is not the case. In order for this to properly apply to my argument though I would need to argue that Ignatius’s failure to mention leadership meant that there was no leadership. My argument though is that Ignatius’s silence to the church in Rome stands out because he mentions a bishop in every other city except for Rome. That does not mean that there was no leadership—there were presbyter-bishops at least—but his silence on the office of the bishop is exceptionally noticeable. And the deference that Ignatius pays is most likely attributable to the fact that there were wealthy members of the community who may have been able to spare his life—something he did not want them to do.

    Your mention of 4:3 is also important but for my position. This passage is further evidence that even episcopal government did not operate under the principles of a bishop succeeding the Apostolic office (as if the authority from the Apostles is sacramentally transferred to the bishop). This is what I have read in every academic reference to this passage as well, though, I want to make sure that you understand I’m not stating this as a conversation stopper; if you have evidence to the contrary I do wish to interact with it.

    Your final statement in #2 seems to say that the existence of house churches does not rule out the possibility of oversight of a bishop. I want to be as clear as possible: this is a conceptual possibility, but a conceptual possibility is not an historical argument. I’ve attempted to set forth a hypothesis based on the evidence that we have about church structure and that is that what we see is a plurality of leaders. Everything we see points towards leadership of the churches by house-churches while oversight over those churches was conducted when the churches would gather together and attempt to persuade false teachers against promulgating their doctrines. In order to see if this conceptual possibility is likely, an argument needs to be made showing how this possibility comports with the data we have about first and second century Roman Christianity.

    3. As I argue, Ignatius is not trustworthy in terms of the scope of the episcopate. I laid out the internal and external reasons for this in my article. Therefore, Jerome functions as a touchstone not for an argument that Jesus founded the RCC (or the episcopate) but that the offices of presbyter and bishop became differentiated later (in the second century).

    Your appeal to Nazareth is again asymmetrical with what we know about Ignatius. We have no reason the believe that the Scripture is unreliable about the existence of Nazareth, but we do have reason to doubt the breadth of the episcopate at the time of Ignatius based on his own testimony and what we know of the polity of churches in Asia Minor.

    4. This may be an area where we agree to disagree. Clement is arguing about principle—obey your leaders—and your interpretation stretches this passage further than I believe the text warrants.

    5. Here is BDAG on episkope in its second definition-

    position of responsibility, position, assignment, (Num. 4:16) of Judas as an apostle Τὴν ἐ[πισκοπὴν] αὐτοῦ λαβέτω ἕτερος. “Let another take over his work” (not an office as such, but activity of witnessing in line with the specifications in Ac. 1:8, 21f) Acts 1:20 (Ps. 108:8)

    BDAG is a (fallible) resource , but if I understand you correctly, BDAG does not render the word as you do. If I’ve misunderstood, though, please let me know.

    6. This may be another “agree to disagree,” situation, but I do think your exegesis of this passage is incorrect and speculative. My argument is in Section III b. explains why.

  103. Brandon,

    You are a very bright young man, and I don’t expect you to change your trajectory here just because I trot out a few arguments. But here’s a few more points I might add.

    1. BDAG differs considerably from the older entry for episkope in BAGD. I see no reason to prefer the updated version, as it is not based on further linguistic insight, but rather a shifting of opinion in whoever wrote the entry. BAGD still sees the apostolic position as the office of overseer whereas BDAG sees it NOT as an office, but in a less structured way as an activity of witnessing.

    2. You say we have no reason to believe that the NT is unreliable in what it says about Nazareth and the synagogue there. But some scholars would say, surely if there was a settlement there at that time, some non-biblical source would have mentioned it. They would also add that there is no archaeological proof of a synagogue even if we think Nazareth existed back then. On those grounds, some would say the NT claims are suspect. I don’t see that as very different from what you are doing with Ignatius (who actually lived at the time in question) and Irenaeus (who was in a better position to know the history of the Roman church and its episcopal succession), and Tertullian (likewise).

    3. It sort of puzzles me that you don’t see the relevance of Revelation 2-3. Ignatius makes it plain that the churches of Asia Minor had bishops by the end of the first century (since he clearly does not see the episcopate as an innovation that suddenly popped up around him overnight at the very beginning of the second century). Yet John, writing ca. 95 A.D. makes mention of not a single bishop in that region (by name or title). If there can be bishops in Asia Minor without their being mentioned at all by John in his letters to the churches, that makes your argument from silence from various documents from the late-first to mid-second century A.D. suspect.

    4. Likewise, again, why does it follow that there was no bishop in Rome when Ignatius wrote his letter to that church (because there is none mentioned), but there must have been presbyters (even though Ignatius does not mention them)?

    5. Overall, what makes me uncomfortable with your hypothesis is it requires me to trust the reconstruction of scholars at the expense of the testimony of people who were in a much better position to know these things. Supposedly Ignatius (a bishop and martyr) didn’t even have an accurate grasp of the form of church government in Syria (where he is from), or of Rome (where he is headed). Even though he was in living contact and communication with the churches in these areas. I don’t care how detailed and laborious the scholarly articles and monographs are, that just doesn’t smell right to me.

    6. Just as I continue to think Peter wrote 2 Peter, and Paul wrote the Pastoral Letters (despite a mountain of scholarship on the other side), and just as I trust that Mark wrote the gospel that goes under his name (though the book is strictly speaking anonymous), and so forth, so also here I’m inclined to trust the traditional memory of the early church when it comes to the early origin of the episcopate.

    7. Jerome doesn’t say that the transition from parity of presbyters/bishops to the elevation of bishops over presbyters happened in the second century. He doesn’t say when it happened. There is no reason why the origins of this cannot be traced to the latter half of the first century, which is precisely where I think we first begin to see the Pauline churches (in the Pastorals) beginning to pattern themselves after the episcopal government that was operative from the beginning in Jerusalem. You say that my argument from Titus 1:5-7 is incorrect and speculative, but it provides a better explanation for the shift from plural (presbyters) to singular (bishop) than your alternative. It gives a better understanding of the Greek text (kata polin) in Titus 1:5. (The ESV “appoint elders in every town” is not what it says.) It explains why “bishop” never appears in the plural in the Pastorals. And it provides a clear explanation of why only some presbyters are said to “rule” in 1 Timothy 5:17 (which Presbyterians curiously take as the basis for choosing elders from the laity).

  104. Brandon,

    The question remains “even if their are multiple presbyters in Rome why does that mean that one of them cannot have a certain authority over them?” Even today there are multiple Bishops residing in cities from different rites. Even today that does not lead to “well then the Roman Church is wrong.”

    Even if I am to accept your particular brand of historical criticism that does not 100% lead to the Catholic and Orthodox churches have it wrong. It does not matter if there are house churches at the time. The Church has always understood that there were times of trial when we could not worship in public. Christians had to worship in catacombs, houses, mausoleums, and cemeteries. Even with this knowledge it does not lead away from the fact that the Catholic and Orthodox Church were able to develop this way of jurisprudence, spiritual, theological, and philosophical from the Pauline to what is practiced today. You have replied to another that us Catholics are practicing “fideism,” but I disagree with that ad hoc. We just do not see in your own argument this slam dunk you are looking for since it is more similar to a straw man than to 100% certitude that the Church needed to have (in your mind) a mono-episcopate like you are drawing up. You might as well argue that the Church worships in Cathedrals today there are no Cathedrals in the Bible and no Cathedrals in the 1st-2nd century.

    Your argument still does not answer why there cannot be development in structure in the organization of the Church, tactile apostolic succession (because who is to say that these houses did not have a Catholic presbyter who was provided apostolic succession provided the authority to teach) which leads into the 2nd-3rd-4th-etc century into a different model, and that these houses are not more like parishes which have the overseer/presbyter. Your argument just lends to more questions about why you think that it has to conclude the way you think.

  105. John Bugay (#99)

    John Thayer Jensen #89:

    It has always seemed to me that the idea of some development in Church polity does not mean that Jesus didn’t foresee and intend the development. In particular, as you comment here, it does seem perfectly possible that the monarchical bishopric may have made little sense when the Apostles were alive – but that the Spirit-guided Church may have reacted to it by setting one presbyter/episkopos over the others in a city.

    You had best be careful, because in saying this, you are very close to Raymond Brown and Francis Sullivan, who said “While most Catholic scholars agree that the episcopate is the fruit of a post-New Testament development, they maintain that this development was so evidently guided by the Holy Spirit that it must be recognized as corresponding to God’s plan for the structure of his Church”.

    Well, I don’t know what Raymond Brown and Francis Sullivan say, but I am not saying that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is evident (on some other, unspecified basis) that it must have been His will that the episcopate be established; I am saying that if the Catholic Church is the substance of Christ’s mystical Body on earth, then even if the episcopate was a development (albeit very early), it was a Spirit-willed development.

    I did not mean that the Spirit-guided development of the episcopate shows that the Catholic Church is the substance of His mystical Body – and therefore valid; that would be circular, begging the question; I only meant that I thought determining where that Body is is logically prior to judging (putative) developments within that Body. If, of course, the episcopate was envisioned and known to the apostles from the Words of Christ – and that may be the case – then there is no development. But my point was that development ought to be judged by its context – is this the ‘true church?’

    Or so it seems to me.

    jj

  106. Plus before you say “Well I am talking about the CtC crowd.”

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/08/review-of-robert-louis-wilkens-the-first-thousand-years-a-global-history-of-christianity/
    Please comment #27. Casey is already illustrating that we do not “need” that papal primacy be developed from year 33 A.D. to justify our Catholicity.

    And Tim’s blog on the development of presbyter to bishop. I just do not see how uncovering that there might have a plurality of presbyters in Rome or Antioch with houses that have liturgical practice takes away from CtC or Catholic thought on the early church.
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/holy-orders-and-the-priesthood/

  107. Ted (#86),

    Here is an extended quote from Lampe which can hopefully address some of your questions,

    Justin, Dialogue 47.2 testifies that the Christian men in private dwellings.

    Once can conclude from this evidence [all of the evidence he has presented about the impossibility of a private entity to own property, titular churches, etc.] of fractionation an interpretation of Apology 1.67. In this text, Justin reports of a Sunday liturgy “in one place” (epi to auto).; but a central assembly of Christianity in the city of Rome is by no means envisioned [he cites the work of another Justin scholar—the publication is in French, I believe—who comes to the same conclusion. I took a picture of the quote on my iPhone and so I can’t see the reference right now. Sorry!]. Justin here formulates much more generally, describing the Sunday worship of Christians, not only in Rome but in the entire world in “cities and villages” (67.3). They gather “in one place” and together they all hold an assembly (koine pantes ten suneleusin poioumetha ). Apology 1.67 is analogous to Act. Just. 3, where Justin speaks of the assemblies in his rented lodging with the same term, suneleusis. Apology 1.67 describes a typical liturgy in a house church community as a pattern that takes place everywhere in the world on Sundays. To identify the “presider” (proestos) of the liturgy, who appears in Apology 1.65.3, 5; 67.4f., with a monarchical Roman bishops who conducts liturgy for the Romans would be to read into the passage things that are not there…The liturgy described in Apology 1.67 was celebrated on Sundays in numerous places in the same time.

    As you’ll notice, Lampe points out that he uses the same word to describe the gathering mentioned in Apology 1.67 as he does in the Act. Justin. It is also possible that Justin had a school that worshipped somewhere else. That is entirely plausible. But that also does not mean that Christians met at a central place of worship.

    You ask,

    Or in other words, why are we so quick to utterly dismiss his “one place” words of Apology 1:67? Could anything be clearer? Is it to justify a form of presbyterianism that has dispersed elders around the city in house churches?

    To be clear, I am not attempting to force this into my paradigm. I really think it makes the most sense of all of the information we have and interprets Justin in a way that makes his statements understandable. So, no, the reason for my interpretation of Justin is not that I am trying to justify a form of presbyterianism.

    I can understand if that is not ultimately persuasive to you, but I think it makes the most sense of all the relevant data. I’ll get you the bibliographic information for the scholar Lampe cites but then I will probably bow out of this discussion.

  108. John,

    “The one thing you’ve left out here is “a patient and humble listening to the text”, which is the hallmark of the Evangelical hermeneutic. Neither the critical scholars, nor the keepers of the Roman Catholic “Tradition” (in the case of the New Testament) will “patiently and humbly” accept the text at what the author’s face-value intention is. (And again, I’d point you to the use of 1 Tim 3:15 in Lumen Gentium 8, as I’ve described it above). ”

    A few points.
    So those who disagree with conservative Reformed Protestant exegesis/conclusions are not “patiently and humbly” accepting the text in their studies? Can you imagine offering this type of statement in a seminar or conference?

    My (and others’ points) on meta-analysis have not been limited to just Scripture, but non-Scriptural documents as well – which we have been seeing in this thread with patristic evidences. You don’t accept Irenaeus’ statements at “face value”.

    Any non-Christian could use this exact reasoning. Muslims will say you are not “patiently and humbly” accepting the Qu’ran. Or Mormons and BoM. Or Jews and the OT. Secular/liberal scholars will say the same – that if you were honest with the text (and associated fields/data), you would come to their conclusions. Or any number of examples. It again shows that assumptions/presuppositions impact analysis, as Wallace recognized.

    “Here is where the real dividing line is: respect the text, or be the master of it. One way or another. ”

    You again are limiting the meta-analysis discussion to only Scripture, rather than all the other fields and subjects that are in play here. But regardless, one must analyze/interpret the text in respecting it. Part of this is how one brings together all the different strands from various fields (archaeology, history, philology, patristics, etc) to try to paint a coherent picture. Brandon has made an admirable effort. Paul Owen is as well. Lampe has as well. So has Cirlot and Dix. Not all scholars who disagree with each other are just hiding behind agendas, although some are of course. So I don’t find your stark dichotomy compelling in illuminating the underlying issues.

  109. Here is a response to a number of disparate comments:

    Abelian (#85),

    1. We have mutual ground on this point

    2. This is actually also a point of mutual ground. Fractionation, in the second century led to the disparate house churches to exercise discipline over aberrant teachers.

    3. There is nothing in Ignatius that suggests he believes there was a bishop in the city. I’ve not seen a single source which has postulated anything but the exact opposite—Ignatius’s silence is actually a legitimate argument against the existence of an episcopate.

    4. Hermas was a business man and not a clergyman. Her could have possibly had a connection with an officer in the church (the Muratorian Fragment suggests such) though Hermas never mentions that connection in his writings.

    I’m not entirely clear what you take these four pieces of evidence to show, but I don’t see any of it showing the existence of anything other than presbyter-bishops exercising oversight in Rome.

    Continuing in #90 you say,

    Brandon’s argument is that the episcopate developed late in Rome and so the alleged link between Peter and his successors does not exist in the Roman sense. Much of his thesis is reliant upon the theory that fractionation of churches in Rome implies a loose, non-hieararchAl presbytery. With this as background evidence, Brandon attempts to interpret the silence in Patristic sources as showing that the episcopacy developed late in ROme.

    This is getting closer to my argument, but it is still not quite there. In terms of space my article spent a very small amount of time on fractionation (because I spent 23 pages arguing it in my review). Fractionation is one piece of the puzzle, but for those interacted with my argument the assertion that the substance of my argument is one from silence must be abandoned. I’m not arguing from silence.

    I’m reconstructing what the explicit discussions concerning church government tell us. My argument is that all of the relevant data explicitly states that the Roman church was led by a plurality of presbyters.

    The claim of Sean Patrick in #93,

    Its just a happy coincidence (for us Catholics) that the moment the fathers started writing about church structure, they affirmed apostolic succession and nascent Petrine primacy.

    is startling. My entire article argues the exact opposite. It is a demonstrable fact that the first Fathers writing about church government did not affirm nascent Petrine Primacy and I’ve argued that they did not argue for a Roman Catholic notion of apostolic succession. My entire article stands against Sean’s claims.

    Furthermore, both Abelian and JJ (#89) seem to miss the import of what I’m saying. My argument is that neither Jesus nor the Apostles established a hierarchy among the presbyters. What I find curious is JJ’s question,

    Isn’t it possible that the Providence of God is behind this? To me, the idea of trying to identify the right Church by whether it follows the right polity puts the cart before the horse. If the Catholic Church is the subsistence of Christ’s Body on earth, then its polity can be expected to be what Christ intended. If it is not, then it’s not clear to me that we have any way of knowing what polity (if any) Christ intended.

    The hypothetical is in stark contrast to what Bryan and Neal argue,

    Magisterial authority in the Church, however, cannot be acquired only through providence.

    In response to JJ I ask a question of my own: Why do you believe that the Catholic Church is the subsistence of Christ’s body?

    In my understanding of the CtC apologetic, this is believed because of Apostolic Succession [again, we must remember the sacramental nature believed by Catholics and not simple tactile succession which most every Protestant would expect]. But if that is the answer, then it is actually JJ’s position that puts the cart before the horse.

  110. Hi Brandon,

    You seem to be busy so I won’t prolong our conversation here. I’d like to make a few final observations, which you are free to respond to without concern for further comments from me.

    [quote]You are also falsely presupposing that because John mentions churches and that Ignatius mentions some of them as bishops that therefore there were bishops when John wrote. It would seem to me that you would need to work to substantiate that connection.[/quote]

    I think this comment is revealing of how people sympathetic to the Roman position and their opponents differ over the significance of silence. To me, the Roman position relies on several touch points:

    1. The explicitly recorded development of church government in documents generally attested to have reached their final form during or at the end of the Apostolic era.;
    2. Irenaeus subsequent reliance on the notion of the importance of receiving one’s doctrine from an unbroken chain of successors from the apostles. This may not show the presence of a monarchical episcopacy stretching all the way back, but it is significant that he thinks that a line of succession unambiguously exists. Likewise for Hegesippus – he too thinks that tracing this line of doctrinal succession is important, and that it can be done.

    Now, you are right to note that just because Ignatius mentions bishops doesn’t mean that they existed during John’s time. True. But it is also true that John’s failure to mention bishops does not mean that they did not exist during John’s time. John cannot help us either way. But the key is that John does not explicitly contradict the possibility of there being a teaching office.

    Likewise for the rest of the silent documents: is there a decent explanation for Ignatius’ silence concerning the bishop of Rome? I think so. Is there one for Hermas? I think so and have argued for it in the preceding discussion. However, can one construct a case, such as you have done, that attempts to show from the silence that there was no teaching office? Yes, but I am inclined to distrust what you and I both think about the implicit evidence because our reasoning is heavily reliant on ‘if I were him I would have done this’ sort of thinking.

    That is why I am inclined to place the explicit testimony of Hegesippus and Irenaeus that there was some sort of clearly traceable teaching office over our tentative speculations about what so-and-so might have written. One can certainly knock down the reliability of explicit testimony, as you have done, but in my estimation you have not knocked it down sufficiently for our conjectures about silence to take precedence.

    So what do we have? An atmosphere of doctrinal and ecclesial innovation in the NT, the presence of an inchoate hierarchy in the NT church (apostles over all, at the very least), and the claims of Hegesippus and Irenaeus that there were clear representatives of apostolic teaching that could be placed in a line back to the apostles. There is no explicit contradiction from other evidence, and conjectures from silence which can turn both ways. This, to me, renders the claim of Apostolic Succession as a means of identifying true doctrine more probable than the claim of those who deny it.

    A final note on why I am sympathetic to the Roman position – it relies on the same assumptions that led me to be convinced that Christ was a historical figure and that the apostles probably knew what they were talking about when they claimed that he was raised from the dead, despite the “astounding” lack of evidence to corroborate their claims: is there any evidence to confirm claims of the alleged 500 witnesses? No. Are there reports from contemporaneous skeptics that they, at least, witnessed any of the alleged miracles of Christ (but sought to explain them away)? No. Is the debate on the accuracy of the gospels settled? No. So why do I believe? Because I think that the explicit claims of the apostles and early Christians ought to be given priority over the “deafening” silence that non-believers keep howling about, and that once this is done the Resurrection becomes more probable.

    Once again, thank you for the discussion. May your time be fruitfully spent enlarging the boundaries of God’s kingdom.

  111. Brandon (#110),

    Sorry for posting this after I had agreed not to speak any further, but I have just seen your comments and would like to leave my last thoughts on them. Please read this in conjunction with my promise in (#111) not to detain you any further.

    [quote]Hermas was a business man and not a clergyman. Her could have possibly had a connection with an officer in the church (the Muratorian Fragment suggests such) though Hermas never mentions that connection in his writings.[/quote]

    If Hermas was indeed a businessman, then it seems to make a lot more sense to favour the explicit testimony that he had access to someone who had some sort of precedence in the presbytery, given his apparent ability to quell the unruly presbytery, his ready access to command the channels of communication in the church, to order the presbyters to read his letter, and the subsequent veneration that was accorded his writing.

    [quote]I’m not entirely clear what you take these four pieces of evidence to show, but I don’t see any of it showing the existence of anything other than presbyter-bishops exercising oversight in Rome.[/quote]

    I intended to show how the evidence could be interpreted in a way that demonstrates continuity with Hegesippus and Irenaeus’ apparent confidence that a clearly traceable line of a readily identifiable teaching authority embodied in successive individuals reaching back to the apostles in each city could be established. In particular, I wanted to check whether explaining the silence of Ignatius to the Romans could be explained by postulating an early, instead of late rise, of a clearly defined teaching office in Rome. If that can be done, then the silence can be explained in a alternative way, contrary to prevailing academic opinion (insofar as you have presented it), which is congruous with the behaviour of Irenaeus and Hegesippus.

  112. Brandon (#109)

    In response to JJ I ask a question of my own: Why do you believe that the Catholic Church is the subsistence of Christ’s body?

    The short answer is because it seems to me, from looking at Jesus’s words and the rest of the New Testament simply as history (i.e. not as revelation), what He intended – and what the New Testament church thought of itself as – was a single, organised visible body as a church, not simply the collection of those whom He secretly knew to be His – and I see no remotely plausible candidate for such a body in the world today except the Catholic Church.

    I recall saying to my wife, during the year I was struggling with the question whether to become a Catholic (I had been Reformed), that if I didn’t end up a Catholic, I would never be able to believe in a divinely-ordained visible Church again. I might, for practical reasons, join myself from time to time to this or that body of persons calling themselves Christians – or I might just be some sort of Quaker hermit and dwell on the Inner Light. But I came to the conclusion that if the Catholic Church wasn’t the Body of Christ, then it existed only in the mind of God.

    In my understanding of the CtC apologetic, this is believed because of Apostolic Succession [again, we must remember the sacramental nature believed by Catholics and not simple tactile succession which most every Protestant would expect]. But if that is the answer, then it is actually JJ’s position that puts the cart before the horse.

    No, I don’t think this can be right. Apostolic Succession explains the persistence of the Church; not its existence. Otherwise, as someone else commented, there is no reason that Luther can’t consider himself in the Apostolic Succession – or Joseph Smith, for the matter of that.

    jj

  113. Brandon.

    Just to respond quickly to something you said about one of my comments…

    My entire article argues the exact opposite. It is a demonstrable fact that the first Fathers writing about church government did not affirm nascent Petrine Primacy and I’ve argued that they did not argue for a Roman Catholic notion of apostolic succession. My entire article stands against Sean’s claims.

    You have argued, from silence (which you admit), that certain father’s silence about apostolic succession or bishops points to a lack of episcopal government and points to presbyterial government. But that is the not same thing as demonstrating that the first Fathers did not affirm apostolic succession or the office of bishop. What I mean to say is that there are no early fathers that deny, outright, the mono-episcopy or apostolic succession. There are no early church fathers who wrote, for example, “There is no succession of the apostles and Linus did not succeed Peter.”

    On the contrary, when the first fathers started writing directly about apostolic succession and Petrine primacy, they affirmed it. And when those fathers wrote it and affirmed it, those writings did not invite cries of invention from other fathers. No fathers raised their hand and said, “Wait a minute, we are supposed to be presbyterial. What’s all this bishop nonsense!?!”

    That’s what I mean.

  114. Hi Brandon (107),

    Thank you for your interaction with me thus far, and the further block quote from Lampe. I’ve ordered Lampe’s book and hope to read his research and conclusions next week. From your super-helpful article, I look forward to reading it. So there’s no need to take your time helping me more on that end. But thanks for indulging me in your previous responses.

    As a Biblicist I would much prefer to convince you that there was a single church in Rome from the evidence in Romans rather than Justin Martyr and his Apology. Perhaps I can do that in a follow-up comment; I would hope you, like me, would not want to believe something the text of Scripture, in Romans, quite simply doesn’t allow. Separate house churches – even if connected by presbyters – would have violated several moral imperatives in Paul’s letter.

    I just find it curious that you agree with Lampe’s multiple house church theory in Rome while maintaining a Presbyterian – connectional form. The early church data you presented above from the Fathers entirely supported a pure eldership form in a single church in Rome. One set of presbyters in Rome in the same church was the obvious conclusion of your research – and I rejoiced in your article, except for Lampe.

    Have you considered the necessity of a plurality of qualified elders in each house church in order for that house church to be viable ecclesiologically – elsewise it would meet under another house church that did have multiple elders? – for by the time of the writing of Romans, multiple elderships in established churches were an apostolic mandate (Precept: Titus 1:5; Example: Acts 14:23). Aquila and Prisca would have understood this, having been in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19, Rom. 16:3-5).

    So if Lampe argues for just 5 house churches in Rome in accordance with the alleged 5 house churches in Romans 16, and you argue for each having a plurality of elders, that makes a minimum of what, 15 elders in Rome in 58 AD?

    Or, if Lampe argues that house churches met in the typical domiciles of Rome, then the house churches were both very small indeed and very many, right? Yet since the churches of the NT are all eldership churches – and no other polity is evidenced in either precept or example – then do the math on how many presbyters are required in Rome by the time of Justin. One thousand? Two thousand? Have you considered the ecclesiastical consequences?

    It makes the idea that they were connectional and not unified in the same church – and then later transitioned to a single bishop – multiple presbyter arrangement, quite incredible.

  115. Brandon A,

    I would like to challenge your assessment of the canonical evidence. Especially as it pertains to the book of Acts. It seems that you would like to use Acts 15 as evidence of the early Church operating under the same governing principles as today’s confessional reformed. you cite that 1. James made the decision 2. The decision of the council was not presented as James’ but as a group decision and 3. the council consisted of a plurality of presbyters and elders. I want to first show that the Council itself is a perfect example of the RC conception of conciliar infallibility and then also refute the idea that it was James and not Peter presiding over the council.

    Acts 15:28-29: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity.”

    Do reformed protestants today cite the Holy Spirit when delivering decisions reached by a plurality of elders and presbyters? If so, how is it that the PCA can justify its schism from the PCUSA? I have heard people say before that this council was governed by apostles and so inspired in a way that future councils could not be but this response seems to simplistic in that it assumes the truth of reformed views on cessationism a priori. Scripture is our model for everything, including Church government, and all parties appeal to it for their own views (including yourself in this very post). If Scripture teaches that a council of the Church is authoritative and binding, then it is implausible and unreasonable to assert that no future council can be so simply because it is not conducted by apostles. In the next chapter, we read that Paul, Timothy, and Silas were traveling around “through the cities,” and

    “. . . they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached
    by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.” (Acts 16:4)

    This is Church authority. They simply proclaimed the decree as true and binding — with the sanction of the Holy Spirit Himself! This would seem to insinuate infallibility and a irrevocable decision not up for further discussion or dissent. No one was at liberty to disobey these decrees on the grounds of “conscience,” or to declare by “private judgment” that they were in error (per Luther). Far from being evidence for reformed church government I think that we have a prime example of RC (or at least EO) infallible conciliar authority.

    Scripture wasn’t written in a vacuum and when one considers the way the ECFs considered future Councils (as infallible and protected by the Holy Spirit) this line of reasoning is only strengthened. Eminent reformed historian Phillip Schaff writes that

    The authority of these [ecumenical] councils in the decision of all points of controversy was supreme and final.

    Their doctrinal decisions were early invested with infallibility; the promises of the Lord respecting the indestructibleness of his church, his own perpetual presence with the ministry, and the guidance of the Spirit of truth, being applied in the full sense to those councils, as representing the whole church. After the example of the apostolic council, the usual formula for a decree was: Visum est Sprirtui Sancto et nobis. Constantine the Great, in a circular letter to the churches, styles the decrees of the Nicene council a divine command; a phrase, however, in reference to which the abuse of the word divine, in the language of the Byzantine despots, must not be forgotten. Athanasius says, with reference to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ: “What God has spoken by the council of Nice, abides forever.” The council of Chalcedon pronounced the decrees of the Nicene fathers unalterable statutes, since God himself had spoken through them. The council of Ephesus, in the sentence of deposition against Nestorius, uses the formula: “The Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has blasphemed, determines through this most holy council.” Pope Leo speaks of an “irretractabilis consensus” of the council of Chalcedon upon the doctrine of the person of Christ. Pope Gregory the Great even placed the first four councils, which refuted and destroyed respectively the heresies and impieties of Arius, Macedonius, Nestorius, and Eutyches, on a level with the four canonical Gospels. In like manner Justinian puts the dogmas of the first four councils on the same footing with the Holy Scriptures, and their canons by the side of laws of the realm.

    (History of the Christian Church, Vol. III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 311-600, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974, from the revised fifth edition of 1910, 340-342; available online: see this particular portion online: § 65. The Synodical System. The Ecumenical Councils)

    Thus, Tradition stands firmly on the side of the Roman Catholic Church’s view of Acts 15 and its perpetuity as an example for future councils than that of the reformed and their conception of fallible councils and majority opinion.

    I would also object to James as “being the one who made the decision”. Carl Olsen supplies evidence that it was actually Peter who presided over the Council of Jerusalem when he writes…

    As for Acts 15, a number of factors point to Peter actually being both the leader at the council and the leader of the early Church. First, there is the manner in which his speech begins and ends. By standing up to speak after the debate had subsided, Peter made an emphatic physical gesture affirming his authority and centrality. The silence afterwards indicated the finality of what Peter had just said; no one disputes either his speech or his right to make it. In fact, the witness of Paul and Barnabas, along with James’s speech, only reinforce and agree with what Peter says.

    Secondly, few non-Catholic commentators seem to notice the striking wording Peter used in his speech. If he was only a witness, wouldn’t he have appealed only to his experience? But while Peter did focus on his experience, the main object of his speech was God: “God made a choice among you, that by my mouth . . .”; “And God . . . bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit”; “He made no distinction”; and “why therefore do you put God to the test?” (vs. 7-10). It is readily apparent that Peter was quite comfortable in being a spokesman for God. Even James seems to take this for granted by stating, “Simeon has related how God first concerned himself . . .” (v. 14). There is an immediacy to Peter’s relating of God’s work which is noticeably absent from James’s speech.

    As mentioned, Paul, Barnabas, and James all reinforced and agreed with Peter’s declaration, albeit in different ways. The first two related “the signs and wonders God” had been working “among the Gentiles” (v. 12). James pointed first to the words of Peter and then to the Prophets (vs. 14-15). Those who claim James’s speech was the definitive one point to the language in verse 19 (“Therefore it is my judgement . . .”) as evidence for James’s primacy. Yet James is simply suggesting a way of implementing what Peter had already definitively expressed. “Peter speaks as the head and spokesman of the apostolic Church,” state Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, “He formulates a doctrinal judgment about the means of salvation, whereas James takes the floor after him to suggest a pastoral plan for inculturating the gospel in mixed communities where Jewish and Gentile believers live side by side (15:13-21)”

    He then follows this up with 10 other scriptural evidences of Petrine primacy including…

    1. Peter’s name occurs first in all lists of apostles (Mt 10:2, Mk 3:16, Lk 6:14, Acts 1:13), except Galatians 2. Matthew even calls him the “first” (10:2).

    2. Peter alone receives a new name, Rock, solemnly conferred (Jn 1:42, Mt 16:18).

    3. Peter is regarded by Jesus as the Chief Shepherd after himself (Jn 21:15-17), singularly by name, and over the universal Church, even though others have a similar but subordinate role (Acts 20:28, 1 Pt 5:2).

    4. Peter alone among the apostles is mentioned by name as having been prayed for by Jesus Christ in order that his “faith may not fail” (Lk 22:32).

    5. Peter alone among the apostles is exhorted by Jesus to “strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32).

    6. Peter first confesses Christ’s divinity (Mt 16:16).

    7. Peter alone is told that he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation (Mt 16:17).

    8. Peter is regarded by the Jews (Acts 4:1-13) as the leader and spokesman of Christianity.

    9. Peter is regarded by the common people in the same way (Acts 2:37-41; 5:15).

    In Acts, Peter gave the sermon at Pentecost (Acts 1:14-36), led the replacing of Judas (1:22), worked the first miracle of the Church age (3:6-12), and condemned Ananias and Sapphira (5:2-11). His mere shadow worked miracles (5:15); he was the first person after Christ to raise the dead (9:40), and he took the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Peter’s name appears at least 54 times in Acts; James appears a total of four times.

    When one weighs these evidences against Peter “referring to himself as a fellow elder” there doesn’t seem to be much of a controversy. In summary then I find that Acts 15 if used as an example for Church government is a fatal blow to the reformed conception of conciliar fallibility and sola scriptura. Tradition also sides with the RC view of Acts 15 and the idea that the Holy Spirits protection and authoritative stamp would be with all christian councils in perpetuity and not just confined to the pages of the book of Acts. I defy the idea that James presided over the Council of Jerusalem and that Peters self reference as a “fellow presbyter” undoes the mountain of scriptural evidence we have for petrine primacy and the role of binding and loosing given to Peter when he alone obtained the Keys to the Kingdom.

  116. Someone I know just showed me this interesting detail from Paul’s private letter to Timothy. Paul tells Timothy, “remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine” (1 Tim 1:3), strongly suggesting Timothy was a head-bishop, since even though we already know there were bishops in Ephesus, it’s still Timothy’s unique job to stop the troublemakers. The fact these troublemakers were said to be ‘teaching’ could also suggest they were clergy. And later in the private letter, Paul tells Timothy: “Do not accept an accusation against a presbyter unless it is supported by two or three witnesses” (5:19). In other words, who judges a presbyter/bishop? Paul says that’s Tim’s job, not the job of the collective of bishops of Ephesus. Such evidence as this, among other things, would suggest that Paul was conditioning Timothy for a transition from a hierarchy of Paul-Presbyter-Deacon to that of Timothy-Presbyter-Deacon, which is Apostolic Succession in its essence.

  117. Kenneth (115),

    Regarding a conciliar decision in line with episcopal polity, have you considered the fact that there is only one church mentioned (Acts 15:3-4, 22) as witnessing the decision making of the apostles and elders? This makes the elders of Acts 16:4 the elders of Jerusalem only.

    Luke uses the singular word “church” to describe one church. And when Luke wants to describe multiple churches, behold, he uses “churches” (Acts 15:41, 16:4). Stunning, I know ;). But there were not multiple churches represented at the JC. Sorry, Brandon.

    And James’ personal judgment (15:19) is only his agreeing with Peter? Then why didn’t he say something esoteric like, gee, idk, “I agree with Peter?” Did you know the word for judgment is krino? It never means “agreement,” – there lots of NT words for that – but for coming to a judgment.

    Now, most episcopal polity types want James to be the big cahuna. After all, He is both apostle and elder and speaks more than Peter (like, a lot). Then he dictates the letter which represents the consensus decision, not Peter. Then we find out the words weren’t really his at all, but the Holy Spirit’s (15:28).

    I say James wins, because the Holy Spirit’s communique to the churches comes through him, not Peter.

  118. Ted,

    I don’t see how the use of the singular or plural word for church is really all that significant. It’s largely irrelevant to my appeal to history. Even if we grant that it’s local elders only that still leaves you with a Council whose authority is binding and authoritative over the entire church since Paul took the letter to all the “cities” to show what had been decided only one chapter later.

    James Akin addresses your linguistic argument on james’ use of the word “judgement” in this way.

    JimmyAkin
    Was James, not Peter, the head of the Church after Jesus?

    BY JIMMY AKIN Sunday, June 09, 2013 11:44 PM Comments (20)

    Was St. James the Just the leader of the early Church–or was St. Peter?
    Some claim that it was James, not Peter, who was the leader of the early Church after the time of Christ.
    What evidence can they provide for this claim?
    And what evidence is there against it?

    Which James?
    “James” was a common name in first century Judea, and there were several men named James who are mentioned in the New Testament.
    Unfortunately, precisely how many Jameses there are many is not clear.
    They are described different ways, and it is not clear whether a James described in one passage is the same as the James mentioned in another.
    The James who assumed a prominent leadership role in the Jerusalem church after the time of Christ is known as “the brother of the Lord.”
    This James is sometimes identified with James the son of Alphaeus, who is also identified with James “the Less.”
    However, Benedict XVI noted:
    Among experts, the question of the identity of these two figures with the same name, James son of Alphaeus and James “the brother of the Lord”, is disputed [General Audience, Jun. 28, 2006].
    Regardless of how this issue is to be settled, there is one James in the New Testament who is clearly not the one in question—James the son of Zebedee, because he was martyred quickly (Acts 12:1-2).
    Advocates of the “James not Peter” viewpoint have two major texts that they can appeal to, and neither is very good.

    The Galatians 2 Argument
    The first is Galatians 2:11-12, where Paul writes:
    But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
    For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
    This has been taken to display a certain deference on Peter’s part to James.
    But James isn’t even there. Peter’s not deferring to him but to the sensibilities of men associated with him (“the circumcision party”).
    What’s the explanation for this?
    The most logical one is not that James is the man in charge but that Peter is simply trying to keep peace between different groups within the Church.
    That is, itself, something leaders often have to do.
    Furthermore, the fact that, in Galatians, Paul uses Peter as a test case for the authority of his gospel strongly suggests that Peter is the leader.
    Paul wants to show that his gospel is above any man, and using the top man as a test case is an excellent way to show that.

    The Acts 15 Argument
    The second major passage is Acts 15, where the Jerusalem council is held.
    This council is presented as having the following stages:
    1. There is “much debate” (v. 7a).
    2. Peter gets up and says, “you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe” (v. 7b). He points out that God accepted the gentiles without the Law of Moses and so it should not be imposed on them now (v. 8-11).
    3. Barnabas and Paul relate the signs and wonders God has been doing through them as they preached to the gentile (vv. 12).
    4. James says, “Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name” (v. 14), he cites a corresponding Old Testament proof text (vv. 15-18), endorses the idea of not imposing the Mosaic Law on the gentiles (v. 19), and goes on to make several proposals to keep Jewish Christians from being scandalized by the behavior of gentiles, because “from early generations Moses has had in every city those who preach him” (v. 21).
    This text does not show that James was more authoritative than Peter, for several reasons:
    · Peter, along with Barnabas, Paul, and James, are viewed together as the debate closers. It is “after much debate” that Peter speaks. He initiates the process of closing the debate and coming to a conclusion.
    · Peter reminds people of his unique role in how the question was originally settled.
    · James also refers to how the question was originally settled through Peter.
    · James makes his comments about not scandalizing Jewish believers as a pastoral way of implementing a decision that he, Peter, and Barnabas and Paul are all in agreement on.
    The thing Luke is here concerned to stress for us is that all four of these figures are in agreement. That’s his main message.
    Some have tried to claim a special authority for James because, in some translations, he says, in verse 19, “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.”
    The fact he uses the phrase “my judgment” is taken to imply that he is acting as a judge, as the final authority, but this is far too much to hang on this single word (Greek, krino), which also means, “I think.”
    Indeed, even in English, saying, “In my judgment we ought to do this . . .” in no way implies that the one expressing this view is a judge, much less the final authority on the matter.

    Hope that helps to clear up your misconceptions!

  119. What destroys the Presbyterian argument is this:

    1.) The Apostles were presbyters/bishops to yet they told other bishops/presbyters what to do.

    2.) A plurality of leadership doesn’t = the Presbyterian position for its obvious that all leaders weren’t equal in authority.

  120. Kenneth (118),

    I don’t see how the use of the singular or plural word for church is really all that significant. It’s largely irrelevant to my appeal to history. Even if we grant that it’s local elders only that still leaves you with a Council whose authority is binding and authoritative over the entire church since Paul took the letter to all the “cities” to show what had been decided only one chapter later.

    You propose to connect the church councils of church history to the JC, and to through them assert episcopal polity. But those councils had representative/bishops from many, many churches. Not so with the JC. Just one church present. Therefore, the authority of the JC was not that one church, but the apostles, under the direct revelatory inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:4, 15:28). If you want to make an argument for an episcopos at the JC, it’s best to identify Him as the Holy Spirit.

    Sorry, krino always means “judge,” never “think,” in spite of what Jimmy Akin says. Grab yourself a theological dictionary, or a lexicon, and do the real work of looking it up yourself.

  121. Ted,

    I do see «think» in my 2001 Strong’s.

  122. Ted,

    Thayer and Smiths theological dictionary and lexicon show that krino can mean “to think”…. Perhaps you were mistaken?

    http://m.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/krino.html

    Further, gills exposition of the Bible comments

    Wherefore my sentence is,…. Opinion or judgment in this case, or what he reckoned most advisable to be done; for he did not impose his sense upon the whole body, but proposed it to them

    So again, as I said, when this feeble and weak linguistic argument is set against the other evidence throughout the new testament that Peter was the head apostle, it is more reasonable to conclude that Peter presided over and decided the Council of Jerusalem.

    Now about the “multiple churches” argument. If the definition of “ecumenical council” was that multiple churches attended and made a judgement we would have a whole lot more than 21 ecumenical councils on our hands. The important thing to focus on is the attendance of the Rock (keeper of the keys) and the universal and authoritatively binding nature of the decision. The participants of future ecumenical Council didn’t seem to get the message that the JCs authority was based solely on the inspiration of the apostles as they also cite the Holy Spirits stamp of approval and treat conciliar decisions as infallible (per schaff). “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us…..”

    I think it’s very brave of Brandon to try and turn one of his greatest biblical weaknesses into a strength but the evidence just isn’t on your side

  123. Kenneth,
    If ” it is more reasonable to conclude that Peter presided over and decided the Council of Jerusalem” then why did James make the final decision–”19 Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.”? Acts 15

  124. Brandon,

    Thank you for your article. I wish I could participate in the discussion, but knowledge is very spare. I will, though, be following it very closely.

    Pax,
    Brian

  125. Pat,

    My last few comments lay out an argument as to why it was not James who made the decision. Please reference those comments

  126. Kenneth,
    If James did not make the final decision in Acts 15 then why does James speak as if he is the final judge of this matter? Someone had to speak for the entire council and that was James and not Peter or anyone else. Atkins article falls short of showing that Peter “Peter presided over and decided the Council of Jerusalem” .

  127. Paul (#103),

    1. Certainly understandable. I agree with BDAG, generally speaking, while you agree with BAGD. I still think you need to do more than mention the use of the word to show that Judas held some kind of episcopal office, but I’m content leaving our disagreement here.

    2. Again, I’m not sure I see the parallels between Nazareth and Ignatius. We have 5 NT books (4 independent) which speak about Nazareth all from the first century (or if you take critical views of John and Luke/Acts, the early to middle second century) testifying to Nazareth’s existence. Regarding Ignatius, he doesn’t speak to the leadership of the church in Rome even though he does so at every other location. And this silence about a monarchical bishop coincides with explicit discussion of the church government being led by multiple presbyter-bishops. The social situation of earliest Rome continues to affirm this.

    3. My argument is that Ignatius is wrong (or is perhaps polemical stating his position as *the* position of the church) about the prevalence of the episcopate in Asia Minor. Even if there are bishops in place by the time he is writing, the silence of John regarding leadership is not equivalent to the silence of Ignatius as I’ve attempted to outline in various comments.

    4. Because Ignatius is (conspicuously) silent about the leadership in Rome while fuller information tells us what was going on before and after the time of Ignatius’s writing. But just to be clear, the silence of Ignatius is just one further corroborating piece of evidence in my larger case. It is important not to myopically focus on this one point because even if the silence of Ignatius in his letter is not favorable to my case it is not favorable for the CtC argument either.

    5. I think this point is false and misleading. It is not about the reconstruction of scholars, it is about properly exegeting the texts that we have at our disposal. Ignatius is conspicuously silent (what he knows of the church structure of Rome he does not say). Irenaeus’s list is composed c. 180 AD and is based off of the list of Hegesippus who is writing about the succession of doctrine and does not provide an exhaustive list of “bishops.” What makes me uncomfortable about the outlines of your position is that it requires us to enshrine the testimony of individuals writing much later in significantly different contexts than the earliest witnesses.

    6. I share your conservative estimate of 2 Peter and Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, but there is much more evidence for these things than for a monarchical bishop in Rome. And the reason for acceptance of authentic authorship is not singularly rooted in the traditional memory of the church. I’m not entirely sure that you are saying that your acceptance of the monarchical episcopate is singularly rooted to the traditional memory of the church, but that is how I’ve understood a number of your responses.

    7. Jerome doesn’t specify a time frame, but my comment was that Jerome’s indication of development serves my thesis of second century development. We don’t know when Jerome believed the development occurred, but that fact that it did only substantiates that when the church operated this way under Clement and Hermas that the development took place in the second century.

    Regarding the grammar of Titus, your explanation actually does not make better sense grammatically or syntactically—it actually encounters some interpretive problems. For example, are the presbyters referred to in v.5 the same people Paul is describing in v.7? If not, how do you make sense of Paul’s connection between v.5-6 and the δεῖ γὰρ of v.7? Furthermore, my explanation has grammatical and lexical precedent in the Pauline tradition (both Acts and 1 Timothy). Gordon Fee, quoted in my article, states it best,

    The evidence that emerges in the PE corresponds very closely to this state of affairs [that according to 1 Thess 5:12; Rom 12:8; Phil 1:1 leadership was by a multiplicity of men]. Although some have argued that Timothy and Titus were to appoint a single episkopos, under whom there would be a group of deacons, exegesis of the key passages (1 Tim 3:1-2, 8, 5:17; Titus 1:5-7) and a comparison with Acts 20:17, 28 indicates otherwise.

    In all cases leadership was plural. These leaders are called elder in 1 Tim 5:17; Titus 1:5. They were to be appointed in Crete by Titus…The term “elders” is probably a covering term for both overseers and deacons. In any case, the grammar of Titus 1:5,7 demands that “elder” and “overseer” are interchangeable terms (as in Acts 20:17, 28), but they are not thereby necessarily coextensive.

  128. Pat,

    Reference my first post addressed to Brandon

  129. Ken and Michael TX (121, 122),

    You are both right – I see “think” listed as a lexicon entry in the source you provided, Ken. I was relying on BAGD and also NIDNTT. So there are some lexicons that list it. Thanks. I’ll not make that mistake again.

    But that doesn’t mean the word krino ever meant “think” as in “suggest, recommend.” Krino meant to make a division in its original (classic) sense, hence to divide, make a discernment, a distinction. From there it always had some meaning of come to conclusion, render judgment. Gill’s quote above in Ken’s #122 is a perfect example of this – coming to a judgment. Krino features hundred of entries in the NT due to its basic verbal verbal form, its noun form, and especially, due to the many prefixes added to its verbal form – all of which build on the basic meaning of krino as “making a judgment.”

    If you still want to prove me wrong, look through the uses of krino in the NT, and try to find one, even one, that doesn’t mean, “judgment” but means “think, suppose.”

    Who but Catholics posit Peter as the lead at the JC? Who but the EO, Anglican, or episcopalian posits James as its leader? Who but the Reformed posit the elders of multiple churches as the decision makers (but see my comm box #117)? And who but the congregationalist claims the church of Jerusalem was the ultimate authority (Acts 15:22)?

    Everybody is agenda driven when they read Acts 15. The solution? Acts 16:4. Scripture tells who made the decision – or else Paul and Silas misrepresented the human agency making the council’s decision of the documents to the churches, a morally insufficient answer.

    But none of these three polities features a precept in the NT – all rely on agenda-driven interpretations of the JC. All are bridges to ecclesial disobedience, as I’ve written on here (http://www.churchsonefoundation.com/the-bridge-to-nowhere/).

  130. Brandon (127),

    Thanks for your helpful feedback. I think we have some points of impasse here, but I’m enjoying the conversation. I’ll just add a few other thoughts.

    1. Do you agree with Jerome that the elevation of one presbyter above the others to the role of bishop, in Alexandria at least, began with St. Mark? And would that not give it “apostolic” (in the loose sense) sanction?

    2. You seem to think there were no bishops in Asia Minor ca. 95 when John wrote, but they were already installed as bishops at the very beginning of the second century when Ignatius wrote. Am I understanding you correctly? Is that not kind of an oddity? Did the Ignatian bishops really just pop out of nowhere?

    3. As to the Pastorals, let me clarify. Yes, I believe the presbyters in Titus 1:5 are the same people being described in verse 7. I am taking kata polin in the distributive sense of “city by city.” Paul speaks of presbyters in the plural because he is speaking of multiple cities in Crete. And he speaks of “presbyters” either because the two terms are still interchangable at this point, or because the “bishop” is selected from among the presbyters. In other words, what Paul is describing is not the ordaining of a group of presbyters for every church/city, but the appointing of one particular presbyter to be the “bishop” in each city.

  131. I will again respond in this one comment to a number of comments.

    Susan (#94),

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I don’t know the details of your conversion or the conversation with your pastors but I am sorry if they were less than helpful in getting your questions answered. This website is a testimony to the fact that Catholicism is a serious option for Christians and if your pastors didn’t treat it that way then that is a shame (though again, I don’t know specifics and don’t intend to impugn them in any way).

    In terms of the substance of the article though, I want to reiterate again and again—I am not arguing from silence. The Catholic is. I’m arguing what the evidence says to us and the Catholic response thus far has been that it is possible that a bishop could have existed even though none of the evidence tells us that he did. Using that methodological approach, there is no way I could possibly falsify your position. Consider the way Sean Patrick puts it in comment #113,

    You have argued, from silence (which you admit), that certain father’s silence about apostolic succession or bishops points to a lack of episcopal government and points to presbyterial government. But that is the not same thing as demonstrating that the first Fathers did not affirm apostolic succession or the office of bishop. What I mean to say is that there are no early fathers that deny, outright, the mono-episcopy or apostolic succession. There are no early church fathers who wrote, for example, “There is no succession of the apostles and Linus did not succeed Peter.”

    Sean falsely equates my utilization of arguments from silence in some cases (like Ignatius) to my entire argument being from silence. That is incorrect, but more importantly Sean is arguing that in order to falsify monarchical episcopacy I would need an explicit statement that it did not exist. The only problem with this is that if it didn’t exist, there is no way that someone in that time frame could have written anything condemning it. It didn’t exist. That is why Sean’s approach to falsifying historical events is flawed. Using his methodology there is no way to falsify any historical claim. His continued protestations that the earliest fathers affirmed apostolic succession (in a sacramental sense) and Petrine primacy is true only in the trivial sense that the first writers mentioning it affirmed it—but they are writing much later, particularly regarding Petrine primacy.

    Sean’s approach falls prey to something you say, Susan,

    I believe that when people are looking for the primitive church they have already decided that whatever it looked like it didn’t look like this or that aspect of the RCC; but that is a prejudice look and there is no historical or anthropological evidence to back that claim.

    There are no good reasons to believe the traditional RCC narrative that Jesus founded the RCC. What I tried to do is show that there is no (published) expert in the field that believes that he did from the Catholic or Protestant side. You can implicitly impugn the motives of all of the scholars in the academic community because they are colored by their biases, but I don’t think that approach will lead you into truth. There is significant historical evidence to substantiate my claims and as difficult as it is to wade through it all, I would strongly encourage you to consider all the evidence before determining that no such evidence exists.

    RE Abelian (#95 & #110),

    I’m not Episcopalian for theological reasons. I really do believe that Presbyterian polity is the most accurate reflection of biblical polity , however, that is not what I am arguing in this article and so making that case here would distract from my thesis.

    Regarding the methodology for the Church being the same for the resurrection, that is very difficult for me to accept because the volume of evidence for the resurrection is breath-taking, in its own right. When compared to the evidence for the RCC, I’m not even sure how to categorize them because they are not in the same stratosphere. As I’ve noted elsewhere, historical investigation can never demand the assent of faith—it is faith after all—but it can show us that the object of our faith is unwarranted. With the resurrection, I believe that by faith because I believe it also historically defensible. The Catholic claims on the other hand are not, as I have argued.

    Drew (#104),

    The question remains “even if their are multiple presbyters in Rome why does that mean that one of them cannot have a certain authority over them?” Even today there are multiple Bishops residing in cities from different rites. Even today that does not lead to “well then the Roman Church is wrong.”

    I know you are asking this question of me, but it is the precise question you need to answer. I have never said that the multiplicity of bishops necessarily entails that there cannot also be a bishop. I’ve argued that we should take the earliest sources at face value which state that there were multiple presbyters ruling the church in Rome. If you want to argue that there was some hierarchy, then it is incumbent upon you to show why/how someone in Rome exercised oversight over the presbyters.

    JJ (#112)

    You stated,

    The short answer is because it seems to me, from looking at Jesus’s words and the rest of the New Testament simply as history (i.e. not as revelation), what He intended – and what the New Testament church thought of itself as – was a single, organised visible body as a church, not simply the collection of those whom He secretly knew to be His – and I see no remotely plausible candidate for such a body in the world today except the Catholic Church.

    But none of this answers my question, JJ. Why don’t you see a possible candidate for the church outside of the Catholic Church? Your answer seems to be that it’s because you feel that’s what Jesus established (reading the NT as “history”) but I’ve argued the other side of the coin. An historical reading of the texts of Scripture and post-canonical literature points in a completely different direction. Whatever you believe necessary for the Church to be “a single organized body” does not include bishops or a division of ministry along the threefold division of presbyters, bishops, and deacons.

    This is vital to your argument because if there was no succession of bishops, then your conception of the church’s structure is incorrect. This is precisely why Apostolic Succession is one of the essential tectonic plates in the RCC. Remove AS and you remove the essence of the RCC. AS is connected both to the essence and persistence of the church. After all, if the Church doesn’t persist, it doesn’t exist, so I’m not sure how that dichotomy works functionally.

    Kenneth (#115 ff),

    You seem to misunderstand and misapply my argument from Acts 15 as well as my larger argument. That is evident in this statement,

    It seems that you would like to use Acts 15 as evidence of the early Church operating under the same governing principles as today’s confessional reformed

    This is not what I am arguing. I tried to explicitly state that I was not making an argument for current Presbyterian practice in the introduction. Furthermore, notice how you move the discussion to infallibility, something which I explicitly note in footnote 22 is outside the scope of my argument. Your statement,

    Scripture is our model for everything, including Church government, and all parties appeal to it for their own views (including yourself in this very post).

    perpetuates this misunderstanding. I’m not defending Presbyterianism, I’m arguing for the church government in Rome being organized along “presbyterian” lines. The proceedings at the council demonstrate the leadership of the church by multiple presbyters with many of the key Apostles also being present. I simply wanted to point out that we see the importance of the presbyters (plural) at the council along with the Apostles.

    Your misunderstanding continues when you state that I claim James is the one who made the decision. I actually say precisely the opposite. James didn’t make the decision. The deliberative assembly did (15:22). James offers his judgment in conjunction with Peter, Paul, and Barnabas (with each testimony being along the same lines) and then the body, in assembly, made the decision together.

    To clarify, Acts 15 plays a small but specific role in my overall argument from the canonical section. In Acts 15, we see the importance of all elders in deliberation with one another with the oversight of the whole church in mind (Anachronistically we can say it resembles an ecumenical council because it is about the oversight of the whole church). Representatives from different areas of the church (particularly missionaries like Paul and Barnabas and those accompanying them (15:2)) gather together in assembly and reach a decision in a deliberative assembly. It is not an individual but the assembly as a whole that makes the decision. The council shows collegiality on a larger scale than any other section in Acts, but continues to reinforce on the universal scale what Acts has articulated about the structure of the church before the Council (Acts 6; 11:30; 14:23) and after the council (Acts 20).

    Hopefully this helps clarify things and shows why statements like this in #122,

    I think it’s very brave of Brandon to try and turn one of his greatest biblical weaknesses into a strength but the evidence just isn’t on your side

    are based upon misunderstanding. Hopefully now that I’ve clarified for you we can table discussions of infallibility and stick to the issue at hand, the governmental structure of the Church.

  132. Ted(129),

    I can see your point in how it is used throughout other scriptures, but often those uses are speaking from God. I am no scholar, nor do I claim to be able to put the time in to providing evidence for this point. I just think it makes the most sense of the text personally. James does not seem to be saying he is making a lone proclamation which is binding, but is putting together the closing determination from the Church council from his point of view, his “krino”. This “krino” of his includes the unified judgement of the Church which includes a statement of Apostolic revelation from God in Peter’s witness. Without which this “krino” of James would not be the case. I guess my major point is why are we fighting over who is leading and who is following in this council, because both Peter and James are both following and leading and the Holy Spirit is determining and protecting.

    In my understanding the Catholic view has to do with the importance of it being “the Church” which has not excluded Peter and his role that gives the individual Christian the assurance of being at the right council that the Holy Spirit will be protecting and determining. The Catholic point of view does not necessarily have Peter jump around talking about being the head.

    To a large degree I agree with your pessimism,

    Who but Catholics posit Peter as the lead at the JC? Who but the EO, Anglican, or episcopalian posits James as its leader? Who but the Reformed posit the elders of multiple churches as the decision makers (but see my comm box #117)? And who but the congregationalist claims the church of Jerusalem was the ultimate authority (Acts 15:22)?”

    My one thought to add though is that the Catholic, EO, Anglican and Episcopalian still believe in the general way this council worked yet the Reformed and Congregationalist do not believe the Holy Spirit still works in this definitive way. I have not found a Scriptural reason for this, only historic choices and individual determinations for this presumption. If you believe there is a council that can still work this way, you will be looking for a historic body of Christians that believes itself to be God’s unified, chosen, universal, and historic people. As the creed says, “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”

    I hope that helps you understand my mind on the subject.

    By the way I will try and read your article.

    Blessings,
    Michael

  133. Brandon,

    I have really enjoyed reading your article and the interactions you have made with everybody. You have been very cordial and kind. You have been a witness to Christ’s heart functioning in you. May God continue to bless you. I am not very deep in scholarly thinking or circles, but I think I have a good grasp on the point of view you have brought forward. I can even see the merits have weight.
    I think the place which the view’s weakness is has been touched on by others, but has not been appropriately highlighted with any data other than the assertion that we have no record of anybody arguing against the view presented by Irenaeus, which in like you say may be rooted in a polemic against the Gnostics. His view is basically that the Apostolic teaching could be known by ascertaining the knowledge of the true Church’s “elder/bishops” traditional teachings and he lists Rome as one of those Churches and includes its Apostolic pedigree while noting its importance because of the Peter and Paul Roman leadership. So Irenaeus is asserting that if your teaching is not of Apostolic origin then it is not of the Faith. I also see the point that you have made about Irenaeus’ point not being to state a doctrine of AS but to get to the truth of the Apostolic teaching. I believe that is what both mine as a Catholic and yours as a Presbyterian goal is as well. Can Irenaeus be wrong about his list? Yes, I think he can. I do not think it is as likely, but the biggest weakness I see in your view is not necessarily that he can be wrong but that his and Hegesippus premise of ascertaining the Apostolic teaching by AS is not the true response of the Church in regard to the attack on it by false teachings, in this case Gnostic teachings. The point would be that the Church’s “doctrinal proclaimation” of Apostolic Succession would be the right response to heretical teaching communities surrounding the early Church. A case of the Church truly being guided “into all truth.” Basically, AS is the right effect to the wrong view, while the belief in the Apostolic trustworthiness is the actual believed truth of the one Church. This trust of the Apostles is attested to in the Scriptures which we both receive as God’s Word, “He who receives you receives Me…” and “Go into all the world and teach…” The question we must face and decide is: Is that the same doctrinal response we should have today. I have come to the conclusion it is.

    Now the other weakness I see in your view about Irenaeus’s possible mistake, which is built on Hegesippus possible erroneous view and list, which creates this “innovative” error of AS is that of the reasonableness of this not being part of the liturgies instituted by some of the Apostles. It is reasonable to think Irenaeus as a Bishop has knowledge of the history of his own Church in Lyon. This is probably how he has the idea and certainty of his own position as a bishop. This is an assertion of course. I don’t know if we have a record for his position. But, I think this is a reasonable conclusion when we consider that Peter’s Apostolic See is not the only seat record that is recorded. We have the historic line of Mark’s See in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

    Mark the Apostle, Anianus, Avilius, Kedron, Primus, Justus, Eumenius, Markianos, Celadion, Agrippinius, Julian, Demetrius I, Heraclas, Doinysius, Maximus, Theonas, Peter, Achillas, Alexander, and then Athanasius who died in 373 A.D. which we are all quite familiar with I would imagine…

    St Andrew’s See in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

    Andrew the Apostle, Stachys, Onesimus, Polycarp I, Plutach, Sedekion, Diogenes, Eleutherius, Felix, Polycarp II, Athenodorus, Efzois, Laurence, Alympius, Pertinax, Olympian, Mark I, Philadephus, Cyriacus I, Castinius, Eugenius I, Titus, Dometius, Rufinus I, Probus, Metrophanes, Alexander who died 337 A.D. and the list goes to today.

    Peter’s See of Antioch in the Patriarch of Antioch.

    Peter the Apostle, Evodius, Ignatius, Heron, Corelius, Eros, Theophilius, Maximus, Serapion, Asclepiades, Philetus, Zedinnus, Babylas, Fabius, Demetrius, Paul, Domnus, Timaeus, Curil I, Tyrannion, Vitalius, Philogonius, Eustathius who died 330 AD and the list goes to today.

    James of the Jerusalem council in the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem.

    James of Acts 15, Simeon I, Justus I, Zacchaeus, Tobias, Bejamin, John I, Matthew I, Philip, Senecas, Justus II, Levi, Ephriam I, Joseph I, Judus, Mark, Cassianos, Poplios, Maximos, Julian I, Gaius I, Gaius II, Symmachos, Julian II or Valens, Capion, Maximos II, Antonios, Valens, Dolichianos, Narsissus, Dios, Germanion, Gordios, Alexander, Mozabanus, Hymeneus, Zambdas, Hermon, Macarius who died 334 AD and the list goes to today

    There are others who claim more lists, but I think you get my point. In the liturgies of the Churches usually during the year at some point all the bishop’s names are spoken by the priests in all the local Churches who have been lead by the line of bishops. It was part of their worship. You can go to Rome and hear the list read to you, all 265. My local parish Church lists all our bishops once a year at least. It is part of our local tradition. To know you are part of God’s people is something to be thankful to Him about. Having someone sent to you to teach is a gift to the people of the Church and from the beginning that has been remembered in liturgies. I can even easily go down to my local Baptist community founded in 1901 and get a list of their pastors. That’s 112 years. I believe it must be remembered that we are speaking of cultures which were largely illiterate, but were very orally shaped. They functioned under a different historical backdrop than the last 550 years after the printing press. Their culture was shaped to protect living memory more by a living community’s knowledge than by a written record.

    I guess my point in this is that it is not just the traditional list of Rome that I feel you must defraud, but the tradition of the local Churches making lists from their beginnings. I feel you must show this is not part of the Apostles oral tradition given to these communities at their birth. This would be these communities obedience to the Apostles of Christ. Therefore their obedience to the chosen spokesmen of God. I can see where you can create doubt about Rome’s one list, but to create that same doubt of all the lists we have is more difficult. You would seem to be discrediting to a large degree the whole of the Christian movement’s integrity.

    Do you understand my point of view and concern?

  134. Brand0n (131)

    JJ (#112)

    You stated,

    The short answer is because it seems to me, from looking at Jesus’s words and the rest of the New Testament simply as history (i.e. not as revelation), what He intended – and what the New Testament church thought of itself as – was a single, organised visible body as a church, not simply the collection of those whom He secretly knew to be His – and I see no remotely plausible candidate for such a body in the world today except the Catholic Church.

    But none of this answers my question, JJ. Why don’t you see a possible candidate for the church outside of the Catholic Church? Your answer seems to be that it’s because you feel that’s what Jesus established (reading the NT as “history”) but I’ve argued the other side of the coin. An historical reading of the texts of Scripture and post-canonical literature points in a completely different direction. Whatever you believe necessary for the Church to be “a single organized body” does not include bishops or a division of ministry along the threefold division of presbyters, bishops, and deacons.

    This is vital to your argument because if there was no succession of bishops, then your conception of the church’s structure is incorrect. This is precisely why Apostolic Succession is one of the essential tectonic plates in the RCC. Remove AS and you remove the essence of the RCC. AS is connected both to the essence and persistence of the church. After all, if the Church doesn’t persist, it doesn’t exist, so I’m not sure how that dichotomy works functionally.

    As I said, that’s the short answer. The long answer would be to argue from the New Testament texts that the early Church was, in fact, visibly unified; that its unity was seen as of its essence; and that separation from it is death.

    If those characteristics are not what Jesus intended the Church to be, then, indeed, there is no argument for the Catholic Church being the current substance of that Church – because it doesn’t exist and wasn’t intended to.

    Again, the point of Apostolic Succession is moot unless that Church was intended to exist. If it was not, then Apostolic Succession is not Sacramental, and if it is not, it is purely human. You said:

    … if the Church doesn’t persist, it doesn’t exist…

    I would say, rather, that if the Church doesn’t exist, there is no ‘it’ to persist. But if it does exist, then Apostolic Succession is part of its existence, not its essence.

    And if the Church does exist – as visibly unified, that the visible unity is essential, that separation from it is death – then I can hardly see what other modern candidate there can be for it. Perhaps I am just blind.

    If, on the other hand, the Church – that Church – does not exist – precisely because Christ did not intend it to – then I cannot see how I can see any point in giving in my loyalty to any body.

    jj

  135. Ted,

    But that doesn’t mean the word krino ever meant “think” as in “suggest, recommend.” Krino meant to make a division in its original (classic) sense, hence to divide, make a discernment, a distinction. From there it always had some meaning of come to conclusion, render judgment. Gill’s quote above in Ken’s #122 is a perfect example of this – coming to a judgment.

    Even if we grant that it does mean “judgement” in this instance (which is not certain) this still does not entail that James was the “head” of the council nor that he made the decision. As Akin pointed out in his article, if I were to say “It is my judgement that we will do so and so” that does not entail that I am acting as supreme judge! It is completely plausible that the “judgement” was a mere recommendation (as Gill states). At the end of the day I think that the charge of James presiding and making the decision has little to no teeth given the language Peter uses and the role that we know Peter had in the early church.

    Who but Catholics posit Peter as the lead at the JC? Who but the EO, Anglican, or episcopalian posits James as its leader? Who but the Reformed posit the elders of multiple churches as the decision makers (but see my comm box #117)? And who but the congregationalist claims the church of Jerusalem was the ultimate authority (Acts 15:22)? Everybody is agenda driven when they read Acts 15. The solution?

    There are clearly a number of ways one can view this chapter (so much for perspicuity) but the answer can hardly lie in Acts 16:4. Your application of this verse sets up a disconnect between what Paul and Silas say and what is said in Acts 15: 28-29. In any case I would argue that the “solution” is to turn to Tradition to illuminate the chapter. Who would know better the implications of Acts 15 than the successors to the apostles!

  136. The discussion regarding who led the Jerusalem Council is off-topic and has run its course. Please stay on the topic of Brandon’s essay. – Moderator

  137. Brandon,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comments! I know this article is “your baby” and you must be eager to defend such carefully thought out work! I am sorry that we seemed to have misunderstood one another. Let me try to iron a few things out. You wrote in your introduction that

    I will take the burden of proof to show that the particular church at Rome was organized as a presbytery until the middle to later part of the second century—refuting the claim that Jesus founded the RCC. By “presbyterian,” I am not thinking particularly of a current denomination or flavor of modern Presbyterianism (two office, three office, centralized power, “grass roots,” etc.) The meaning is broader and refers to the leadership of the church of a particular geographic area being led by a plurality of leaders (elders or presbyters). This definition would exclude a notion of a monarchical episcopate or the notion of a threefold office. Instead, functionally, the presbyterianism I am speaking of refers to the office of deacon (which I will not spend time discussing) and presbyter or bishop (used synonymously). If my thesis fails, then we can conclude that there was no presbyterian polity in Rome in the first or second centuries.

    Then in the comments portion you explain further that

    This is not what I am arguing. I tried to explicitly state that I was not making an argument for current Presbyterian practice in the introduction….. I’m arguing for the church government in Rome being organized along “presbyterian” lines. The proceedings at the council demonstrate the leadership of the church by multiple presbyters with many of the key Apostles also being present. I simply wanted to point out that we see the importance of the presbyters (plural) at the council along with the Apostles.

    I am sorry that I wasn’t more clear in my wording. I understand that you are not arguing that Acts 15 demonstrates the exact same church government as todays various flavors of prtestantism. However, if I am not mistaken, it is accurate to say that you are attempting to refute the claims the Christ founded the RCC while constructing an argument that the Church was ran by a presbytery for the first few centuries. The evidence I submitted for your consideration constructs an interpretation of Acts 15 that would show Peter as the head of the Church, and an authoritative Church Council that is both infallible and universally binding on all christians. This chapter then, properly considered, is evidence for the claim that Christ personally founded the RCC and not evidence for the early church being ran “along presbyterian lines”.

    You then write that

    The proceedings at the council demonstrate the leadership of the church by multiple presbyters with many of the key Apostles also being present. I simply wanted to point out that we see the importance of the presbyters (plural) at the council along with the Apostles.

    This is precisley what I was taking issue with (although I did not word my objection properly). When one considers the full implications of Acts 15 it seems shallow and silly to merely limit our consideration to the fact that multiple presbyters were present with the apostles. I understand that this all that you would like for us to consider but it is not all that we <b.should consider. It would be similair to a protestant saying “the only thing that I wish to consider in Matt 16 is that Jesus is the Christ and the son of the living God… we need not discuss keys to the kingdom or binding and loosing when considering my evidence for the protestant paradigm. That would fall outside of the scope of our current discussion”. You have ruled out much of the possibility of evidence for Catholicism (or the claim that Christ personally founded the Roman Catholic Church) by the severe limitations and “scope” of what you are willing to consider! Footnote 22 is foul play! Especially when your actual article goes on to say that The way the Jerusalem council is convened it would seem to match the definition of presbyterian government: the representation of the people of God from local congregations (Antioch, Jerusalem, outside Judea, etc.) in assembly making decisions as the body of Christ

    The only caveat being that the decision was decided by the Rock ( or so I alledge) and considered to be infallible and universally binding on the faithful! Which would showcase nicely as evidence precisely against your ideas of church government

    Your misunderstanding continues when you state that I claim James is the one who made the decision. I actually say precisely the opposite. James didn’t make the decision. The deliberative assembly did (15:22). James offers his judgment in conjunction with Peter, Paul, and Barnabas (with each testimony being along the same lines) and then the body, in assembly, made the decision together.

    Fair enough. I accept the correction. However, we would still need to consider the evidence outlined that suggests Peter was the one who made the decision and was merely backed up by Paul, Barnabas and James. The decision was not made by the “general assembly”(who could do nothing but argue) but by Peter or the rock (whom silenced the general assembly). Perhaps you would consider this as relevent to your post if all talk of infallibility is off limits?

  138. Brandon,

    “Drew (#104),
    The question remains “even if their are multiple presbyters in Rome why does that mean that one of them cannot have a certain authority over them?” Even today there are multiple Bishops residing in cities from different rites. Even today that does not lead to “well then the Roman Church is wrong.”

    I know you are asking this question of me, but it is the precise question you need to answer. I have never said that the multiplicity of bishops necessarily entails that there cannot also be a bishop. I’ve argued that we should take the earliest sources at face value which state that there were multiple presbyters ruling the church in Rome. If you want to argue that there was some hierarchy, then it is incumbent upon you to show why/how someone in Rome exercised oversight over the presbyters.”

    Because history does not live in a vacuum of time. There is a hyper-focus on 60 years of worship, but then hand-waiving and accepting of one’s own historical critical formula. You are doing precisely what you are calling out other Catholics for attempting. And I disagree that the onus is on the Church to figure this out when I believe it to be a false dichotomy of how the Church has understood Herself from the point of Christ’s Ascension, Pentecost, and leading into the 2nd and 3rd Centuries as I stated prior. You have stacked the deck to to say, “According to this perspective of this protestant historian” vs “once I hand-waive the previous historians and even contemporary historians that disagree with me” now prove this to be true. :) Sorry, you are correct. You and I are arguing the same issue from different perspectives, but I do see how this leads to what you want it to lead to.

    I do thank you for this blog post though. I did not know that there were so much arguments about this very specific issue going on from the 19th century until today.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02581b.htm

    Drew

  139. Hello Brandon,

    Let me say again, what a pleasure it is talking to you, and receiving a respectful and thoughtful reply.
    Sadly, my former pastors did not consider the RCC a possible contender for the visible church, and so I truly wasn’t treated kindly. I did consider becoming Anglican just to be able to eventually become Catholic so that my family and I didn’t suffer so much, but it was too late in the game when the idea occurred to me. I was so firmly convinced of the need for the Papacy that I knew neither the Anglican Church nor the Orthodox Church was going to fulfill this ontological necessity, even though my Protestant mind was objecting to a few Catholic teachings at the time.

    My interest in the RCC came after a crisis of faith, and I believed (still do) that if the RCC is not the community begun by Jesus, then if Christianity is true, there is no way to know for sure any longer. A mechanism for adjudicating doctrinal disputes is needed if we are ever to have a cohesive religion. Would you say that a mechanism is needed?
    You see, what I have noticed is that since, if not all, most people consider themselves spiritual and believe that their respective faith communities are locus’s of some truths. Even if they themselves acknowledge that it could be the case that their community is a heterodox community, they do still derive a corresponding comfort that it is a safe place because they trust the learning, doctrine, and scholarship of that community. They enjoy a presupposition that the most important doctrines have been settled long ago and that their salvation could not be in jeopardy. I think of it as a happy illusion that the faith world enjoys. I noticed this about myself too as I moved from broader evangelicalism to a Reformed community. This showed me that until I became Reformed, I had mistaken views about the the sacramental nature of the church, and was spiritually disadvantaged, possibly devastatingly so. Knowing what I know now, I could never think that the sacraments were dispensable. This is the same for what I now understand about the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass, the other sacraments including reconciliation, and the doctrines concerning Mary and the Saints. Only if these doctrines are true is it the case that everyone who doesn’t believe or have recourse to them is horribly/eternally disadvantaged.
    At the end of the day is it possible to ever know, if a sola scriptura schema is all we have to go by?
    What you provide is a case for Jesus leaving us without a way to know how to be saved, and without a workable way towards doctrinal unity.

    John Jensen made a very good point, and that is “what would the need be for such a thing as Apostolic Succession if it wasn’t to keep a cohesive faith?”.

    Susan

  140. Paul (#130),

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation as well. Thanks for taking the time to interact.

    1. Jerome does seem to believe that from the time of St. Mark the presbyters in Alexandria elected a bishop from amidst their rank. I don’t know that I’m willing to commit that Jerome is right about this (I don’t know as much as I’d like about the history of the Coptic Church), but I’m willing to at least entertain the idea and agree that Jerome believes that it did. In addition, I should note that Jerome also seems to believe that the threefold division of ministry is in continuity with the Levitical priesthood. All these things share continuity with your position and not with mine.

    To clarify, I’m not arguing that Jerome believes everything that I do about early church structure. My invocation of Jerome is to further demonstrate the lexical equivalence of the term presbyter and bishop. Jerome serves that purpose when he states,

    In writing both to Titus and to Timothy the apostle speaks of the ordination of bishops and of deacons, but says not a word of the ordination of presbyters; for the fact is that the word bishops includes presbyters also.

    This is a rather interesting way of putting it because typically it is stated in the reverse, bishops are presbyters. But Jerome’s argument (“unwittingly,” as Dolan puts it) shows that the distinction between presbyters and bishops wasn’t present from the earliest stages. If presbyters were bishops (and it has already been conceded that bishops are presbyters) then the distinction between the offices evaporates. Based on my reading, it makes Jerome inconsistent with himself (he talks about the office of bishop but then his other argument shows the equivalence of bishops and presbyters)

    2. To be honest, I’m too ignorant of Asia Minor c. 95 to know whether or not there were bishops or not, though I think I see the point you are making. How could it be that Ignatius writes to them c. 114 and they weren’t in place in the time of the writing of revelation? Based on my reading of Ignatius and Ignatian scholars, it seems that Ignatius wrote to “bishops” who may not have conceived of themselves in the same manner that Ignatius did. Furthermore, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that it took an additional 20 years for the episcopate to develop with bishops existing from the time of John. At the same time, I want to make clear that even if episcopacy existed in Asia Minor (let’s say it originated with John as is popularly claimed) that does not mean it existed in Rome.

    3. Thanks for the clarification. It seems that we have come to an impasse on this verse as well. I grant that your position is a grammatical possibility though I do not believe it makes the most sense grammatically (My position is also a grammatical possibility and shares grammatical similarities in the Pastorals in the change from plural to the singular (1 Tim 5:17,19) in a way that your position does not) nor do I believe that it comports with the other data from Pauline literature (Phil 1:1; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17 [cf. 3:1; Jerome]) or canonical tradition; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17,28; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5; Hebrews 13:7).

    I really do think that J.P. Meier’s article, “Presbyteros in the Pastoral Epistles” CBQ 35, 1974: 323-345 is the most erudite discussion on the exegesis of the Pastorals I’ve come across and Meir says about Titus 1,

    [T]he switch from plural to singular takes place in vs. 6, with “tis”, so that there is nothing at all surprising about the singular “ton episkopon” in vs.7. It may be, of course, that the singular in vs. 7 is also due to the fact that the author is here quoting a set of list requirements, a list in which “ton episkopon” is firmly embedded. Such a list of qualities or virtues necessary for a particular office was well known in the Hellenistic world. But such a possibility in no way neutralizes the fact that the author does equate the episkopos of the traditional list with the presbyteroi about whom he has been talking…the singular “ton episkopon” in 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:7 can be easily explained as a generic singular embedded in a traditional list.

    In other words, the “proper” (I put quotes because there are other grammatical possibilities) way to render the article is as a generic article and not as a monadic article, which is how the manner in which I understand you taking the usage of the article.

  141. Brandon,

    Thanks for the interaction. As I said to start with, your writing and research skills in this paper are most impressive, and the PCA is truly blessed to have such a sharp intellect in their midst. And you have a gentle modesty that speaks well of your character. Too many Reformed men are combative and arrogant. God bless you in your continued study and ministry.

    In Christ and Our Lady,
    Paul

  142. Brandon,

    During a time of prayer last night I realized that some of my writing may be perceived as uncharitable and not with the right tone for the type of discussion the writer at this blog would prefer. I would like to say that you are the best reformed blogger that I have seen writer on here due to your charitable responses and I hope that you continue to write on here for a long time.

    Drew

  143. Brandon,

    Did you get a chance to think over my post at 133. Here is a clear question that may help you. In what way would you think we can explain the practice in the early Church of keeping records of the overseers/bishops originating before Hegesippus’ view could be spread by Irenaeus in other parts of the Christian world, if not by an Apostolic tradition? You premise seems to be saying this tradition is from Irenaeus, right? Looking at the time scale this practice would most likely need to be in place before 180 AD to deal with the multiple records of overseers/bishops, but we also have to look at the time it would take Irenaeus’ writtings and view of the reason for keeping these records to spread. If they were new, anyway. Or, this would mean we have to take the view these other records as well as Rome’s are false.

    Michael

  144. Brandon, et al:

    I’ve written before in response to Duffy’s and Brown’s arguments on this topic. I hope that this is helpful. God bless!

  145. Joe #144,

    Thank you for sharing the link. The only thing I’d like to note is that your handling of Brown, Duffy, and Meier is rather heavy-handed for three men respected around the world for their skill. Taking broad summaries for popular audiences from Duffy and asserting they are false does not actually engage the nitty gritty work done “behind the scenes” of the popular literature. I’ve tried to mediate some of the scholarship in this article.

    I also find your conclusions strong in rhetoric but lacking in substance,

    So what’s his proof? He provides no positive proof, at all. Instead, the argument rests entirely upon an argument from silence. In the very earliest Christian writings, we aren’t told what (if any) distinction exists between bishops and presbyters. On the basis of this silence, Duffy concludes that there was no distinction, and that the titles of “bishop” and “presbyter” must be redundant. That’s it: that’s all the “proof” Duffy offers; and as far as I know, it’s all the proof any of the advocates of this view provide.

    Hopefully this article can help fill in Duffy’s argument as well as the argument of others. As I’ve stated it is categorically false to define Duffy’s argument (or the argument of the academy) as being based entirely from silence. The argument that leans most strongly upon silence is the Catholic argument.

    In my estimation your summary of Duffy’s few paragraphs in a popular book would be much improved if you interact with the substance of the argument from the academy and not a summary of the position in a few paragraphs.

  146. It seems to me that Brandon’s argument (and arguments in the resulting comments) do not purport to conclusively demonstrate that Catholic claims are false, but rather, that the probability of Catholic claims are low given certain cumulative evidence. I’m not sure if it would be beneficial or detrimental, but perhaps the analysis would become more clear if each side would transparently “show its work” by placing the evidence into Bayes’ Theorem. This might provide a better picture for how the various pieces fit together (the inherent probability that Christ founded the Catholic Church; where silence fits into the probability picture, etc). Richard Swinburne has used this method for decades to advance strong inductive arguments for the existence of God.

  147. Brandon: #131 “Your misunderstanding continues when you state that I claim James is the one who made the decision. I actually say precisely the opposite. James didn’t make the decision. The deliberative assembly did (15:22). James offers his judgment in conjunction with Peter, Paul, and Barnabas (with each testimony being along the same lines) and then the body, in assembly, made the decision together.”

    I politely differ. It is the revelation given to Peter on the way to Cornelius’ house that worked its way out in a wider purview in Acts 15. God can evidently save the pagans and they don’t have to get to Jesus through Moses. Peter as the temporal head of the Church Jesus founded states what the Church believes, and he is followed by Paul and Barnabas, then James caps the council by agreeing with those who preceded him.

    It is also a test of the Church under Peter’s guidance (including his guidance of Paul) which finds that the ‘works’ of the Mosaic law are superseded. No need for circumcision, no requirements to submit to the dietary laws, no need to visit Jerusalem to offer sacrifice at the Temple.

    A new covenant was established and Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James all stand up for it.

  148. Cletus (#81),

    I’ve wanted to comment on this but have addressed other issues first, though I think I should have addressed it earlier. I didn’t intend my comments to you in #77 appeared directed at you individually. I was just using your comment as a spring board to show how the substance of the article wouldn’t be engaged if we stayed on preliminaries. I’m glad we’re on the same page in that regard and I greatly appreciate your interaction and willingness to participate in the discussion.

    Michael (#133),

    I want to focus in on your second point (I think I’ve addressed your 1st in other comments). My argument is that the use of succession lists did not occur from the earliest times but originated in the second century (most likely from Jewish lists) when Hegesippus first used that methodology. His methodology was not confined to Rome because he did the same thing in Corinth. In tracing the Apostolic teaching through the bearers of tradition, Hegesippus utilized a methodology which later Christians would use as well taking their current ecclesiastical context (a monarchical episcopate) and assuming that the church had always had such a figure. I think that supposition was incorrect and have tried to argue to that effect in the church of Rome in particular. To state it another way, I don’t think your characterization of the bishop lists being from Apostolic origins is accurate.

    I also want to make sure to carefully respond to your claim,

    You would seem to be discrediting to a large degree the whole of the Christian movement’s integrity.

    The meaning of “integrity” is really important here. I’m not attempting to morally impugn these individuals because I do not believe that they are perpetrating thing which they know are not true. At the same time, I am questioning the veracity of the various bishop lists. In that sense I am questioning the integrity of one portion of the earliest Christian’s arguments against Gnosticism. But I also question the integrity of some Apologists stating that Gnosticism came from one source, Simon Magus.

    JJ (#134)

    You are right and I overlooked that you were answering in short. To press a little more though, visible unity is not sufficient to justify your claim about the RCC. I think you can grant that even Anabaptists would agree the visible unity is a good ideal. You would need to argue that the hierarchy of the church is essential to its visibility—as argued by Bryan in “Christ Founded a Visible Church”—in order to prove that Jesus founded the RCC.

    Kenneth (#137),

    The article is “my baby” insofar as I’ve thought long and hard about these issues and have beliefs about them. In that way, everyone has cherished beliefs that they are eager to defend. It’s easy to take criticism personally as a result! My hope in my article is to express my thoughts in a way that is not offensive to those with different opinions while also not stubbornly canonizing my conclusions. Thanks for joining me in that process.

    Moving to your comments you state,

    However, if I am not mistaken, it is accurate to say that you are attempting to refute the claims the Christ founded the RCC while constructing an argument that the Church was ran by a presbytery for the first few centuries. The evidence I submitted for your consideration constructs an interpretation of Acts 15 that would show Peter as the head of the Church, and an authoritative Church Council that is both infallible and universally binding on all christians. This chapter then, properly considered, is evidence for the claim that Christ personally founded the RCC and not evidence for the early church being ran “along presbyterian lines”.

    Perhaps I should have been clearer that I do not believe that Acts 15 entails a problem for Catholic ecclesiology strictly speaking. Vatican II had multiple presbyters at it and all of the bishops assembled together made determinations as a body. That would be consistent with what we see in Acts 15 as well. I don’t see any reason in the text to believe that Peter needed to chair the Council and give assent (so there is a *possible* point of discontinuity), but that doesn’t necessarily invalidate Catholic ecclesiology. What I was looking to do in this section was identify patterns in the Book of Acts. I wanted to emphasize that in Acts we see a multiplicity of presbyters making decisions and ruling together throughout the book, and Acts 15 is no different.

    Finally, regarding Peter, I think at best we can say we don’t know what role he played at the Council. At worst, we know he was an important member of the council. Verse 22 explains that the decision was made by the entire body so I find your argument that it was Peter’s decision and not the entire Councils dubious.

    Drew (#138),

    And I disagree that the onus is on the Church to figure this out when I believe it to be a false dichotomy of how the Church has understood Herself from the point of Christ’s Ascension, Pentecost, and leading into the 2nd and 3rd Centuries as I stated prior.

    What you need to prove is that the church thought of itself the same way from the Ascension into the 2nd and 3rd centuries until today. There is a substantive amount of evidence to the contrary and because the RCC is making the claim that she is the institution founded by Jesus, she needs to substantiate that claim.

    I had trouble understanding what you were saying in subsequent sentences but I want to be clear that my argument is not dependent on Protestant historians, it relies heavily upon Roman Catholic historians and exegetes as well.

    Susan (# 139),

    My interest in the RCC came after a crisis of faith, and I believed (still do) that if the RCC is not the community begun by Jesus, then if Christianity is true, there is no way to know for sure any longer. A mechanism for adjudicating doctrinal disputes is needed if we are ever to have a cohesive religion. Would you say that a mechanism is needed?

    What you provide is a case for Jesus leaving us without a way to know how to be saved, and without a workable way towards doctrinal unity.

    I would say that yes, a mechanism is needed, and the mechanism is the Holy Spirit speaking through Scripture. Now, this has been rehashed over and over again, so I don’t expect that you’ll find that response persuasive. That said, I believe it to be the way the people of God have functioned for millennium. What I have attempted to do in this article is to show that appealing to Apostolic Succession as the adjudicating mechanism is unsuccessful.

    Furthermore, Jesus didn’t leave us without a way to know how to be saved—we have the teaching of the Apostles in Scripture. This is where the Church receives the teaching of Christ and also provides the only infallible basis for doctrinal unity. These are, of course, summary statements that require a thorough defense. There is the proper place and time for that, but I’ve yet to venture into that realm. For the time being, I’ve focused on showing that the RCC doesn’t provide a principled mechanism for determining divine revelation as has been claimed and that the RCC is not the community begun by Jesus.

  149. Brandon,

    I should have clarified my meaning of “integrity”. Here is my main thinking: If we look at the ability of just the Churches which have lists connected to historically reliable communities to make their laymen and women believe at some point these lists are historically reliable, then are we not showing that these lay people were gullible or did not do their homework. Either these list are in place from their beginnings or at some point each separate list had to be interjected into a living community and that community had to accept the veracity of the list. I can see how one community(Rome) of five could possibly have had this happen, but how do we explain all of them. I realize we don’t have early historic documentation like we do with Rome, but I don’t think my point is arguing only from silence being we are dealing with real communities of people who embraced a new faith movement. They would have wanted to know what they had embraced was real. I guess my argument is more based on anthropology than documents. Would not the early converts want to know where their leaders got their teachings from? Why would they separate from Jewish communities, if not for holding onto a historically reliable link to the life and teachings of Jesus? I think it is important to think of the fact that not all these communities would likely have had a copy of all the NT around 100AD, but all these Church/communities would have had teachers who were teaching of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Scriptures and these teachers would have been put in place largely by Apostles at that time. Why would they not follow the practice of the Apostles and put others in place to teach by following the example of the Apostles? And why would no one community think to keep up with who they had sent to be an overseer in a certain community or who had been the overseer before them?

    I am sorry I seem to be piling the questions. I just want to understand how you would explain the historic situation. You said, ” I don’t think your characterization of the bishop lists being from Apostolic origins is accurate.” Are you claiming none of the lists can be true or are you saying the practice of making these list is not possibly an Apostolic tradition?

    This area is the one area I did not deeply study while coming into the Church so I thank and respect you for dealing with it seriously.

    Thanks for the interaction,
    Michael

  150. Hello Brandon,
    (Since I don’t know how to highlight in block, I will resort to the “you said” format )
    You said:
    “I would say that yes, a mechanism is needed, and the mechanism is the Holy Spirit speaking through Scripture. Now, this has been rehashed over and over again, so I don’t expect that you’ll find that response persuasive. That said, I believe it to be the way the people of God have functioned for millennium. What I have attempted to do in this article is to show that appealing to Apostolic Succession as the adjudicating mechanism is unsuccessful.”

    I would just say that the reason that I cannot find your response persuasive is that your paradigm’s mechanism lacks real life testing. In other words, all other things about you and I being equal, this mechanism should provide for our agreement. It doesn’t, so this means that somehow we are unequal. The only conclusions I can draw is that it takes learning to come to the conclusion the the Presbyterian community is the only right community being that is enjoys the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or that I’m deceived or unloved by God. It doesn’t disprove my belief that the RCC is true— you could be wrong—, and it doesn’t disprove the the RCC is correct. Scripture and tradition should do this, if your mechanism is correct.
    Though we agree about much, for which I am very thankful, we also disagree about many important teachings, so either we are both wrong or one of us is. You believe that my faith community is not being guided by the Holy Spirit and is simply just as much of a heterodoxy as every other community in Christendom— maybe even more ominous because it claims infallibility of itself —, yet ( forgive me and please correct me if I’m wrong) you assume that your own Presbyterian community’s doctrines do not have any heterodoxy teachings even though it makes no self-attestation of infallibility. This looks to me that Presbyterianism assumes unilateral orthodoxy, having no doctrinal errors; however from a sola scriptura standpoint (the criterion of yours and other mainstream Protestants) this is assuming what you haven’t proved. But you already know this.

    Christian pluralism(denominations) makes me think of faith relativists that don’t like any other faith claiming to have absolute truth because it undermines their right to believe what is truth to them. Denominations are acting like this by having some truths but are intolerant of a single religion that asserts itself as the locus of absolute truth; however if in the world there really are only many personal truths(denominations) and no “Fullness Orthodoxy” my Roman Catholic religion( like Christianity in general) is barred from being a pluralistic little “t” truth(denomination) by virtue of its self-attestation of being the only true church. In other words, when denominations press on the RCC saying, “Admit to having some truth but stop claiming to have The Truth because it’s arrogant, and it undercuts our equal right to that claim” they fail to see that to ask a Catholic to admit to also being another denomination requires him to deny a major tenant of his religion, reducing it to a human prerogative and thereby strips it of being a religious choice. Catholicism won’t permit me to sit the fence on any doctrine. It demands intellectual assent. Like Jesus, it teaches with authority.

    Susan

  151. Its been a real pleasure talking with you Brandon! Wonderful article. You have given me quite a bit to think about. God bless you

  152. Brandon,

    Thank you for your thorough and well constructed essay. It may be an over-assumption on my part, by my observation is that most Reformed Protestants who swim the Tiber do not do so primarily based on comparative analysis of modern historical scholarship on the first two centuries of Christianity (though I suspect historical research plays at least a secondary role for many). Rather, the starting point seems to more commonly be a sense that Protestantism at its root contains a fatal philosophical flaw and is fraught with discontinuities that render its own historical claims implausible. With this in mind, the following from your essay struck me:

    The absence of this succession is acidic to their conception of the church and undermines their thesis, that Apostolic succession is the only means for differentiating between Divine revelation and human opinion. Consequently, this article has falsified the thesis of the Judisch and Cross article by undermining the major premise that Catholics can appeal to apostolic succession while Protestants cannot. There may be philosophical problems for Christians in light of this evidence …

    I understand that the thesis of this essay has nothing to do with positive arguments for Protestant interpretive paradigms or historical claims. However, it would seem that a much stronger argument for Reformed Protestantism would be a positive philosophical and historical argument that convincingly shows why your position is true, not why your opponents position might be historically implausible. Do you intend to offer these arguments at this site in the future? Specifically, do you intend to provide a positive philosophical and historical argument explaining the means by which Reformed Protestantism distinguishes heresy from schism, and how the doctrine of Sola Scriptura can indeed distinguish personal opinion from divine revelation (contra Cross, Liccione, Judisch etc)? If we are indeed all in the same boat, but that boat is largely built from negative argument, then you you have more successfully argued for agnosticism than Protestantism.

    Burton

  153. Burton 152:

    the starting point seems to more commonly be a sense that Protestantism at its root contains a fatal philosophical flaw and is fraught with discontinuities that render its own historical claims implausible (emphasis added).

    This is why I commonly tend to think that those of you who have been Reformed and who convert to Roman Catholicism are making a mistake.

    The Reformation didn’t start because a bunch of guys sat down in the year 1500 and said, “hmmm, we need to come up with a philosophical basis for Protestantism”.

    What happened was that a bunch of people, simultaneously, looked around and said, “something isn’t right”. They were not mistaken in that judgment.

    Luther actually wrote things down to that effect, and when pressed to recant, he didn’t. He then was wrongly charged with being “a damnable heretic” and excommunicated. Some people see it as a Providence that he was the first person of note to live through such a charge.

    More people were emboldened to follow his example (and it should be noted, that they left from different starting points, and directions that were more or less proper), and the Reformation was born.

    The “fatal philosophical flaw” among those early Protestants was to say “the Roman Church is not what it says it is”. The typical response, both then and now, was not to say, “Oh yes it is, and here’s why”. The typical response was to assert authority.

    At first, it was asserted that “historical continuity” lay on the side of the Roman Catholics, and that was the basis for the authority claims. As it turned out, the Romans were wrong about that, and that’s why a “Theory of Development” was first of all needed, and then finally adopted as dogma. This article by Brandon shows just how far off the “historical continuity” claims had been at the time of the Reformation.

    Rome’s historical claims are a window into the success of its doctrinal claims. And of course, as Luther said, “to take on doctrine is to grab the goose by the neck”.

    “Protestantism”, at its “root”, didn’t set out to have a “philosophy” and it doesn’t have a “philosophy”. To suggest that it should have one is to misunderstand what it was all about. It was first of all a critique – paid for by many individuals with their lives – that it was Rome that had the “fatal flaw”. There were, and are, lots and lots of people who understood this.

    But because Rome has had centuries of practice, by scholarly folks, in making its claims, it can tell a “unified story”. (I note with some irony that Pope Francis, office-holder where the claim is epistemological comfort and certainty, is speaking in such a way that confuses people. Note his use of the phrase “brother bishop”. Different from how most of the Catholics here have been arguing).

    Among those who never believed the Roman Catholic account, there is unity in saying “There is something wrong with Rome’s claims.” Maybe they don’t all quite have the education to say precisely in the same words what’s wrong, and they voice it differently. But there is unity in this one important thing.

    I would think that, at the very least, more than a passing mention should be given to this account by people who are interested in “the Truth”.

  154. Sorry to jump in, but that is a very interesting view in 153, John. Though, I would think you would probably have some Protestants strongly disagree with you about the idea that the Reformation had no clear “philosophy”. Expecially, if you are saying they personally held no solid views, except Rome has no authority. Many came to the conclusion Rome had no authority because of their believed views which necessarily have a philosophy with them. I want you to consider something. When Jesus spoke to the scribe and Pharisees he did not sit down and lay out all the arguments for His authority. He just said, “If you do not believe I am who I say I am you will die in your sins.” The Church at times as His body does the same to its children. But we must be His children and listen. I’m not saying don’t test. I’m just saying their is a time for believing. Not all time do the leaders of the Church do the right thing or handle a given situation rightly, but If we are submitting to the leaders because we are believing they will act perfectly then we aren’t submitting to Christ we are submitting to our personal belief. That is not the example of Christ. He submitted to those who slaughtered Him with complete confidence He was in the hand of His Father in Heaven. The Catholic does the same today.

    I guess I am confused about your point in the “brother bishop” phrase… Is this somehow new that the Bishop of Rome is one of the many Bishops in the Church? This is what I understood in reading my way into the Church before Pope Francis. I read this in things written years before VII. It is also how I have spoken elsewhere of my Bishop over here in TX being one who has not rejected the other leaders of the Church, Peter’s chair being a part of that group. Peter’s seat being a path back to that original group that sat at the Acts 15 council is what this post in concerned with weighing. All the bishops in communion with Rome consider all Churches who can trace their ordinations and practice of the Sacraments back to the Apostles to be rightly considered leaders of real “Churches” and administer real sacrements, though that doesn’t necessarily mean those bishops are teaching things without heresies clearly defined by the Universal Church(All bishops in communion with Rome or “brother bishops”).

    We have talked a little before, over at OLT. Hope you remember me well.

    Blessing,
    Michael

  155. Michael (#149),

    Thank you very much for this very good and important question.

    To start with, we do not have any bishop lists until we find a list from Hegesippus. To be fair, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but as a matter of fact we don’t have anything before Hegesippus like what we see in Hegesippus—for Rome or anywhere else. That leaves us with multiple ways of trying to understand what happened with the development of those lists.

    We obviously need to take into account everything that we can from this historical situation, including the anthropological issues that you outline, in order to come up with some sort of plausible explanation for the existence of these lists. Your reasonable assessment of the data is that even though Hegesippus is the first piece of evidence, it would seem that something predated his writing. After all, in order for Hegesippus to write it in the first place and have it be accepted by the Christian community would require that they had some familiarity with what he was talking about. If Hegesippus or Irenaeus were making it up, then Christians would have been able to say, “Uh, no, that person was not a bishop!” If this was all the evidence we possessed I think that you would have a defensible case, but I think the preponderance of evidence makes that hypothesis unlikely.

    First of all, Hegesippus is writing not about bishops, but about the succession of doctrine. He mentions an individual named Anicetus whose deacon was Eleutherus, but Hegesippus is not concerned with bishop lists back to the Apostles (He only lists contemporary “bishops”), he is concerned with the continued teaching of the Apostolic teaching. This becomes significant because Hegesippus is reported as a former Jew (there is some contention about the specifics of his background, but Eusebius tells us that he was a Jew and knew Hebrew) and the Jewish arguments against Gentiles applied this same type of argument for the antiquity (and superiority) of Jewish beliefs. The Jewish argument was typically tied to a bearer of tradition like a High Priest, but the priority is always given to the passing down of the true doctrine. Along those same lines Hegesippus is looking for bearers of the apostolic tradition and does not mention a monarchical bishop at all, as Lampe notes. The list itself also does not stretch back to the Apostles and only speaks to the contemporary time of Hegesippus (The alleged textual problems here could also greatly impact the meaning. It would be either “I took up residence in Rome until Anicetus” or “I made up a ‘succession’ until Anicetus”.) In addition, while I didn’t mention it in my article it is interesting (though not determinative) that Hegesippus writes in the middle/passive that he “made for himself” a succession. This would match with other considerations that Hegesippus does not have access to a pre-existent list. He creates the list himself. Summarily, all of these considerations provide sufficient reason to believe that Hegesippus is the first (or one of the first) individuals to use this idea of succession in polemics against Gnosticism.

    With Hegesippus being the “innovator” we see Irenaeus as the “developer.” Irenaeus (technically it is the source that Irenaeus borrows from which was composed at the time of Eleutherus) takes the succession notion—where you can find a bearer of tradition as possessing the sacred tradition—and centralizes that tradition in a monarchical bishop. The reason that there was no objection (this is probably too strong of an assumption because we don’t know how people responded) to Irenaeus’s list was because this list was from bearers of the Apostolic tradition—it was simply not centralized into one office. As Lampe notes, it is really not a good apologetic (or rhetorical) strategy to list every single presbyter-bishop who went back to the Apostles. It was much easier to identify one chain of tradition, particularly if there was an identifiable group of “orthodoxy” in fellowship with each other, as a representative. The internal and external pressures that brought about the monarchical episcopate also contributed to its acceptance by the orthodox as being consistent with the order which was given by the Apostles (and I do believe that the Apostles *did* appoint leaders to govern the churches—just not monarchical bishops). Even still, however, there are clear traces of the early stages of the “presbyterian” polity after the time generally accepted for the development of the monarchical episcopate (see my discussion of Allen Brent described above).

    Hopefully this helps answer some of your questions. If you need any more clarification please feel free to follow up.

  156. John re: #153,

    Surprising as it is to me, your comments seem to harmonize with what Walker Percy once wrote in an interview he conducted with himself (a series of responses he offered to questions no one ever asked him!). When he was asked about his Catholicism, he said “What else is there?”

    You wrote:

    Among those who never believed the Roman Catholic account, there is unity in saying “There is something wrong with Rome’s claims.” Maybe they don’t all quite have the education to say precisely in the same words what’s wrong, and they voice it differently. But there is unity in this one important thing.

    … it seems to me that you’re openly acknowledging that Protestantism isn’t really a thing-in-itself at all. Non-Catholic Christianity has a sort of negative identity it seems. It is defined by what it is not, or by what it always rejects- rather than by what it is or what it always affirms. It seems your unity exists only because your common enemy still exists. Were the visible Catholic Church to cease to exist what would remain of what we call “Protestantism”? What doctrinal truths would remain and what would the Christian faith look like on planet Earth”?

  157. Brandon,
    Like I said earlier, I do believe the scenario you have put forward has reasonable merit. I think it only has merit in isolation though. When dealt with in the communal reality of the fact that there are other communities which have lists that would neccissarily have had to have the same type of thing happen to them that you have put forward for what happened in Rome in the adopting of this list of Bishops… this seem much more unlikely. Like you said, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” With that said, the reasonable evidence I am putting forward is the proposed ability for the multiple communities listed in post 133 to keep themselves from all being duped or in error. Not only to the particular list, but also to the idea of bishop leader being important to protect the faith of the Apostles which they had received.

  158. MichaelTX 154:

    I would think you would probably have some Protestants strongly disagree with you about the idea that the Reformation had no clear “philosophy”.

    You are misconstruing something I said. Why would you think that the Reformation – which was basically a network of movements around the various population centers of Europe DID have a “clear philosophy”? Events unfolded, and yes, the individuals had their own [very good] minds, and yes, their individual philosophies. But it wasn’t a planned event. It was almost a market-based event.

    Expecially, if you are saying they personally held no solid views, except Rome has no authority.

    I’m sure they personally held many views very solidly. One view that they held firmly, at the risk of their lives, was that “Rome’s claims to authority are bankrupt”.

    Many came to the conclusion Rome had no authority because of their believed views which necessarily have a philosophy with them.

    Yes, but they didn’t all sit down at a table and say, “Ok guys, now, what do we want our over-riding philosophy to be as a group?”

    I want you to consider something. When Jesus spoke to the scribe and Pharisees he did not sit down and lay out all the arguments for His authority. He just said, “If you do not believe I am who I say I am you will die in your sins.”

    He demonstrated his authority. One of the clearest examples of how he persuaded them is Mark 2:1-12. And of course, by his death and resurrection. He didn’t just make claims to authority that had no basis, much as Roman Catholicism does today.

    The Church at times as His body does the same to its children.

    Isn’t this “begging the question” (that the Roman Catholic Church is really “The Church”?)

    But we must be His children and listen.

    I do listen to Him. “My sheep hear my voice”.

    I’m not saying don’t test.

    Exactly.

    I’m just saying their is a time for believing.

    Exactly. “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”

    “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

    Not all time do the leaders of the Church do the right thing or handle a given situation rightly, but If we are submitting to the leaders because we are believing they will act perfectly then we aren’t submitting to Christ we are submitting to our personal belief.

    If you think that the leadership of the Roman Church at the time of the Reformation were merely guilty of “not doing the right thing all the time” or “not handling a given situation rightly” from time to time.

    No, they were widely recognized at the time as among the most wicked men of all time. That is not a distinction that is frequently admitted by Roman Catholics. However, Paul Johnson has noted that fully half of all the priests of the time had concubines and children by them; further, Johnson noted that these children had no opportunities for any other kind of life but to go back into “the Church” as the next generation of priests and nuns. That was only one of the visible problems. It was not an occasional problem. It was systemic. And it was worst at the top.

    He submitted to those who slaughtered Him with complete confidence He was in the hand of His Father in Heaven. The Catholic does the same today.

    You are equivocating on the word “submit”.

    I guess I am confused about your point in the “brother bishop” phrase… Is this somehow new that the Bishop of Rome is one of the many Bishops in the Church?

    Well, Pope Francis is not referring to another Roman Catholic bishop. He is referring to the Pastor of a Pentecostal Church. Which, some other pope has said is not really a “church”, but a mere “ecclesial community”.

    Brandon’s whole article is about what a “bishop” was in the earliest church. Now here is Pope Francis, essentially agreeing with Brandon on that definition.

  159. Herbert 156:

    … it seems to me that you’re openly acknowledging that Protestantism isn’t really a thing-in-itself at all.

    It was a movement, but not an organized one. There was no one leader – the Reformation originated in many different places at many different times. Luther was the first and most notable, but “Protestantism” was a response – a unified outcry for Reform, that was rejected by the Roman masters of the day.

    Think of sports today. In the US, there are some 30 NFL football teams, and maybe hundreds of college and thousands of high school and little league teams. Is “football” a “thing-in-itself”? Who speaks for “football”.

    The growth of “football” was a movement. People played football because they liked it. And yes, they formed associations, and the associations got bigger. There is a commissioner of the NFL, but there are also Canadian leagues, College associations, etc., where the commissioner has no jurisdiction. That’s natural.

    Now, that’s a loose analogy, but the Reformation followed lines similar to the development of professional sports in the US. Each location roots for its own home team. And folks from Pittsburgh may remember fighting over quarterbacks.

    In the ancient church, there was “denominationalism”, but it was based more on location. The Schools of Antioch and Alexandria were well-known. They had different approaches, and one was not accepted by the other. The same kind of thing was true for the churches farther east.

    The churches in Seleucia (the Persian empire) didn’t have a single “bishop” until around 290 AD – and in fact, they didn’t have ordained “priests” until around 270. And they did claim “apostolic foundation” from both Thomas, who traveled east, and Thaddeus, one of the 70. If Apostles indeed had “successors” who were “bishops”, then the whole process of Seleucia would have been meaningless. But if Brandon’s account is correct, that the notion of “monarchical bishop” evolved and spread at different times to different locations, then this series of events in Seleucia makes perfect sense.

    The “Roman” view is in fact a provincial one. The churches around the cities of Alexandria and Antioch had their own discussion and didn’t really pay a mind to Rome, except for later.

    In the city of Rome, they had a history of understanding how the city conquered lands farther and farther away. Conquest was part of their civic mindset. So while Alexandria and Antioch were squabbling, Damasus of Rome was re-writing the history books in an attempt to say just how great the church at Rome really was.

    The notion of “The Church” as one hierarchical organization is really only a product of the time Hildebrand/Gregory VII had free reign in Rome and no Eastern counterparts had their say.

    Non-Catholic Christianity has a sort of negative identity it seems. It is defined by what it is not, or by what it always rejects- rather than by what it is or what it always affirms. It seems your unity exists only because your common enemy still exists.

    None of this is true. The identity is “Christ alone”. “To God Alone be the Glory”.

    Were the visible Catholic Church to cease to exist what would remain of what we call “Protestantism”? What doctrinal truths would remain and what would the Christian faith look like on planet Earth”?

    You are arguing the same way that Patrick Henry Reardon (of Touchstone) did, in the article that I cited here:

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/07/papacy-should-be-abolished.html

    Here was my response to that:

    On the other hand, I do believe it would be in the best interest of the church for not only “a diminished papacy,” but also for some future pope, yes, to “repudiat[e]… the errors attendant on his recent understanding of his ministry,” and just step down. True, such an act would be a “blueprint for anarchy,” but if Reardon is correct, the papacy today merely functions as a Band-aid® on the anarchy that already exists.

    As Steve Hays has said, only truth is normative. The papacy today does not reflect anything of the truth that Christ preached for his people. It does not reflect the ministry that Peter had in his lifetime, either as a disciple of Christ or as a leader in the nascent church (even if, with Cullman, you think he was a foundational leader). No one in the Apostles’ lifetimes had any concept “successors of Peter” or of a continuing “Petrine” ministry.

    I think the papacy should be abolished. It only harms Christianity. If Protestants of all stripes were to start saying that, and if they start saying why, such conversations are sure to be picked up among the broader Christian culture, and people are sure to start asking “why?”

    On the verge of the anniversary of the Reformation, I think that that can only be a good thing.

  160. John and Herbert, please take your conversation off-thread. The conversation here needs to stay on the topic of Brandon’s essay. Thanks. – Moderator

  161. Hello Dr. Owen and Ray Stamper,

    An interesting discussion so far. I started typing up a comment to post here, but it became much too lengthy, so I ended up posting it over at my blog. I think you gents may find some of the content of interest:

    http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2014/04/acouple-of-days-ago-whilst-browsing.html

    Grace and peace,

    David

  162. John(158),
    Thank you for your care for my soul. Email me if you wish to disyour 158 post further at michaeltx2013 at gmail.

    Thanks and blessings,
    Michael

  163. Thanks for the link David. I do think there is a difference between what we can demonstrate when we read the sources in a critical manner (i.e. looking at each piece of data in isolation and allowing no synthesis with later testimony) versus when we read the data from a standpoint of sympathy with the faith community from which the data arose. That is true both in biblical studies and the study of early Church history. For my part, why would I trust the early church to safely guide me to a correct consensus on the contents of the canon, and a correct definition of the Trinity, but not trust that same church to give me a reliable “storyline” of the organic connection between the original apostles ordained by Jesus and the historical episcopal structure and priesthood that emerged gradually from the soil of earliest Christianity?

  164. Dr. Owen,

    So good to hear that you were able to check out my comments over at AF. Earlier today, you wrote:

    >>I do think there is a difference between what we can demonstrate when we read the sources in a critical manner (i.e. looking at each piece of data in isolation and allowing no synthesis with later testimony) versus when we read the data from a standpoint of sympathy with the faith community from which the data arose.>>

    Agreed.

    >>That is true both in biblical studies and the study of early Church history.>>

    Precisely, and an important point that a good number of Christians seem to ignore.

    >>For my part, why would I trust the early church to safely guide me to a correct consensus on the contents of the canon, and a correct definition of the Trinity, but not trust that same church to give me a reliable “storyline” of the organic connection between the original apostles ordained by Jesus and the historical episcopal structure and priesthood that emerged gradually from the soil of earliest Christianity?>>

    Indeed. It never ceases to amaze me that so many Christians who accept that the early Church got the development of the doctrine of the Trinity correct, then go on to reject their take on much simpler matters such as Church government. I cannot help but believe that such methodology is seriously flawed.

    Grace and peace,

    David

  165. Hi David,

    Thanks so much for the link. Very good. I had begun a lengthy reply after my first admittedly hasty response in this combox – I was and am short on time. However, after I outlined what I wished to write, I realized that I would end up with an article-length reply, fleshing out the details of which, would require more time than I currently have available. Your link generally mirrors much of my own thought. So I hope you won’t mind if I use your article as inspiration to summarize my own take. The principle difficulties I have with the OP, are essentially twofold:

    a.) The OP fails to carefully define what, exactly, the catholic claim is. This leads – in my view – to something of an implicit (and I am sure unintentional) straw man. I have always understood the catholic claim to be essentially embryological. That is, the mono-episcopacy was an organic, and natural development out of the apostolic age. It has a growth pattern, and like a developing child, appears in some ways quite different as it transitions with difficulty from conception to maturity; even though it remains one thing from beginning to end. The DNA is – as it were – present all along. Only if one insists that a fully developed Ignatian-Irenaean (and beyond) instantiation of the mono-episcopacy be explicitly located in the NT, and other pre-Ignatian/Irenean documentary and archeological evidence, do broad claims to the effect that there is zero, or virtually no evidence to support episcopal ecclesiology in the sub-apostolic data appear persuasive. If one holds that episcopal church governance is an organic development out of the apostolic age without demanding – say – that there is a papal throne and miter in Rome in 64AD; a more nuanced picture of the NT and sub-apostolic data emerges (as both you and Dr. Owen have pointed out). There is a reason, after all, why catholic scholars – including the very scholars utilized in the OP – remain catholic.

    b.) While biblical-critical scholarship has uncovered and illuminated a wealth of valuable information with respect to the apostolic and patristic eras; there are, in fact, well known methodological problems within the guild. The two principle problems are an unwarranted tendency toward philosophical naturalism, and an unwarranted skepticism with respect to ancient testimony – a hermeneutic of distrust or discontinuity. The former problem involves the unjustified application of a presupposition from a broader science (namely philosophical naturalism) to the data; yielding false conclusions, or at least conclusions whose truth depend as much upon the philosophical presupposition as the data itself. The later involves an unwarranted methodological procedure within the working principles of historical science itself; whereby, in the face of two plausible narrative or synthetic interpretations of the same data set, the interpretation which is most compatible or contiguous with explicit ancient testimony is nevertheless rejected in favor of a plausible narrative construction erected by academicians many centuries after the testimony of those much closer to the event(s). This second methodological problem was endemic to the original inception of higher critical scholarship in the German universities and continues to this day among many (of course, not all) biblical scholars; and catholic scholars also – indeed some of those utilized in the OP – have been criticized for failing to ‘critically’ address this blind-spot within the guild and their own works (sic Ratzinger’s 1988 “Erasmus Lecture”, etc).

    Now in no way does the deployment of these two methodological stances invalidate everything, or even the majority, of the work produced by biblical scholars. However, insofar as it can be shown that one or both of these presuppositions bear upon a given set of conclusions, those conclusions are undermined accordingly – at least unless or until those methodological presupposition, themselves, are defended; since those methodological presuppositions will have entered in some way (often hidden/implicit) into the premises upon which the conclusions are built. This situation is all too familiar to both conservative reformed and catholic scholars with respect to the impact of inchoate philosophical naturalism as it touches upon the miracle claims of both the old and new testaments. However, the methodological problem of an unwarranted preference for interpretive discontinuity is also quite familiar to both reformed and catholic conservative scholars when defending the authenticity of the NT texts and especially the reliability of the documentary (NT) accounts concerning the life and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Almost to a man (or woman), when NT scholars who accept the divinity of Jesus and the accuracy of (at least the board outlines) of the NT accounts, defend their position against critics such as Bart Ehrman (or we could go back in time to Strauss, Bauer, Wellhausen, Loisy, etc), they do so by pointing out that the very same data set synthesized by the liberal critical scholar in a discontinuous and undermining way, can be just as effectively synthesized in accordance with the explicit testimony of the NT writers and ancient Christian community; thereby supporting. rather than undermining. traditional faith. They tend to argue that, in order to overthrow explicit near-event, ancient testimony; one needs direct and substantial intrinsic or extrinsic evidence that undermines the explicit ancient witness. The mere ability to incorporate the data within a plausible synthetic counter-narrative – over against the explicit ancient witness – is insufficient: especially when the very same data can be synthetically narrated in continuity with explicit ancient testimony. In the face of two plausible narratives with roughly equivalent explanatory scope and power in reference to a common data set, one of which undermines and is dis-continuous with the near-event explicit testimony, but where the other forms a continuity with ancient explicit testimony; only an unwarranted intra-guild methodological bias can lead to the adoption of the former over the later.

    In this way, whole schools and theories which dominate within the guild for decades can be compromised and undermined. Not that all, or even the majority, of the particular discoveries or insights accumulated by scholars working within such methodological constraints is invalidated; but, rather, certain dominating conclusions or pervasive narrative syntheses of the data can be legitimately rejected. Why? Because one can show how a common methodological fault was responsible for a host of conclusions. Once the methodological error is exposed, the conclusions all have to be revisited. Something similar often happens in other disciplines, including the natural sciences (sic Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”). One does not have to be a physicist, for instance, or deny the wonderful particular discoveries of modern physics, to nonetheless rightly reject some synthetic conclusion which incorporates a non-physical presupposition linked up with the legitimate and circumspect findings of modern physics (consider Stephen Hawking’s or Lawrence Krauss’ philosophically juvenile comments about “nothing”). This, I maintain, is broadly how both conservative reformed and catholic scholars justify their rejection of the conclusions of substantial sub-sections of the biblical-critical academy when it comes to controversies concerning the reliability and authenticity of the NT witness to Christ.

    The crucial question, it seems to me, is to explain how we get from whatever governing milieu reigned from the turbulent times of the apostles and their efforts to start and maintain fledgling churches throughout the Roman Empire, to the episcopal structure witnessed to from the time of Ignatius, Irenaeus and beyond? This is analogous (not perfectly, but substantially) to asking how one gets from whatever historical realities obtained during the three-year ministry of Jesus, to the high Christology of St. Paul. We have explicit testimony that Christ was understood to be the Messiah and Son of God, but that testimony is in documents written – at least decades – after Christ ascended (the NT). Any number of plausible scenarios can, and have been, proposed to explain that the presentation and interpretation of the life and deeds of Jesus that come down to us in the post-ascension documentary evidence were retrofitted backwards by the Christian community sometime between the later third part of the 1st century or the first third of the 2nd century, in accord with later needs, or misunderstandings, or perhaps even dishonest intentions. Jesus neither said nor did much of what was claimed for Him by the Christian community which produced the documentary witness.

    A space (of several decades at least) is thereby opened up between the time of the actual events and the first explicit documentary witness, in which various academically constructed narratives – all relying upon various intrinsic or extrinsic data points or “evidence” – are inserted as a wedge between whatever historical facts really obtained, and the later documentary retrofit. In reality Jesus was only a “marginal Jew”, “a Jewish preacher from Galilee”; we can explain how “Jesus became God”. In this scenario, one or more plausible synthetic narratives incorporating the “data” is setup against the explicit testimony of the ancient witnesses. But is there explicit evidence which nullifies the ancient testimony, or is the testimony being nullified simply by organizing, emphasizing and synthesizing data which can just as well be organized, emphasized and synthesized in full conformity and continuity with the NT accounts and traditional Christian faith?

    In a similar way, we have explicit early patristic testimony that episcopal governance traces its origin back to the apostles and no explicit testimony to the contrary. In the space between the actual events (the lives and times of the apostles), and the time of Ignatius and Irenaeus, in which episcopal governance is clearly in play; there is no doubt data to be considered, both documentary, archaeological, and otherwise – including the thorny value of various silences. But it is data that can be construed in different directions. There is nothing like a smoking gun, or clear falsification of ancient testimony to be found in that data. Plausible scenarios can, indeed, be constructed by organizing, emphasizing, and synthesizing the available data in such a way as to evoke the conclusion that Ignatius / Hegesippus / Irenaeus / Eusebius / Augustine, errantly retrofitted apostolic succession / episcopal governance back upon the historical realities of apostolic times.

    However, so long as one avoids a caricatured presentation of the catholic claims, and instead runs the argument against a properly embryonic and developmental understanding, wherein episcopal governance emerges organically out of the apostolic age, the very same data is entirely capable of being organized, emphasized and synthesized in powerful conformity and continuity with the explicit witness of Ignatius/Irenaeus, etc. Early ambiguity in ecclesial terminology, texts from the Pauline epistles, the Pastorals, the writing of Clement, the reality of house churches and “fractionation” in Rome, are all entirely compatible with the catholic claim, or in many cases can be marshaled to positively support the organic emergence of an episcopal form of governance from the apostolic age and with apostolic intent and authority. The earliest successors to Peter mentioned in the lists need not to have fully exercised or even fully understood Petrine authority in the way it is exercised and understood today, or even 300 years after their own time. Nor need the church in Rome to have been organizationally monolithic. Early successors need only have been ordained to succeed Peter, and placed in some recognized authority role – however truncated and suppressed under intense persecution – to sustain the catholic and patristic claims. In all truth, I have always envisioned the emergence of the episcopacy in this way – even as I was first considering the catholic claims and assessing the historical situation.

    But the crucial point is this. If the “evidence” presented in the OP can be construed and fitted into a synthetic narrative with every bit as much explanatory scope and power as the dis-continuous narrative, yet remaining fully contiguous with the explicit testimony of the early Fathers, then it would seem every bit as much of an unwarranted methodological move to prefer the discontinuous historical narrative of ecclesial governance over the continuous narrative; as it would be to prefer the discontinuous historical narrative of Jesus life and ministry over that narrative which is in continuity with the explicit testimony of the NT, and for basically the same reason ( I know the Fathers are not on a par with the NT, but that does not disturb the analogy). That is why I focused (however hastily) on methodological issues in my first comment. Mounting an academic magisterium of whatever size in support of a thesis which stands in dis-continuity with explicit ancient testimony is not something to be feared or concerned with, if the thesis itself rests upon a suspect methodological procedure.

    Again, this does not invalidate the particular data or work of scholars who hold such a thesis, but it may very well invalidate their attempted general synthesis or broad-based conclusions, when an equally plausible alternative exists which remains in continuity with explicit ancient testimony. We are urged repeatedly to interact with the scholarship. Well and good. But there is a great difference between the various data which are synthesized, and the syntheses themselves. I acknowledge that the texts which are quoted in the OP say what they say. I am even inclined to agree about house churches in Rome and “fractionation”. In short, I doubt there is all that much disagreement about the raw facts themselves. But where the agreement begins to breakdown is when the scope of the synthesis widens, attempting to incorporate more and more data in an explanatory integration. At that point, it seems to me that synthetic conclusions should always be tempered by explicit ancient witness of those closer to the events. We should, all things being equal, prefer ancient testimony to our own narratives.

    Of course, it remains to actually detail and synthesize the data in response to the OP. As I say, I do not have the time currently to move piece by piece through each claim in the OP and show how each data point (and the narrative as a whole) can be just as persuasively construed in continuity with the explicit testimony of Ignatius/ Irenaeus, etc; but I have considered each bit of evidence presented, and I am confident that it can be easily done. Dr. Owen and others have already made a very good start in that direction. Perhaps at a later time I will be in a position to devote the needed time to make the effort. At present, I simply don’t have that luxury.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  166. Ray,

    Such a response as you mention at the end of your comment is currently in the works, and will be posted on CTC in the near future.

    In the meantime, I hope that our readers will profit from the ongoing discussion in this thread. In my opinion, many excellent points have already been raised in response to Brandon’s original post.

    Andrew

  167. Paul Owen #163 (Echoed by David Waltz, and amplified, #164)

    Gentlemen: I’m sure you meant this question rhetorically:

    For my part, why would I trust the early church to safely guide me to a correct consensus on the contents of the canon, and a correct definition of the Trinity, but not trust that same church to give me a reliable “storyline” of the organic connection between the original apostles ordained by Jesus and the historical episcopal structure and priesthood that emerged gradually from the soil of earliest Christianity?

    It seems to me that the “definition of the Trinity” has not been agreed upon since, perhaps, the fifth century. The question to be asked – seriously at this point is – which “correct definition of the Trinity” are we talking about?

    I am asking, because, given the clarity of the doctrine of the Trinity, we should also then, according to your rhetorical question, be equally clear on “the organic connection between the original apostles ordained by Jesus and the historical episcopal structure and priesthood that emerged gradually from the soil of earliest Christianity”. Is that correct?

    I had planned on explicating further why I thought that this question really also calls into question the idea that the historical episcopal structure ought to be clear for all to see, but perhaps asking the question is really to make the point.

    Just to be clear here, which correct doctrine of the Trinity are we talking about?

    [Moderators, you ought to recognize that I am asking the question, not for the purpose of taking this thread off its original topic, but rather, to demonstrate that some of the responses that are being given here are not so clear as the respondents think they are. And thus, my comment here is pertinent to the topic of this thread.]

  168. Brandon,
    Have you had a chance to contemplate my thought that it seems unreasonable to conclude that all the Churches with Apostolic lagacy are false(requiring what you have asserted happened to Rome happening to all of them in some way); and that if that were the case how would we get around the reasonable conclusion that the early Christian faithful(leaders or lay) were not very faithful?

  169. David #161,

    David,

    Just a few brief thoughts.

    Regarding Dix and Cirlot, I wish I could restate myself. I don’t intend to say that they have nothing to say or that we should simply dismiss them because they are old. I was attempting to mention them as individuals who would come up in the discussion but whose views had been discussed and rejected by the majority of the academic community. The fact that even modern dissenters to the thesis of fractionation do not cite them is a testament to this. To put it frankly, they are not being discussed in the academy and as such fall out of the purview of what I’m focusing on. I think that this is
    Moving along to Williams, I’m not really sure where there is disagreement. Your quote from page 45 summarizes it well. There were precursors and each part contributed to the development of the concept of Apostolic Succession. Your quote from page 51 is William’s exposition of Campbell (I don’t have Williams in my library so I cannot read the fuller context) but even his statements in page 53 prove my point, “suggestive of second century monepiskopos in Ignatius…the terminology of which emerges at the end of the first century in 1 Clement.” The passage in Titus is *suggestive* of parallels with Ignatius. 1 Clement provides the terminology of the concept at the end of the first century.

    Finally, regarding scholars, thanks so much for pointing out McGuckian. I should be able to follow up on that. Sobrino’s article is not peer reviewed as far as I know and I’ve linked to my interaction with Sobrino in my article. My argument can be found there in more detail, but to summarize, Sobrino’s article is very weak.

    Paul (#163),

    I’m not sure that your characterization of this issue is accurate or fair (to the evidence or my position). Succinctly, the reason to not believe the church in this regard is because it was a later development–and the reason for not believing Rome is that her claims were even later still.

  170. John,
    The “definition” of the Trinity I am referring to is the one that has been passed down to us from the councils of 325 and 381. I should think that rather obvious. It is the “definition” that we still recite today in church from the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. I guess you must be alluding to the fact that within the doctrinal boundaries of those formularies there have been and still are still questions.

    *The confusion between Greeks and Latins over terminology
    *Whether the HS proceeds from the Father only
    *Whether the “being” or the “person” of the Father is the font of divinity
    *Whether the three persons are modes of subsistence for the divine essence (as with the Western psychological model), or the S and HS are individual instances of the Father’s divine substance who are “in” the Father and one another necessarily (more or less the Eastern model)
    Whether homoousios should be understood numerically or generically
    Whether the persons of the Trinity are individuals with distinctive self-conscious identities (Social Trinity), or merely rational distinctions of the divine essence as defined by their manner of being (Father Unbegotten and Non-Proceeding, Son Begotten, Spirit Proceeding)
    Whether it is proper to speak of the Father as the “cause” of the Son and Spirit in any sense
    In what manner the eternal generation of the Son should be understood

    And so forth. Maybe your post was assuming that I am not aware of these issues? Or maybe you think this somehow poses a problem for my view, since you state that my position is so obviously wrong that you presume it must be rhetorical?

    Brandon,
    I think the reason, or one reason, you and I are speaking past each other is that I am taking the same model that I employ in biblical studies to the study of the Fathers. You are not. For you, the Fathers (even in their consensual opinions) are merely fallible men who frequently get their facts wrong, have to be read with discernment (not childlike trust), and frankly (in effect) make stuff up. But the same Church who speaks in the Tradition is the Church that speaks to us in the pages of the Bible. And it is the same Holy Spirit who led the apostles and prophets to write, who led the Church to study and understand and live out those writings. That is the heart of why you and I disagree. It has nothing to do, really, with advances in scholarship, for those same progressive “advances” in scholarship have long since left behind the traditional views still put forth by conservative biblical scholars.

  171. Ray (#165),

    You said,

    The OP fails to carefully define what, exactly, the catholic claim is. This leads – in my view – to something of an implicit (and I am sure unintentional) straw man.

    Stating it this way leads me to believe there is a misunderstanding as to what I’ve argued. I’ve neither argued that Catholicism is necessarily false nor that there is a unified Catholic position on the development of the episcopate. My entire argument is that the apologetic value of CtC is mitigated by what we know about early ecclesiology. The claim “Jesus founded the RCC” is not really a historical claim, it is a theological claim. There is nothing wrong with that and that needs to be determined in its own merits, but my argument is that it fundamentally undercuts claims to history to bolster those theological claims. Apostolic Succession is not historically principled even if you want to argue that it is theologically principled. I believe the force of this critique is particularly evidenced by your concession,

    That is, the mono-episcopacy was an organic, and natural development out of the apostolic age. It has a growth pattern, and like a developing child, appears in some ways quite different as it transitions with difficulty from conception to maturity; even though it remains one thing from beginning to end. The DNA is – as it were – present all along. Only if one insists that a fully developed Ignatian-Irenaean (and beyond) instantiation of the mono-episcopacy be explicitly located in the NT, and other pre-Ignatian/Irenean documentary and archeological evidence, do broad claims to the effect that there is zero, or virtually no evidence to support episcopal ecclesiology in the sub-apostolic data appear persuasive. If one holds that episcopal church governance is an organic development out of the apostolic age without demanding – say – that there is a papal throne and miter in Rome in 64AD; a more nuanced picture of the NT and sub-apostolic data emerges (as both you and Dr. Owen have pointed out). There is a reason, after all, why catholic scholars – including the very scholars utilized in the OP – remain catholic.

    If we have reached agreement here, then I think we are moving forward. I imagine that some people will scoff at this because they will insist that I’ve ignored a swath of Catholics who already affirm such development, but it is precisely at this point that I believe the force of my argument is being mischaracterized. I’m not saying the papal office had to exist with the papal throne and mitre (such mischaracterization obfuscates the real issues), I’ve tried to demonstrate that the papal office didn’t exist. I cannot speak for each individual as to why they remain Catholic, but it would seem that Raymond Brown’s position would be the logical extension of conclusions about the papacy—the RCC was founded by the Holy Spirit moving providentially. Again, that is a fine theological claim that needs to be examined, but Brown’s whole position undermines the apologetic offered by CtC; that Apostolic Succession provides the principled means to distinguish my interpretation from divine revelation.

    This stands in stark contrast to my citation of Bryan and Neal. There are a few possibilities here: 1. I’ve misunderstood Neal and Bryan 2. Neal and Bryan would restate their comments. But Neal and Bryan aren’t the only ones who have said things like this. Consider Andrew Preslar’s statements,

    The Catholic historians that I have read who take this position also typically maintain that AS in the monepiscopate, while not originating from Christ through the Apostles as a matter of history, nevertheless is part of God’s providential plan for the Church, and therefore is at least an acceptable form of Church polity relative to historical circumstances. I suppose that this is similar to the position of low church Anglicans and other Protestants who allow that episcopal polity is for the good of the Church though not of the essence of the Church. And of course conservative Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, and others will want to argue that episcopacy is a corruption of the original polity intended by Christ and the Apostles and as such is not good for the Church, then or now.
    But none of these options for understanding the early Church’s episcopal polity is compatible with Catholicism. The first option divorces the historical Church from the historical Christ, the second is belied by the consensus of the Fathers, which testifies to the necessity of the episcopacy, including the unique authority of the bishop to ordain and consecrate, and the third position is obviously unacceptable to Catholics. [http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/05/apostolic-succession-and-historical-inquiry-some-preliminary-remarks/#comment-50778]

    Considering that Ott labels the belief that the historical Jesus established the historical episcopate a De Fide doctrine by citing the Anti-Modernist Oath is further evidence that at the very least my argument has addressed a potential belief about the episcopate from conservative Catholics—even Pope Pius himself (which was at the very least Ludwig Ott’s understanding of Pius). In order to show that I’ve created a straw-man, I think you’d need to lay out the Catholic doctrine of the episcopacy and show how my citations of CtC contributors and official papal statements are skewed.

    Summarily, if we can agree that the episcopacy was “essentially embryological” then can are you willing to concede that the language of “Jesus founding the RCC” needs to be properly set out? If we can agree here then perhaps you can point me to something you or someone else at CtC has written nuancing this claim. In my reading here I have only come away with the impression that Jesus founded the RCC was a claim about the historical Jesus and the historical Church—something I understand you to be is not really part of the Catholic position.

    The real issue here (as it appears to me) is not my clarity, but the clarity of those arguing that Jesus founded the RCC. Some people take that in a rather straightforward matter while others (like yourself) do not.

    Moving on you claim,

    Early ambiguity in ecclesial terminology, texts from the Pauline epistles, the Pastorals, the writing of Clement, the reality of house churches and “fractionation” in Rome, are all entirely compatible with the catholic claim, or in many cases can be marshaled to positively support the organic emergence of an episcopal form of governance from the apostolic age and with apostolic intent and authority.

    I do not doubt that such an attempt could possibly be made, but I am rather skeptical of it. A number of rather curious assertions about the possibility of how we could take this data have been made but until the case is actually made it’s difficult to interact with the assertions. And that gets to a rather important point that I want to address about the substance of many of the responses offered thus far: criticisms have moved from the particular to the abstract to offer criticism of the particular, but this is methodological suspect and is subversion to the pursuit of truth. For example, consider the nature of your response in b.)

    The problem with the academic guild is philosophical naturalism and unwarranted skepticism of texts. Insofar as individuals assume these things in their work, their conclusions would need to be altered. When applied to things like the Divinity of Jesus or the infallibility/inspiration of Scripture the Catholic and Reformed are forced to contest these two underlying philosophical precommitments of the academy (and Ray emphasizes the emphasis on discontinuity). Where those philosophical precommittments impact (otherwise good & scholarly) analysis of texts the conclusions can be altered in important ways—favoring a “hermeneutic of continuity.” [my words]

    You then move to point out the analogous relationship between the life of Jesus and the the church. Do we believe that Gospels, written decades after the event, or the speculations of scholars? Do we accept Ignatius and Irenaeus or do we accept the reconstruction of later scholars? There *is* plausibility for a hermeneutic of discontinuity but the plausibility for a hermeneutic of plausibility is equally (if not more so) plausible.

    This leads you to conclude,

    But the crucial point is this. If the “evidence” presented in the OP can be construed and fitted into a synthetic narrative with every bit as much explanatory scope and power as the dis-continuous narrative, yet remaining fully contiguous with the explicit testimony of the early Fathers, then it would seem every bit as much of an unwarranted methodological move to prefer the discontinuous historical narrative of ecclesial governance over the continuous narrative; as it would be to prefer the discontinuous historical narrative of Jesus life and ministry over that narrative which is in continuity with the explicit testimony of the NT, and for basically the same reason ( I know the Fathers are not on a par with the NT, but that does not disturb the analogy). That is why I focused (however hastily) on methodological issues in my first comment. Mounting an academic magisterium of whatever size in support of a thesis which stands in dis-continuity with explicit ancient testimony is not something to be feared or concerned with, if the thesis itself rests upon a suspect methodological procedure.

    It is at this point in your argument that we begin to see assumptions bearing the brunt of your argument. *If* we can see the claim of one narrative is equally as plausible as another then why prefer one that speaks to discontinuity over one that speaks to continuity? It’s difficult to understand what principled means you would appeal to in order to arbitrate between the two equal claims, but as I’ve attempted to argue, they are not equal at all.

    And you have not shown how anything has fallen under the philosophical precommitment to a hermeneutic of discontinuity. That is a hand-waving assertion that impugns the motives of thousands of scholars without citing a single example or addressing one particular piece of evidence. If we are talking about hermeneutics of continuity, why could it not be that these scholars actually believe that the data itself makes discontinuity the most likely option? Is it that anyone who believes that there is discontinuity is doing so for methodological reasons? If not, why present this accusation without substantiation?

    Furthermore, the debate centers on how reliable (and early) the ancient testimony actually is. How late should we prefer ancient testimony over “our own narratives”? How do we figure out what the ancient testimony actually means without interpreting it through “our own narratives”? How does this methodology apply to things like the Donation of Constantine, which appeared itself to be an ancient document from Constantine to the Medievals?

    I don’t mean to suggest that historical work can be done without historiography or philosophical considerations, but thus far I believe that the fact that there are philosophical considerations has been lodged as a criticism against my thesis, but that is a red herring. The two issues you’ve raised as being problematic in the academy are not advocated by the men that I’ve cited as far as I know (though I’m willing to be shown otherwise) and are not shared by myself. Consequently, if you don’t show how those presuppositions impact the historical narrative I’ve presented, then your comments amount to assertions.

    Finally, I wanted to draw attention to another important admission,

    The earliest successors to Peter mentioned in the lists need not to have fully exercised or even fully understood Petrine authority in the way it is exercised and understood today, or even 300 years after their own time. Nor need the church in Rome to have been organizationally monolithic. Early successors need only have been ordained to succeed Peter, and placed in some recognized authority role – however truncated and suppressed under intense persecution – to sustain the catholic and patristic claims. In all truth, I have always envisioned the emergence of the episcopacy in this way – even as I was first considering the catholic claims and assessing the historical situation.

    Much of what I’ve stated earlier applies to this comment, but I wanted to bring this out. Even with this concession though, you’re still in a difficult position to defend that there was a particular Petrine successor in any capacity (you can’t appeal to Ignatius or Irenaeus for that). If you mean that they were a presbyter-bishop given the ability to oversee the church as every other presbyter-bishop, then we have agreement. If you are thinking of a particular Petrine office distinct from other presbyter-bishops then you need to make the historical argument for that. And that gets us back to the quotes of Bryan, Neal, Andrew, Ludwig Ott, and Pope Pius opposed to the position of Raymond Brown (and you?). Did Peter appoint this successor or did it develop? And if it developed, how is your appeal to Apostolic Succession principled? I’ll conclude with my quote from Larry Hurtado (who has done very important work on the early belief about the Divinity of Jesus that you mention) about the claim that Peter and a line of successors,

    As reflected in most scholarly studies on the subject, there is no evidence that Peter was ever “bishop” in/of Rome. All the earliest texts, e.g., 1 Clement (ca. 90 CE) mention Peter and Paul together as martyrs in Rome, but make no claim about Peter as first bishop or any indication that a succession-line was in operation. The earliest such claim is from mid-3rd century CE, and that claim was disputed at that time…There is no claim that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and that subsequent bishops inherited his authority before the third century CE.

  172. Apostolic Succession is not historically principled even if you want to argue that it is theologically principled.

    Brandon, in my mind, why some of us seem to be talking past each other is that we disagree on what is the essential thing about Catholic claim of Apostolic Succession. Simply put, you have not adequately explained why a monoepiscopate in the bishop of Rome is essential to the claim of a historical Apostolic Succession.

    For Apostolic Succession, the essential element is not historical monoepiscopacy – for there is no dispute about whether there were multiple bishops who succeeded the apostles. Rather, the essential element to Apostolic Succession is the “tactile succession” i.e. the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which authority is passed down from Christ, through the apostles, to their successors.

    Our belief that the Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox have retained Apostolic Succession is evidence that the essential element of Apostolic Succession is not a monoepiscopate, but rather a succession of the sacrament of Holy Orders. For if Apostolic Succession required submission to a single bishop (the monoepiscopate of the bishop of Rome), then the Orthodox would not qualify as having retained Apostolic Succession. Therefore, a historical monoepiscopate is not essential to the claim of a historical Apostolic Succession.

    So, I will jump on Ray’s bandwagon in agreeing that there is an inherent strawman in the argument that the lack of a historical episcopal primacy in the Church of Rome disproves the claim of a historic Apostolic Succession.

    And, indeed, if a “tactile succession” through the sacrament of Holy Orders is historical and initiated by Christ, then we certainly have a principled way to distinguish the Apostolic Churches from those groups which have broken that succession.

  173. Paul Owen #170:

    The “definition” of the Trinity I am referring to is the one that has been passed down to us from the councils of 325 and 381. I should think that rather obvious. It is the “definition” that we still recite today in church from the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. I guess you must be alluding to the fact that within the doctrinal boundaries of those formularies there have been and still are still questions.

    Specifically, I was referring to the question of “which definition” … the one “passed down to us from the councils of 325 and 381”, or the one later “developed” by the western church without having consulted the eastern church.

    This is not a mere “question over terminology”. This blurs the doctrinal boundaries at a very important point. It caused a major schism in the church that still exists today.

    And so forth. Maybe your post was assuming that I am not aware of these issues?

    I wouldn’t dream of assuming such a thing.

    Or maybe you think this somehow poses a problem for my view, since you state that my position is so obviously wrong that you presume it must be rhetorical?

    No, as I said, I asked the question in order to “to demonstrate that some of the responses that are being given here are not so clear as the respondents think they are”.

    Again, to refer to your original language:

    For my part, why would I trust the early church to safely guide me to a correct consensus on the contents of the canon, and a correct definition of the Trinity, but not trust that same church to give me a reliable “storyline” of the organic connection between the original apostles ordained by Jesus and the historical episcopal structure and priesthood that emerged gradually from the soil of earliest Christianity?

    You can’t seriously be thinking that “a correct definition of the Trinity” has been settled upon. If you want to say something was “settled”, i.e., the mere fact of the Trinity, I would suggest that the New Testament quite clearly “settles” that issue.

    “[T]he councils of 325 and 381” added perhaps one word, one concept, homoousion, to that which was given in, say, the Gospel of John 14-17, Matt 28:19, 2 Cor 13:14, and other significant teachings from the New Testament.

    Perhaps what “the councils of 325 and 381” added could be said to be a “clarification”, or rather, a “clarification” that led to “further questions”. Perhaps we could ask, “what is your ‘definition’ of a ‘definition’”?

    What do you think? (I think the moderators will ask us to take this discussion off-line. But again, we have been presented with an analogy, in response to the OP, which is offered as a clear settlement, but which is not quite precise. And so, in that regard, the analogy must be questioned.)

  174. John,

    I think the moderators will ask us to take this discussion off-line.

    Indeed. This thread is not for debating the doctrine of the Trinity or the Filioque. – Moderator

  175. Moderator 174: I did not bring up the topic. It was introduced as an argument-by-analogy in response to the OP.

    Nor am I “debating the doctrine of the Trinity or the Filioque”, but merely pointing out that, if those who brought up the analogy as if it were a kind of “slam dunk” response to the OP (“why would I trust the early church to safely guide me to a … correct definition of the Trinity, but not trust that same church to give me a reliable “storyline” of the organic connection between the original apostles ordained by Jesus and the historical episcopal structure and priesthood that emerged gradually from the soil of earliest Christianity?:

    My point is, the analogy supports the OP, but not in the way these writers suggest that it would. In fact, I am drawing a conclusion that the messy history of the “definition” of the Trinity makes vital the kinds of exploration that Brandon is doing in the OP. Some measure of trust in “The Church” is NOT warranted, because there is not clarity in “the storyline” for either end of the analogy (neither in the proposed clarity with respect to the definition of the Trinity, nor the proposed clarity with respect to the “organic connection” of “the episcopal structure etc.”).

    Doesn’t it make sense to explore that particular linkage? Especially in this context?

    (Please note as well that I have NOT proposed one particular “definition” of the Trinity over another one, nor suggested that we ought to think one is superior to another. Only that there is disagreement, and some discussion about which one, in another thread, might make sense).

  176. Jonathan (#172)

    Brandon, in my mind, why some of us seem to be talking past each other is that we disagree on what is the essential thing about Catholic claim of Apostolic Succession. Simply put, you have not adequately explained why a monoepiscopate in the bishop of Rome is essential to the claim of a historical Apostolic Succession.

    I’d point you back to my objection section where I explain and address this.

    You continued,

    For Apostolic Succession, the essential element is not historical monoepiscopacy – for there is no dispute about whether there were multiple bishops who succeeded the apostles. Rather, the essential element to Apostolic Succession is the “tactile succession” i.e. the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which authority is passed down from Christ, through the apostles, to their successors.

    No, that’s not right as I’ve shown from quoting Catholic writers from CtC and the academic world. Andrew Preslar says in these very comments (from my response to you),

    when talking about Apostolic Succession the Catholic Church is talking about tactile succession, namely, ordination by the imposition of hands by those who have the power to ordain. Of course, *that is not all that she (the Church) is talking about*, but it is an important part of the discussion (which is a point worth taking up in more detail, re your original post, some time soon).

    Ironically, you continue to assert that episcopacy is not essential for AS while then going on to assert the necessity of sacramental Holy Orders, which is defined by the bishop possessing the authority to ordain (see CCC 77). While both you and Ray have asserted that I have built a straw-man, you have not demonstrated how even though I have interacted with statements from various scholars and individuals here. In order to demonstrate a logical fallacy (which I concede is possible for me to have committed) you would need to show me where and how I’ve commented. As of yet, however, you have only conflated important issues that ought to be distinguished.

    To more accurately interact with my position I’d suggest that you try to quote or summarize what I’ve said and show why it is a straw-man by citing other Catholic writers or the Catechism to show where I’ve misunderstood or caricatured the Catholic position. And for further substantiation that I believe makes my claims more reasonable see Comment #73 [http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2014/03/the-quest-for-the-historical-church-a-protestant-assessment/#comment-79144].

  177. Brandon,

    I think I might be able to help a little. If I understand your perceived dilemma rightly… I think what I have been asking is the solution to your possible dilemma which you seem to see in the Roman Catholic claim. This is why I have been wanting you to address my concerns. Your point is basically that if you can’t show a explicit bishopric for Rome the Roman Catholic lacks the principled way of reaching the historic claims that he is part of the historic “body of Christ” which was expanded by the “overseers” ordained by the apostles; therefore, the Catholic lacks the assurance that his body of Christians is “the” body of Christians which is the inheritor of the promised Holy Spirit protection in the scriptures, the body which it is written of by the Apostle John saying, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they were of us, they would have continued with us.” The same body which acted in Acts 15. The body Jesus said would be lead into all truth. All these claims are contingent on being that body. Which you perceive must be linked with a reasonably verifiable bishopric in Rome for this to be a historically reasonable claim. Otherwise Roman Catholics can not show the Apostolic Succession of their body invoking these biblical claims. Do I perceive this correctly?

  178. Brandon,

    I just read through your last comment to Jonathan and when I got to this,

    “Ironically, you continue to assert that episcopacy is not essential for AS while then going on to assert the necessity of sacramental Holy Orders, which is defined by the bishop possessing the authority to ordain (see CCC 77).”

    it did startle me for a minute. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that if Peter received an episcopacy where he was the chief bishop in order to pass the mantle to the next chief bishop then there could never be a moment where there was no visible chief bishop. And so any picture of an early church without the recognizable Vicar of Christ means that there is no AS. Is this what you are saying?

    ~Susan

  179. Brandon,

    I’m taking the time to read through the thread now but it seems to me that the confusion between you, Andrew Preslar, Ray, Jonathan, might hinge on what you mean by “episcopy” and especially “monoepiscopy.”

    For example, you state in reply to Jonathan, “Ironically, you [Jonathan] continue to assert that episcopacy is not essential for AS while then going on to assert the necessity of sacramental Holy Orders, which is defined by the bishop possessing the authority to ordain (see CCC 77).”

    But it looks to me like Jonathan did not assert that “episcopy” (in a general sense, or in the sense of sacramental Holy Orders) was not essential. It looks to me like Jonathan asserted that monoepiscopy was not essential.

    So I’d like to see you guys defining your terms. I mean, does “monoepiscopy” mean “the practice by which there is only one bishop who is the ordinary of a diocese, and he stays in his diocese, and other bishops who happen to be in the diocese do not have authority within it?” That part doesn’t sound terribly essential to me.

    It seems to me pretty plain that Peter, when he arrived at Rome, could have said something along the lines of, “Hi, Linus, and all you other old friends of mine, whom we apostles ordained with authority to ordain! Good to see you again. Look, I’m likely not going to be in the body too long, but while I’m here, I’m going to serve in Rome amongst you. I see that some of you guys have evolved towards specific and non-overlapping functions: One of you is caring for the poor in the city; another taking monetary gifts from here to the churches in the poorer provinces, and another is doing most of the evangelizing. It looks as if all that’s working great, and I see no immediate reason to change it. I’ll join in on the evangelizing side, mostly. Naturally if there’s a dispute and Christ’s church needs me to exercise my chief-stewardly role, I’ll do that, too, in order that Jesus’ sheep continue to be fed and that there be no divisions. But we can hope that won’t happen too often. In fact, what with the persecution we’re already experiencing, it wouldn’t surprise me if, by the time we have leisure to squabble among ourselves, I’m already with the Lord and the binding-or-loosing falls to my successor. I frankly hope it takes even longer than that. Oh, and Linus, if I get killed suddenly, I’d like you to handle that stuff. Unless you get killed at the same time. In which case…who? Clement maybe? Or Cletus? Hmm. Maybe we need a formal succession plan here.”

    Please pardon the colloquial, chatty way of putting all that. Write it off to a poor attempt at humor, if you like. And of course I am not saying that Peter did say all of that, in a single conversation! That would be highly improbable, and it doesn’t sound like Peter’s style.

    But my point is not to try to pass off an imaginary bit of dialogue as authentic. My point, rather, is to show that having a few of what we would now call “bishops” in the city simultaneously cooperating with one another to minister to the faithful as a whole is not incompatible with the Catholic understanding. It is merely different from later Catholic practice.

    The resulting day-to-day church operations would look little like the monarchical one-per-city episcopate which Ignatius of Antioch regarded as normal a few decades later. But such an arrangement would in no way contradict what I take to be the two critical Catholic notions: (1.) You can’t wield, let alone delegate, authority that you don’t even have; consequently, only clergy-with-authority-to-ordain can make more clergy-with-authority-to-ordain; and, (2.) the Church has a “buck stops here”/”tent peg in a secure place” role in her Magisterial authority structure, and always has, and always will, so that (a.) you always know, in any schism involving bishops, which side is the Church and which side is the schism; and so that (b.) decisions involving disputes can’t be endlessly appealed to another bishop, or the validity of councils endlessly debated.

    At any rate, ecclesiology must be compatible with Scripture. I don’t see that any other group of Christians on the planet can plausibly fit the job description. We cannot (without fear of error) derive that job description wholly and solely from Scripture in a “treat the Bible as if it were a catechism” kind of way, because doing so is misusing Scripture (which nobody ever claimed was a catechism in the relevant, literal sense). But we believe Jesus was not like Mohammed — a mere human who made no provision or inadequate provision to ensure the future unity of the movement He started. We believe Jesus not only intended that we be “one, as thou Father and I are one” but that He made arrangements to ensure that there would be “one flock, one shepherd.” Do Jesus and His Father disagree about whether baptism regenerates, or whether infants should be baptized, or whether Christianity was intended to include an ongoing sacrificial worship, or whether Christian clergy should absolve confessed sins, or whether Christ is really present in the Eucharist?

    Scripture requires an ecclesiology in which, when one Christian accuses another of heresy, the dispute (if not resolved between the two men, or between “two or three witnesses”) can be taken “to the Church” and resolved with Heaven’s authority. And Heaven is infallible; so when the decisions of Jesus’ Church have been appealed to the last appeal and there is no further appeal, those decisions are infallible — or else Jesus is a liar, and not God. (But He is God. So….)

    At any rate, Apostolic Succession means different things in different contexts. And so does “the Petrine office.” But if you want to demonstrate that early Church history contradicts current Catholic dogma on these two things, the sources you have thus far won’t cut it.

    I think what you need is something like: The early church appealing a dispute to Peter, and then when Peter ruled in a way they didn’t like, they appeal the dispute still further, to some other bishop. But I don’t see that you have that.

  180. Other concerns will prevent me from commenting consistently but just so you know, Burton (#152), I’ve nearly completed a response to your question. It may not be exactly what you are looking for, but I may host it on my own blog and link from the comments here to the blog because it is a bit longer.

    Michael (#177),

    To perhaps clarify a bit I would just say that I’m not arguing that the RCC is not a part of the Church, I’m arguing that it is not “the” body of Christ. The claim of the RCC is that it is *the* Church because it is connected to Peter through his successors. The fact that there are no successors to the Petrine office undermines this claim.

    Susan (#178),

    No, you’ve not understood my statement correctly. I’m saying that without a bishop succeeding another bishop, succession ceases. That is why if Peter did not ordain someone to be his successor the office cannot be a Petrine office.

    R.C. (#179),

    I’m not sure that it is so much confusion about episcopacy or monepiscopacy between us, but rather equivocation on what the RCC is claiming about AS. Your comment is an example of such equivocation.

    On the one hand, you say monarchical episcopacy is non-essential. You then go on and give the informal dialogue between Peter and those in Rome. In the dialogue though, you are presupposing that Peter appoints one individual to lead the college of bishops on his death… and how is that distinct from monarchical episcopacy?

    Moving along, your two unmovable assertions also presuppose a threefold-division of ministry wherein some had the authority to ordain and others didn’t. You need to argue that some officers had the authority to ordain and others didn’t. The assertion that the Church has a Magisterial authority structure to solve schism (as Allen Brent notes, there was not a fully formed notion of schism in the 3rd century) and/or ratify councils is highly speculative.

    Finally, you state,

    At any rate, Apostolic Succession means different things in different contexts. And so does “the Petrine office.” But if you want to demonstrate that early Church history contradicts current Catholic dogma on these two things, the sources you have thus far won’t cut it. I think what you need is something like: The early church appealing a dispute to Peter, and then when Peter ruled in a way they didn’t like, they appeal the dispute still further, to some other bishop. But I don’t see that you have that.

    One thing that appears very clear to me is that Apostolic Succession can mean any number of different things, and apparently, even though I’ve cited numerous people, I miss the mark every time. It’s a possibility, but I’m beginning to wonder if those commenting are using the supposed elasticity of Apostolic Succession to evade the arguments being presented. As I’ve shown, even the CCC makes episcopacy a requirement for Apostolic Succession.

    As to your suggestion about Peter, I’m not really sure why you believe that example would prove anything or how it even relates to my claim that there was no episcopate in Rome for 150 years. Perhaps you could flesh that out?

  181. Greetings,

    I have read through this thread fairly closely, and, forgive me, but… I haven’t seen that the following things have been shown…

    “The fact that there are no successors to the Petrine office…”

    ” …there was no episcopate in Rome for 150 years.”

    I have seen some scholarship put forth to cast doubt on the claims of some Early Father, on the claims of the modern Catholic Church (“RCC” is too limited, IMHO), but nothing even close to as certain as the above is stated. And certainly nothing to make me believe that Reformed Christianity is a truer expression of the Faith of the ancient Church. Casting doubt on the reliability of Holy Tradition doesn’t help me see the logic, history, or, in some cases, the morality nor scriptural warrant for ideas such as “simul iustus et peccator,” penal substitutionary atonement, sola scriptura… the list goes on…

    If anything… the line of scholarship and reasoning would lead me more towards doubting the very foundations of the Christian Faith, not making me looking toward the Reformation communities, and certainly not their theological progeny…

    I appreciate the tone of the author of the guest article…

    IC XC
    Christopher

  182. Brandon,

    I understand that you are commited elsewhere presently, so take your time. You are answering a number of us while, I’m just speaking to you:)

    Actually, your response is getting at what I believed you were saying:

    ” I’m saying that without a bishop succeeding another bishop, succession ceases. That is why if Peter did not ordain someone to be his successor the office cannot be a Petrine office.”

    Why could it not play out that Peter was the first bishop and by the time he is martyred in Rome, he has ordained 10 men who have each also ordained 10 men, one of which was Linus who was ordained the same year Peter died? Maybe Peter did tell others that he would like Linus to succede him, but it wouldn’t matter either way. I don’t understand why it is so important that the living pope has to ordain his successor. When Benedict XVI resigned the College of Cardinals through the Holy Spirit, chose our current pope.

    The Holy Spirit is guiding The Church through this office and will continue to do so throughout time, but those aspects that have already been set down remain in operation even if there is a gap between the times that the office is filled. So the liturgy and everything else, run as they have. The way I think of it is, even if a controversy arose and it wasn’t settled during my lifetime, I still had what I needed for faith and salvation and objective moral authority, as did my forefathers, and so the generations to come after me will too because no controversy can change what The Church is essentially.

  183. Susan (#182),

    Thanks for your patience, Susan :)

    It could not have played out that way because then you don’t actually have a Petrine office or a “principle of unity.” Who of the ten successors gets to be the one to ordain the successor of the Petrine office? Or maybe the original ten didn’t ordain someone to take over the Petrine office and they ordained additional men, then which of the 10-100 men gets to ordain the one successor in Rome? Moreover, if you really want to concede the potential that Peter didn’t ordain one person to the office but multiple people, then you have a real mess when you start to factor in the fractionated character of Roman Christianity.

    You can point to present practice to point out that the cardinals appoint the Pope but that is the result of Medieval development & doesn’t take into account the supposition that this Petrine office is actually established by Jesus through Peter. If Peter didn’t appoint a successor, then upon what basis did others claim his unique role in the Roman Church? And while we are on this topic, do you have anything in the first 2 centuries that even speaks about a specifically Petrine office existing in Rome? There is no writer that I am aware of that writes about a specifically Petrine office handed down–that doesn’t come until Stephen in 254.

    Your statement,

    The Holy Spirit is guiding The Church through this office and will continue to do so throughout time, but those aspects that have already been set down remain in operation even if there is a gap between the times that the office is filled.

    assumes that the office existed for the Holy Spirit to guide it. You *can* argue that the office developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but this is not a matter of the office being vacant for a little while like after Benedict stepped down. My argument is that the “office” didn’t exist for at least 150 years. That would be like someone today claiming that they are the successor of Joseph Smith without any predecessors. They could make a spiritual appeal to that claim, but it would be nonsensical for them to claim that they received this office through succession of ordination.

    The real issue here is trying to synthesis one’s hypothesis about possibilities with the data we possess. What evidence do we have to make us believe your scenario? In what you’ve stated, the office of Peter is recognized and important from the very beginning, and yet, we don’t hear anything about. We don’t even hear about an episcopate let alone a Petrine office from Clement all the way until Tertullian–and even Tertullian just states that Linus was ordained by Peter. Before even dealing with the fact that all of the earliest indications point to plurality of leadership in Rome, how do you account for the complete silence on an office that you believe is and was essential to the existence of the Church? If the office of Peter is so important, why is there no evidence for its existence until the monarchical episcopate is solidified? I think an answer to that question will help us move forward.

  184. Brandon(180),

    This is where I think a problem is. You said you are, “not arguing that the RCC is not a part of the Church, I’m arguing that it is not “the” body of Christ.” Essentially, the “RCC” doesn’t say it is the only body of Christ either. It says there is “a” unified body of Christ of which it is an essential part. The individual bishops and faithful which, with understanding, do not reject the Petrine successor as part of the infallible Church are “the” body of Christ. If it is a fact, like you said, “that there are no successors to the Petrine office “, then, yes. It truly “undermines this claim.” What I am trying to get passed is that the parallel apostolic bishoprics, which continued in communion with Rome passed the time you are studying, gets around the reasonable possibility that the same body of Christians who discerned the scriptures and many other things(doing what happened in Acts 15) with the protective promises the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures is the same body of Christians who discerned the importance of the Bishop of Rome in “the” one body of Christ. This has to do with the promises in the Scriptures and particularly of the guidance of the Holy Spirit in discerning truth. This is irrelevant to the historic details we can dig up and arrange in the beginning at Rome, which can be debated. Can you see how “the early Church” could know the Holy Spirit is teaching them by those “sent” to “go unto all the world and teach” and these multiple Apostolic Sees could get around it being just a Roman Catholic assertions and makes it all the Apostolic Sees which accepted this? Could we think this would be protected by the Holy Spirit? Can you grasp how this could get around your problem?

    Another thought from my Catholic POV(which is relatively new/3years), when you say you are “not arguing the the RCC is not part of the Church” I wonder why you and your overseer are not in communion with us and are separated from “the” body of Christ which the Bishop of Rome is just a part of. I have my own bishop and he doesn’t reject Rome’s bishops. This is how I know I am in communion with all the non-schismatic overseers in the Church. The Bishop of Rome is not my Bishop. Just one of the bishops in the Catholic(universal) Church. I can know when or if my bishop leaves the Church even if he jumps ship with 200 bishops because of the unique role the Church has discerned in the Roman Petrine See. Do you understand this?

  185. Michael, (#184)

    No, I don’t grasp how this gets around the tension I point out in my article. What the RCC says is that the Petrine office is the principle of unity for the whole church. If you’re not in communion with him you are in schism or heresy. However, if there is no such thing as a Petrine office (except one that later developed) then the Petrine office is not the princinple of unity or the Apostolically sanctioned means by which we possess a principled means to distinguish opinion from revelation.

    As far as why other churches accepted Roman claims, they didn’t at first (see Cyprian, the E.O.). Secondly, Rome was a cultural and political power that was probably one of the most wealthy Christian centers in the world by the middle of the second century, so it was natural for that city to have wide influence. Thirdly, there was rich Christian history in that city (Peter probably ministered in the city in some capacity along with Paul while both men died there).

    The infallibility of the church is a worthy question in its own right, but I’m not particularly concerned with that issue in my original post (OP). I’m concerned with the CtC’s claims about Peter and Apostolic Succession providing a principled means to distinguish opinion from revelation.

    The reason I am not part of Rome is multifaceted but a few concise reasons: 1.) The bishop in Rome is not the principle of unity in the church. Communion with him is not equivalent to communion with the Church 2.) I don’t live in Rome and am not subject to the pastor there nor are my elders or presbyter subject to any one particular pastor or church 3.) My communion was removed from fellowship with the RCC by the Roman bishop

    I do understand what you are saying, but what you are saying does not address the substance of my critique.

  186. Brandon,

    Thanks for your article and all the time you have put into this discussion. I have appreciated much of the dialogue on this comment thread and I know you have personally committed a great deal of time to commenting and moderating and I really appreciate that effort.

    Please excuse me for horning in on the most recent exchange between you and Susan. I think you are drawing an improperly narrow view of what succession has to look like for it to be succession. In 183 you say:

    If Peter didn’t appoint a successor, then upon what basis did others claim his unique role in the Roman Church?

    You seem to be insisting that succession could only be determined through Peter. I would draw your attention to Acts 1:26 where the Apostles cast lots to select Mathias as successor to Judas. Clearly the 12 knew they had the authority to select a successor to fill the office, and even the authority to choose the method to fill it.

    From the Catholic paradigm, all that is necessary is that the living Apostles and Bishops at that time knew the office continued and that the office was filled and there was a successor. Your insistence is that he had to happen only directly by Peter – which indeed it may have, we don’t know for sure. The hidden part of your argument is that if we don’t have direct evidence that Peter personally ordained and appointed a successor to the Petrine office then we must assume that Peter didn’t appoint a successor and therefore the Petrine office doesn’t exist.

    Have a Blessed Easter!

  187. GNW Paul (#186)

    I’m arguing that the Catholic argument presents Peter as the one who appointed Linus to his (Peter’s) office. Are you conceding that Peter did not ordain his successor? Irenaeus seems to indicate otherwise (the bishopric was given by Paul and Peter).

    You are of course right that it would be a possibility that Peter didn’t appoint him to that office but some other group did, but I’d be curious to know what group that was and where they received their authority from. Was it given to them by Peter? Was it given to them by other Apostles? Once again we are forced to ask about whether possible scenarios are likely scenarios.

  188. Brandon (#183)

    I am butting into your discussion with Susan :-)

    If Peter didn’t appoint a successor, then upon what basis did others claim his unique role in the Roman Church?

    I don’t see why you say this. Apostolic succession means bishops must be ordained by bishops. The Pope is not a special sort of ordination; it is a special function. The Pope is the bishop of Rome. As you say, the election by cardinals can be of any bishop. That that particular way of choosing the Pope arose in the middle ages is irrelevant. The chosen person becomes bishop of Rome by being elected Pope; he wasn’t necessarily bishop of Rome before his election.

    It may or may not have been the case that the first Popes after Peter had been Roman bishops before their election – I wouldn’t have a clue. But apostolic succession doesn’t at all mean that the Pope has to choose his successor. He may have ordained dozens of bishops during his office as Pope – and none of them might be Pope after him.

    jj

  189. Brandon,

    You are ver patient too and very kind, thank you:) You and the other men here are able to speak more precisely about early church history then I am, so I will step back and let you interact together. I will just say that the fact that Ireneaus has a list should mean something to anyone looking in on this from the outside. It seems to me the only way to understand the internal claims of a any community is to believe about it what it believed about itself( I don’t understand why Ireneaus’ List is denied as being testimony of petrine officers). Further, this makes sense of the biblical accounts of the need for the imposition of hands. What purpose could this serve other than to signify tranference of the Holy Spirit? Plus, Apostolic succession is the only way to refute rival claims of authority when claimantsappeal to scripture alone setting themselves up as true churches. What do you think? Again, I’d really enjoy meeting you in person. Have a blessed remainder of Holy Week and Easter, my friend!

    Susan

  190. Brandon(185),

    Before I try to explain, can you clarify what you mean by the Cyprian and E.O. not excepting Roman’s claims. Are you saying these churches rejected the Roman See being of apostolic origin or are you saying something else? I have been talking about the five apostolic sees accepting each other’s historic claims to their being seats of apostolic succession and how unlikely it seems to me that all of these had a slip of discernment in accepting a name by name line of bishops to their founding.

    I also meant to ask what exact Presbyterian communion are you a part of?

    Hope you had a blessed Easter. Thanks for continuing to help me grasps how you understand these things.

    God’s blessings and peace be on you and your family because of our Lord’s glorious Resurrection,
    Michael

  191. Sorry Brandon, I saw in the C2C introduction for you that you are part of the PCA communion. I would probably be ignorant of it even if it had happened, but has your communion sought communion with Rome in which the Bishop of Rome has then refused? The PCA formed in 1973, for good reasons to my limited knowledge, but did not seek to find a existing apostolic communion. Right? This topic would probably get us to far of topic, but I just wanted you to think about it. The PCA formers rejected their previous communion as being a good communion to be apart of. Similarly this to how Methodist groups after John Wesley’s death specifically rejected the Church of England, but not specifically Rome. This happens repeatedly. Anyway, it seems to me, there may be no actual rejection of communion when no seeking of communion has been sought by a body of baptized Christians. In this case you and yours. I guess I don’t see how you can make this claim: “My communion was removed from fellowship with the RCC by the Roman bishop” when your communion left a fellowship to form it’s own. I see how the early Protestants communions which got specific excommunication can make this claim, but those who separated from them I can’t see how those can apply.

  192. Brandon,

    I hope you and your family have enjoyed a blessed and peaceful Easter. Christ is Risen, Alleluia!!!

    Thank you for the interaction. First a quick re-cap. R.C. suggested in #179 that you are confusing (at times) the distinction between episcopacy, and monoepiscopy and also mentioned a similar issue regarding the Petrine office which is what I was recently trying to get at. Meanwhile, back in his comment #165, Ray Stamper suggested in point a) that your argument entails “an implicit straw man” as the result of not “carefully defining, what, exactly the Catholic Claim is.”

    Ray was absolutely pointing the right direction by suggesting the problem lies with poorly defining and utilizing the Catholic position. I think you run into more issue with the underlying logic turning out to be circular or question begging, but Ray identified the source of the problem in your portrayal of the Catholic position which is inadequate and ambiguous, and probably a result of not really fully understanding Catholicism. The discussion about the succession of Peter exposed it to me. The fact that you seem to think that Peter ordaining Clement is important in the Catholic understanding of Clement succeeding Peter in the Petrine office demonstrates that you are not exercising sufficient discernment of what matters to the Catholic claim.

    One part of the problem lies in use of the term Presbyterian in what you are trying to prove. You are clear from the outset what you mean by Presbyterian and that is fine, but by choosing using a word, in a specialized sense, that also is a word with roots in the New Testament that is right at the heart of what is at issue, you create significant potential for false equivocations, circular syllogisms and straw men. The resulting problem for you argument is that terminology hides where your logic isn’t working. It took me quite a while to catch onto it myself, even though, Like Paul Owen and Roberto A.C. and Abelian and others who commented above, my first thought was to focus on proper Catholic understanding of what is really essential in the office of Bishop.

    The other part of the problem in your argument is that is does not actually properly deal with what Catholics believe and claim. Particularly, you are attempting an historical argument and you try to leave theology out of it. You want to deal only with the Catholic Historical claims. This is precisely what gets obscured when you use the term Presbyterian because that word stand for a conceptual model that you properly stated, yet it also has other definitions.

    The result is that you fooled me and perhaps others, and perhaps yourself that you were attempting a new kind of argument in this area. A bottom up, historical approach. It turns out that at the heart of the argument, this is not true. The argument really hinges on Theology. The important question has nothing to do with whether or not Church Leaders in Rome were a college of Equal Presbyters or whether there was a fully developed Bishop 3rd century sense, monoepiscopacy bishop. The real question is about Holy Orders and Sacraments. As always, it is a theological question. Were the leaders of the Church in Rome Catholic or not?

    You are attempting to prove that a group of Christian Elders / Leaders who we all agree were actually in Rome in the 1st and 2nd centuries were Presbyterian. Properly speaking you are trying to prove that the leaders in Rome were Protestant Presbyterian. You need to considered, accurately, the Catholic position. As Jonathan Brumly pointed out in #172 and was raised in #3 by Victor Lopez, the model of single, powerful, individual Bishop in the fully developed sense, is not essential to the Catholic position. Yes, it is integral to the full Catholic Historical story, but it is not essential theologically. That is why the Catholic Scholars you quote are still Catholic. The full blown monarchial, single Bishop Episcopacy as an historical claim (which I actually do believe and defend) isn’t the necessary part. They key for Catholics is Ordination and Apostolic succession, which you demonstrate that you don’t really understand. You need to provide a means of distinguishing between the Protestant Presbyterian model you are trying to prove and an inchoate but definitely Catholic model of multiple Presbyters. If the Presbyters are ordained by laying on of hand and they in turn are laying on hands and ordaining then the functionality of Bishop and Apostolic Succession is present. In order for your argument too succeed you must have a means of distinguishing between Protestant Presbyters and Catholic Presbyters.

    To prove that the ecclesial leadership of the Roman Christian Community in the first 2 centuries was “Presbyterial” in the Protestant sense you must prove they did not have even an inchoate understanding practice sacramental ordination. This whole argument needs to revolve entirely around the theology of ordination. You addressed this issue in Section II: The Protestant and Catholic Interpretive Paradigms but you focused entirely on the Monarchical Episcopacy. It is not the monarchical element that provides for Apostolic Succession. It is the sacrament of Holy Orders, ordination. Even if the monarchical part does not fully develop for 200 years, it does absolutely nothing to threaten Apostolic Succession. You address the issue again in Section III: Examining the Canonical evidence. Your objection to a Catholic understanding is that there are or may be multiple Presbyters involved in ordaining Timothy and Titus. However this is actually standard practice that multiple Bishops participate in the ordination of a new Bishop and that has certainly been true since around the 5th century. The concept of Apostolic Succession is not simply {A} to {B} to {C}.

    Comment #27 by Jonathan brought up the issue and you replied in #39 by trying to draw a distinction between Protestant Laying on Hand which you call Tactile ordination and Catholic sacramental ordination:

    When talking about Apostolic Succession the Roman Catholic Church is not talking about tactile succession (Peter ordains Joe who ordains Steve who ordains Johnny), it is talking about episcopal succession and where one presbyter-bishop retains the Apostolic prerogative. For the Catholic, this is a sacramental process (as I noted from Bryan and Neal in my article). I’m arguing this sacramental notion of Apostolic Succession is falsified by what we know about the organization of the Roman church.
    What I’m willing to concede is that in the normal process of things you have a tactile succession, but you don’t have an episcopal office (which originates with Peter) being passed down to a single successor (or even to a group of particular successors).

    This is a gross mischaracterization of Catholicism. I don’t know exactly what you mean by “One presbyter-bishop retains the Apostolic perogative” whatever it is, it isn’t Catholic. However, the Bold statement is the important one. This is why your argument can not succeed. The organization of the Roman Church does not tell you anything about whether laying on of hand was Sacramental and Apostolic Succession or whether it was Protestant. You don’t present a complete argument here, but I’ve attempted to put something along the lines of your claim in syllogistic form a few ways and it either Begs the Question or it makes a Straw Man out of the Catholic position.

    Again, the real argument is about theology. The historical approach was a brilliant idea. However, what you end up teaching me, is that even if I grant the disrespect to Irenaeus and Ignatius, and grant a huge argument from silence and give up most of the Catholic historical account, Protestants still can’t disprove Apostolic Succession or the Petrine Office.

    Sorry it took me a while to respond. I am not the sharpest guy around here and writing concisely and politely are a challenge for me. I appreciate your effort. Again, God Bless.

  193. MichaelTX(190)
    “Before I try to explain, can you clarify what you mean by the Cyprian and E.O. not excepting Roman’s claims. ”

    Michael, I suspect that Brandon is pointing out that both the Vatican Council and the encyclical “Satis Cognitum” that followed held up Cyprian as an example of an early saint that recognized the “universal jurisdiction” of the Bishop of Rome. And yet even Historian Wm. Jurgens admits : ““Cyprian, indeed, recognized that the Bishop of Rome held some kind of special and primatial position; but he had not thought of it as implying a universal jurisdiction.” (Jurgens, pp. 219-220)

  194. Brandon,

    Happy Easter Tuesday! He is Risen, Alleluia!!

    Presbyters and Presbyters. I think, excusably, you are reading too much into (if your historical arguments are correct) the flatter, more like a congress of Presbyters than a monarchical Bishop model of the early Church in Rome. I propose that your strong Protestant foundation causes you to leap to the conclusion that an organization without hierarchy leads out of necessity to a very Protestant conception of Presbyters. The result, at least from the Catholic perspective, is that you are conflating two questions into one. The first question, the organizational questions may be, at least for the sake of argument, answered that the leadership was a College of Presbyters without hierarchy. That does not answer the question of Apostolic Succession however. I can understand that you might think so, coming from a background where you do not consider ordination to be sacramental. I presume, that your understanding of the Early Church is probably that Timothy and Titus and other second generation Christian leaders where preachers and pastors similar to your Protestant model. Please excuse me if I am wrong in that presumption. Would I be correct in thinking that your understanding of this issue is that it was the corruption of this model by what became Catholicism that resulted in sacramental ordination and apostolic succession and powerful, monarchical Bishops?

    The Catholic perspective is very different from this. In the Catholic perspective, we believe and have been taught all our lives that ordination is sacramental, that Holy Orders are sacramental. The sacrament is instituted by the action that symbolizes it. That is basic sacramental theology for us. Sacraments are signs that actually, really, institute that which they symbolize. For Holy Orders, we know (with the same kind of depth I think you probably Know that Timothy was simply a pastor) that Holy Orders can only be conferred by the proper administer of that Sacrament, the Bishop. Apostolic Succession is nothing more than an encapsulation of those 2 simple facts. Holy Orders is sacramental and can only be administered by a Bishop: Apostolic succession is nothing more than valid ordination. Ordination by a Bishop sacramentally passes along the authority of the office of teacher and minister in succession from the Apostles.

    Perhaps that will help you see why the problem for Catholic that you see as obvious and unavoidable to the Catholic interlocutors here on our side is not seen as a problem at all. There is great potential for both sides to beg the question with these issues, especially since we are so used to our own tradition that it is difficult to see the other side as even reasonable. The great service of CtC is that being converts, they are most often able to see both sides more easily.

    So, to the Catholic perspective your overall argument, in the part where you connect from a proving a group of Presbyters to the idea that therefor there were no bishops at all in Rome begs the question. For Catholics Holy Orders, Sacramental Ordination is the laying on of hands and the laying on of hands is ordination. In terms of logic, that is simply a definition. The sending forth by laying on of hands is the very definition of Holy Orders, they are inseparable. Further, the definition of a Bishop, regardless of whatever development or evolution in how that role as Bishop was exercised is being sacramentally ordained with Holy Orders. Only an existing ordained Bishop can perform an ordination, therefore, if ordinations are being performed, the men performing them are Bishops. From the Catholic perspective, the major part of any development over time is the office of the Priest with an ordination that doesn’t include the full authority of full Holy Orders. Lest you think that poses much problem from our perspective on the history, our tradition is constant that only the Bishops with full Holy Orders can ordain anyone, deacons, priests or bishops. So Bishops, whether called Episkopos or Presbyterio had to come first.

    Hopefully this well help you understand that we aren’t simply trying to shout down an argument by suggesting your argument “begs the question.” For you it probably seems so obvious. However, for Catholics it is equally, and totally obvious that [laying on of hands]==[ordination]==[Bishops]. Thus whether there were 1, 2, 5, or 12 prebyters / episkopos in Rome, and whether they were organized with a strong lead Bishop who led with great authority or whether they were more collaborative is simply, totally irrelevant. They clearly performed ordinations, we see that as sacramental and therefor it is obvious, in our paradigm, that they are Bishops.

    Hopefully this helps.

  195. JJ (#188),

    The real issue here is the existence of a Petrine office. My point has been that if Peter didn’t know he occupied such an office and did not intend to pass that office on to someone, then how can you claim that it was passed along? The argument is presumably that the office was passed along from Peter to Linus, etc., etc. Of course this didn’t necessarily mean that each successor had to personally ordain their successor, but what are you proposing as an alternative? Did all of the local presbyters ordain him? How do we know that they were actually following Peter’s intention or that Peter’s office was a perpetual office if he didn’t say so himself or believe that he was?

    To be clear, it is a misunderstanding to say that I’m arguing that Apostolic Succession requires a bishop to ordain his successor. I was referring to the particular Petrine office and Susan’s proposal that it was possible that Peter didn’t ordain or appoint anyone as a successor. She put forward the possibility that maybe Peter ordained 10 men. My point was that if that was the case what principled means do you have to say that one individual then becomes the successor? And furthermore, do we actually have any record of anything like this happening? The answer, IMO, is that we clearly do not.

    Susan (#189),

    I’m not sure how much further such discussion can go, but you are reading Catholic theology back into the situation of the first century. I can understand why that is tempting, but while it appears to make sense to you that (for example) the laying on of hands doesn’t make sense if it didn’t signify the transference of the Holy Spirit (presumably in some sacramental role), that is projecting your assumptions back into the first century. It could be, but it requires the difficult work of history to verify if such is the case.

    Michael (#191),

    I have not sought communion with Rome nor have any churches I’ve been part of.

    Paul (#192)

    I’m afraid I have to disagree that I’ve poorly defined the Catholic position. I’ve cited multiple sources so you’ll need to show how I’ve misunderstood them in order to show that there is a problem of definition. If I have so poorly understood the Catholic claim, it would be beneficial for someone to succinctly explain it if I’ve misrepresented it so poorly. I’m rather confident that you cannot do so though because your claim that I’ve misunderstood the conservative Catholic argument is incorrect, as my citations demonstrate.

    Furthermore, you’ve not properly articulated my definition of presbyterian. It in no way hides anything, it just simply says that multiple men, called presbyters, ruled in the church. To argue that I’ve argued that the leaders in Rome are Protestant Presbyterians leads me to believe you didn’t actually read my article because I explicitly state that was not what I was arguing.

    Such misunderstanding continues when you say that sacramental succession is not connected to Apostolic Succession. Please see comment #73 for more information on why the notion of Apostolic Succession is intimately connected to the office of bishop and why falsifying the existence of the episcopate undermines those claims. If, you want to believe that episcopacy is not necessary for Apostolic Succession, then upon what grounds would you deny current Presbyterians who can trace their ordination back to a validly ordained presbyter as fulfilling Apostolic Succession?

  196. Brandon, JJ, Susan, Paul,

    I look forward to you guys flushing out the details raised in the last few post. It seems like there might be potential to get at the root of understanding the issues at play, especially between Paul and Brandon’s last interaction. I well understood Paul as getting near the issues at work. Brandon, I do hope you will hear him out. His post was very clear to me. Not perfect, but it touched on some important problem I have been seeing, too.

    Brandon, in your response to JJ you asked, ” Did all of the local presbyters ordain him?” Thoughts on this has been mentioned earlier somewhere. Maybe by Susan? Anyway, I suspect this is what makes you think Rome, from a Catholic view, would have to be “presbyterial” rule instead of monoepiskipal rule. Sorry if I am wrong. In my understanding this presents a very reasonable Catholic position and does not contradict AS or the authority of the bishop of Rome in Rome. This refilling of Peter’s seat in the Church being a perpetual office in the Church is exactly the Catholic position. This is what the presbyters and Christian community in Rome traditionally accept. Basically, the Catholic accepts this “Tradition”as true. It is exampled in Scripture with the replacing of Judas. I think this is where the Catholic position has strength over other positions. The continual claim is that the Catholics in Rome have kept their tradition of perpetuating the seat of Peter being filled. I think this is a reasonable historic position. It seems the question moves from there to a more theological debate as to what that means for the whole visible Church(From the Catholic view-valid communities under AS bishops). Historical bishops have be setup over Christian communities in many ways, including laity election to my knowledge. But for a valid Eucharist the bishop once in place must to be validly ordained(AS). This being the case, from this Catholic’s point of view not only is other AS presbyters able to be part of the filling of Peter’s seat, but any “leaders” and even a voice from the laity can be incorporated, if not the dominate voice. I don’t see this as against the Catholic teachings. What would be against the Catholic view is any of those who appoint the position having the ability to remove the Bishop of Rome once ordained and in place.

    I think I have rambled enough. I would appreciate and comments or corrections from anybody.

    Blessings,
    Michael

  197. Brandon (#195)

    The real issue here is the existence of a Petrine office. My point has been that if Peter didn’t know he occupied such an office and did not intend to pass that office on to someone, then how can you claim that it was passed along? The argument is presumably that the office was passed along from Peter to Linus, etc., etc. Of course this didn’t necessarily mean that each successor had to personally ordain their successor, but what are you proposing as an alternative? Did all of the local presbyters ordain him? How do we know that they were actually following Peter’s intention or that Peter’s office was a perpetual office if he didn’t say so himself or believe that he was?

    To be clear, it is a misunderstanding to say that I’m arguing that Apostolic Succession requires a bishop to ordain his successor. I was referring to the particular Petrine office and Susan’s proposal that it was possible that Peter didn’t ordain or appoint anyone as a successor. She put forward the possibility that maybe Peter ordained 10 men. My point was that if that was the case what principled means do you have to say that one individual then becomes the successor? And furthermore, do we actually have any record of anything like this happening? The answer, IMO, is that we clearly do not.

    I (again) am trying to say that it had never ever occurred to me that the Pope had, somehow, to ‘pass on’ his office to anyone. Maybe I am just ignorant of Catholic teaching. If you know of something in the Catholic faith to this effect, could you clarify me?

    My understanding is that the Church believes:

    1) Jesus appointed Apostles – primordial bishops
    2) He intended the office of bishop to continue
    3) He appointed Peter to be the point of unity amongst the apostles/bishops
    4) He intended that such a point of unity should continue
    5) He gave the Church power to decide the means by which this continuation would occur

    Nothing in any of this indicates, so far as I understand, how this continuation must occur. To be sure, Holy Orders is a Sacrament and thus ordination must be Sacramental. I had thought – but I am a fairly ignorant layman, might be wrong – but I had thought that in the past some bishops had been selected virtually by acclamation. Matthias appears to have been chosen by lot.

    At the present time, it is true, the Pope is chosen by the cardinals. I don’t think this has always been the case, has it? And if there has ever been a time when the Pope appointed his own successor, I don’t know of it. Certainly I have never ever heard anyone suggest that that was Catholic practice. I could well imagine its being deprecated, as being too dynastic.

    Please forgive me if I am misunderstanding you. It sounds as though you believe that the Pope appoints his successor; that if Peter didn’t, he couldn’t have a successor – and, indeed, that unless we have reliable records of such an event, we cannot be expected to believe it happened. All of this sounds very strange to me – and very un-Catholic.

    jj

  198. Brandon,

    ….when you say that sacramental succession is not connected to Apostolic Succession.

    You have misread me. I am saying exactly the opposite of what you say in bold above. Sacramental Succession and Apostolic Succession are part of a package. Although the fact that you misunderstood me so completely indicates it is very possible that your understanding of Sacramental Succession is inadequate. To make myself absolutely clear, I will state my position simply:
    The office of Bishop (by any name) is that office which has the ability to ordain and confer sacred orders by means of the sacramental matter of laying on of hands. AND is apostolic succession means simply that in succession that sacrament has been conferred by ordained bishop to ordained bishop back to the Apostles and to Christ.
    From the Catholic standpoint ordinations in Acts, and in the epistles and in the early Church is the action of Bishops, regardless of the acknowledged inchoate terms and the alleged lack of development in the office of Bishop.

    The monarchical / monopiscopy is not the issue at all. It is ordination.

    You acknowledge explicitly in the article that Paul participated in the ordination of Timothy and Titus by means of laying on of hands. You acknowledge that Laying on of hands was a sign of appointing leaders in the Church in early centuries. You even use the fact that some of the participants in the ordination of Timothy and Titus were called presbyters. What I am saying is simply: The only men who have the authority and ability to ordain are men who are already ordained Bishops, even if the nomenclature used at that time doesn’t call them Bishops. Anything else that circumstantially and historically packed in with the office of Bishop may be Catholic, historical and more or less subject to revision.

    Furthermore, you’ve not properly articulated my definition of presbyterian.

    You have stated at least 4 times in these comments, most recently #171 that your interlocutors are failing to understand what you are arguing. You have attempted to restate and clarify what you mean at least 3 times, including in #171 replying to Ray. So, 170 or so, and now nearing 200 comments into this discussion, there is apparently still a legitimate need to discuss, what, exactly, you mean. I am proposing that there is something within what you are arguing that you unintentionally are not aware of.

    I did not attempt to articulate your definition of presbyterian. You have provided you own definition of what you mean by Presbyterial. And actually, by itself, just what it written I don’t have a problem with the definition. The problem isn’t with how you have defined it, but how you used it, aided and abetted by using the root Presbyter which is problematic because it prevents you and others from spotting logical fallacies such as begging the question. It only becomes clear in the comments and discussion, that you mean and intend much more by that definition than is stated within. Going back to the beginning you said way up top:

    I will take the burden of proof to show that
    Statement A) the particular church at Rome was organized as a presbytery until the middle to later part of the second century—

    Statement B) refuting the claim that Jesus founded the RCC.

    (Explanation) By “presbyterian,” as [stated in A] I am not thinking particularly of a current denomination or flavor of modern Presbyterianism (two office, three office, centralized power, “grass roots,” etc.) The meaning is broader and refers to the leadership of the church of a particular geographic area being led by a plurality of leaders (elders or presbyters). This definition would exclude a notion of a monarchical episcopate or the notion of a threefold office. ….

    Given the your own written definition of Presbyterian, this is non-sequitor Statement B does not follow from Statement A. Only if you include more in your definition of Presbyter than you are including can you make that logic follow. Which is precisely what you make clear that you intend in further development.

    You leave unstated, that those presbyters and elders are strictly non-sacramental, non-ordained, non-ordaining presbyters and elders (i.e.; they are Protestant) which is what you need them to be to make Statement B follow from statement A. The problem is when you argue historically that there was no single leader in Rome in the 1st and 2nd century and THEREFOR there was a group of Presbyters and THEREFOR Rome was Prebyterial THEREFOR there were no Bishops and No Apostolic Succession. Or something like that – you have never attempted to lay out the logic clearly in a syllogism. The equivocation happens in the middle there with “group of Presbyters”, and the reason smarter people than I didn’t jump on it in day one, is that for us Catholics, there is no problem with a group of Presbyters – as long as it is understood that what is meant by Presbyters is the ambiguous NT language which included men who are ordained and have the capacity to ordain – i.e.; proto-Bishops.

  199. Algo,

    Thanks. You may be right about Cyprian. I’ll wait for clarification from Brandon, especially on the E.O.

    My thoughts have mainly been channeled towards Irenaeus’ list becoming more reasonable being there are multiple apostolic seats which have name by name list which go to the beginning and therefore this may get you to a reasonable tipping point of concluding the practice of keeping lists goes back to the beginning of these seats and therefore may be consider apostolic tradition or at least a common practice by those trained by the Apostles. It seems unreasonable to me that the five commonly excepted seats all got the name by name list inserted at a later date(after Hegesippus). A case can be made for this happening in Rome, as Brandon has proposed. Yet, we do have the Biblical president in Mathias being named after Judas. So, even the Bible gives a preHegesippus accounting of a premortial succession list. The difference with Judas and Rome would be, as a Catholic, we believe Roman Christians had Peter directly spiritually caring for them while he was there and therefore when his seat was filled this responsibility went to the next overseer of Rome. We also see the Scriptures where Peter is called to strengthen his brothers and the account of Peter being named Peter(Rock) and given the keys and his reinstitution by Christ as shepard of Christ’s sheep in John. This things are the tradition of the Roman Church and to some degree, at times, was accepted by all the larger Christian world, which to my knowledge is not contradicted or disproved biblically or histrorically. With all respect for the job Brandon has done, to me, his article seems to only make room for doubt and this is not new to any Christian in our age to deal with. Discernment must be sought, prayer has to be done and decisions have to be made. None of that is easy, though.

    Blessings,
    Michael

  200. Michael,
    I think one point that Reformed Protestants too often miss is that studying the NT and studying the Fathers are integrally related spiritual disciplines. In both cases we have to decide whether or not we trust the witness, wisdom and historical memory of the church. The same church which penned the NT also penned the writings of the Fathers.

  201. Burton, #152,

    I’ve responded to your comment on my very first blog post. You can find that link here:

    http://hakalonhumas.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/texts-turns-and-the-tiber/

  202. JJ (#197),

    I think there is significant misunderstanding here, but I think brevity will make this clearer.

    A Pope is not necessarily elected by appointment of their successor. Often this succession took place by congregational acclaim and ratification of other bishops. Early on, however, according to Irenaeus, Peter and Paul “committed the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate.” Tertullian states, “Polycarp was placed in his episcopate by John as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter.”

    My point is that even if you try to take a different tact than Irenaeus and Tertullian, you are faced with a dilemma about who can appoint someone the successor of Peter. Was this ability given to all churches? Was it given to the congregations in Rome? Who selected Linus as a successor of Peter and upon what authority did they do so? Those are a few of the methodological problems that I see on top of the fact that the “Catholic” historical sources seem to offer a different recounting of events.

  203. GNW Paul,

    Given your definition of a bishop, you’ve just defined an ordination procedure that can be affirmed by any Christian tradition–episcopal, congregational, presbyterian, etc. Sure, Apostles ordained other men who then ordained others. That was the natural order of things and that is why almost every Episcopal, Congregational, and Presbyterian church operates in that manner. If you would answer the question I asked you about why you don’t accept Presbyterian ordinations, that would help show how you actually understand the episcopate.

    What is being denied is that an office, particularly the office of “bishop” as distinct from presbyter arose in the church. You are making an argument from silence that there could have or may have been a distinction.

    I’m sorry to say it, but again you show your misunderstanding when you say,

    You leave unstated, that those presbyters and elders are strictly non-sacramental, non-ordained, non-ordaining presbyters and elders (i.e.; they are Protestant) which is what you need them to be to make Statement B follow from statement A. The problem is when you argue historically that there was no single leader in Rome in the 1st and 2nd century and THEREFOR there was a group of Presbyters and THEREFOR Rome was Prebyterial THEREFOR there were no Bishops and No Apostolic Succession. Or something like that – you have never attempted to lay out the logic clearly in a syllogism.

    Nowhere did I state that those presbyters or elders were non-sacramental (I did say non-sacramental in the sense intended by Rome, but that is because it is intimately tied with the bishop), non-ordained (I’ve argued that exact opposite, so I’m not sure how you could say this), non-ordaining presbyters and elders (Again, you couldn’t have described my position more incorrectly).

    Most importantly though, you are skirting the real issue here. It is not just that Rome did not have a monarchical episcopate (something that you seem to be willing to admit at this point because you continue to talk about how there could have been multiple “bishops”), it’s that there is no mechanism for a Petrine office. Rome has claimed that mechanism is the office of bishop in Rome, but since we are agreed that office didn’t exist (and if we aren’t agreed, then you will need to revamp your entire response) that takes away from any discernible mechanism by which the Petrine office was handed down. So where does the Petrine office come from? Members of the church through the centuries thought it came through the monarchical episcopate, but since we know it didn’t come through the monarchical episcopate, where did it come from?

  204. Brandon (#202)

    A Pope is not necessarily elected by appointment of their successor. Often this succession took place by congregational acclaim and ratification of other bishops. Early on, however, according to Irenaeus, Peter and Paul “committed the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate.” Tertullian states, “Polycarp was placed in his episcopate by John as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter.”

    I do see your point – that sometimes – perhaps normally early on – the bishop ordained as bishop of Rome was ordained by the laying on of hands of the existing bishop of Rome – i.e. the Pope. But the Pope is Pope qua bishop of Rome, not qua having been made bishop by the existing bishop of Rome. It isn’t ordination by the Pope that makes a man Pope; it is (ex hypothesi :-)) Christ who makes a man Pope – and the mechanics of how He does this has varied through the ages. It is not some power given to the church at Rome – when you speak of ‘all the churches’ you are, I think, unconsciously assuming the federal view of the Catholic Church. But if the Church is what it claims, then the Church is One. That at one time the next bishop of Rome is chosen by the existing bishop of Rome, at another by the college of Cardinals, is immaterial.

    jj

  205. Paul Owen 200:

    I think one point that Reformed Protestants too often miss is that studying the NT and studying the Fathers are integrally related spiritual disciplines. In both cases we have to decide whether or not we trust the witness, wisdom and historical memory of the church. The same church which penned the NT also penned the writings of the Fathers.

    It’s not acccurate to say that Reformed Protestants “miss” this than to say that they hold a firm distinction between them. God has made a very firm commitment to uphold Scripture — and the OT hermeneutic was to “echo” earlier Scriptures (echoes of the Pentateuch in the Prophets, for example.)

    So, we don’t really have to trust “the witness, wisdom and historical memory” of “the church”.

    he same church which penned the NT also penned the writings of the Fathers.

    This is more of the same, and also disputed — one of the criteria for what was and wasn’t deemed to be “Scriptural” was the ancientness of the writings. The canonical writings were collected very early – manuscript evidence provides physical evidence of this.

    Men like Cullmann and Torrance have found clear distinctions between what the Apostles wrote in the NT and what the “apostolic fathers” (the earliest generations of “the church” following the Apostles) –

    As well, while we learn a lot about early church history from a fourth century writer like Eusebius, we know that his writings have many, many historical problems. I believe in this very thread I’ve outlined the historical errors that Irenaeus made in the late 2nd century. We need to examine these writers with a critical eye.

    I’ve written extensively about this, and if you have questions, I can direct you to some of it.

    Really, this is something that people in the “catholic” churches too often miss.

  206. Brandon, this is exceptional scholarship and puts to bed the old ignorant Catholic canard that Protestants don’t know Church history. Very logical. Well done sir!

    One question I have is do you essentially see the last 1800 years as simply slightly off track from the original purity?

    Cheers,
    David

  207. #205,

    I’m going to try very hard to keep my comments constructive here. So here goes.

    1. I’m really not sure why you drop in the issue of earlier Scriptures being “echoed” within the canonical Scriptures. It has zero to do with the topic of this thread, much less the content of my post. It gives the impression that you are trying to sound smart, which is never a good indicator of productive dialogue.

    2. You say we need to make a “firm distinction” between the Bible and the Fathers. Um, who doesn’t do that? What I am talking about is a distinction of attitude and hermeneutical method, not a distinction of content and subject matter. Nobody denies divine revelation ceased with the death of the apostles. Nobody thinks the Church Fathers were infallible in their isolated writings, opinions and statements. In this sense they are obviously different from the holy apostles and prophets of old. But I think if Reformed Protestants like Brandon took the same critical attitude toward the biblical texts (which are just as historically situated and conditioned as the patristic writings) as they do toward the Fathers, their judgments about various issues in biblical higher criticism would have a very different shape. I’m merely pointing out the obvious discontinuity of method that is at work here, as it explains why data which appears compelling to one party does not seem so persuasive to another.

    3. Amazingly, you just come right out and say that no, we don’t have to trust the witness, wisdom, and historical memory of the church. Usually Reformed men will claim that is a caricature of their position. So thanks for your honesty.

    4. You then go on to appeal to “manuscript evidence” that the canonical writings were collected very early. Honestly, I don’t have the foggiest idea what point you are trying to make here. My point is that Ignatius and Irenaeus (for example) were bishops in the same catholic church which penned the Bible. Are you really going to dispute that? If so, at what point did it become a “different” church? Your model would support something like Mormonism, but it sits uneasily with the convictions of the Reformers whom you claim to follow.

    And by the way, where did you get that Bible of which you speak? Who copied and preserved it through the centuries? Who distinguished the properly canonical books of the New Testament from spurious forgeries and otherwise edifying but less authoritative writings? Was it not the same catholic church whose claims you so casually dismiss when it comes to matters of church offices and structure?

    5. As for your “extensive” writings about the Fathers and their many errors, I assume you are referring to your internet postings. I find it rather amazing that you offer to tutor me on these topics. When I want to know something of substance about a topic in the realm of theology or church history, I look at published scholarship. That’s how I learned to do things in graduate school and in my doctoral program. Really, you should not presume that your internet musings carry much weight or authority.

  208. Brandon, RE: #203
    Thanks for your response. It looks as if progress may be possible here. I do think we are still talking past each other a bit. I will try harder to understand what you are claiming. I admit, I don’t quite get it, and I have read your article, and the comments through, more than once. At the same, time, I will try to explain my position more clearly as well, as I don’t think you’ve quite gotten my point either.

    Now I will get to what the differences between Catholic (and Orthodox) teaching on ordination, and Protestant ideas on ordination. Our difference are mostly in our theology of what Ordination does and what it confers rather than where it originates or what it looks like. Just to be clear, no I don’t think Protestants and Catholics share the same theology of ordination. We do start with the same NT texts. We start with, mostly, the same initial data points except Catholics include Apostolic Tradition. Also, to the extent that Protestants also ordain by Laying on of Hands we share the same visible action, Catholics call this Matter, of the sacrament just as we share at least a very similar Matter for baptism, pouring or dunking in water.

    Given your definition of a bishop, you’ve just defined an ordination procedure that can be affirmed by any Christian tradition–episcopal, congregational, presbyterian, etc.

    Yes, exactly!!!!! Maybe we can actually agree on something! The visible, demonstrable, external action of Ordination in Catholicism is very similar to, if not identical to many Protestant ordinations. This is a major point I have been trying to make clear.

    That is exactly why I can’t see the conclusion you are reaching based on model of governance primarily. In #39 to Jonathan (Which I quoted and addressed in #192), clarifying what you write in Section VIII part c, you offer the outline of some other idea you have for differentiating. Is that related to what you mean in #203?

    Nowhere did I state that those presbyters or elders were non-sacramental (I did say non-sacramental in the sense intended by Rome, but that is because it is intimately tied with the bishop), non-ordained (I’ve argued that exact opposite, so I’m not sure how you could say this), non-ordaining presbyters and elders (Again, you couldn’t have described my position more incorrectly).

    I see no evidence that there is any way you can logically claim that the Presbyterial system you propose in Rome was necessarily one way or the other. Again, I request you lay it out for me.

    It seems to me that there are three related functional areas in the office of Bishop or Presbyter in all understandings and I see you attempting to draw distinctions based on them. Teaching and doctrine and Ecclesiastical Government and Authority and for Catholics at least Sacraments. Certainly, we have different, even drastically different understandings of these. What I want to point out is that for Catholics being a minister of Sacraments is primary and closely followed by Teaching and Doctrine are the main functions of a Bishop ahead of Governance, even though Governance became at a fairly early date a very large and visible part of that “job.” Also, for Catholics Authority has to be Apostolic in origin.

    What I have been trying to make clear is that an argument based on the lack of clear development in Ecclesiastical Government along recognizably Catholic outlines or even an entirely different model of Government does not prima facie give good evidence that the the functions of Teaching and Doctrine and authority are not as the Catholics understand them.

    Brandon, could you please Lay out the logical process by which you determine that the ordinations of Presbyters in Rome is not compatible with Catholicism.

    Addressing your criticisms and questions to my #198

    What is being denied is that an office, particularly the office of “bishop” as distinct from presbyter arose in the church. You are making an argument from silence that there could have or may have been a distinction.

    I don’t see why you think I am making an argument from silence. It is an argument from the Catholic definition of Bishop. Bishops can ordain. No one else can! Just like I stated in #198:

    The office of Bishop (by any name) is that office which has the ability to ordain and confer sacred orders by means of the sacramental matter of laying on of hands. AND is apostolic succession means simply that in succession that sacrament has been conferred by ordained bishop to ordained bishop back to the Apostles and to Christ.

    All of which simply means that in the Catholic perspective to validly ordain a Deacon, Priest, or Bishop you must be an actual validly ordained Bishop who by chain of ordination is a successor of the Apostles.

    In Catholicism, it’s this simple. Bishops ordain. Priests do not ordain and never did, never have and Deacons do not ordain. Only Bishops can ordain. This is not an argument from silence. Any innovation at that level in developing the 3 fold hierarchy comes from the addition of a new level BETWEEN Bishops (full Holy Orders) and Deacons (incomplete Holy Orders).

    Most importantly though, you are skirting the real issue here. It is not just that Rome did not have a monarchical episcopate (something that you seem to be willing to admit at this point because you continue to talk about how there could have been multiple “bishops”), it’s that there is no mechanism for a Petrine office. Rome has claimed that mechanism is the office of bishop in Rome, but since we are agreed that office didn’t exist (and if we aren’t agreed, then you will need to revamp your entire response) that takes away from any discernible mechanism by which the Petrine office was handed down. So where does the Petrine office come from? Members of the church through the centuries thought it came through the monarchical episcopate, but since we know it didn’t come through the monarchical episcopate, where did it come from?

    I want to be clear, that I may grant something for the sake of discussion, but that doesn’t mean I actually agree. I think your logic is flawed regardless of the validity of your premises (which I do reject). I hope to get to the bottom of that, the logic.

    I certainly never agreed the office of Bishop of Rome did not exist, even for the sake of argument. Is that clear? For the sake of argument, I will grant the possibility that there were more than one “Presbyter” in Rome in the late 1st and early 2nd century as long as it is clear the Presbyter is being used in such away that it includes the authority toordain. II will also grant, again for the sake of argument, that the successor of Peter, the “head Bishop” or “lead Presbyter” did not govern in a way that was visibly “monarchical.” What I don’t grant in this regard is this is prima facie proof that no Petrine office existed.

    If you would answer the question I asked you about why you don’t accept Presbyterian ordinations, that would help show how you actually understand the episcopate.

    What is required for valid ordination are the proper a) Minister b) Matter , c) Form and d) Intention and e) Subject.. Matter is the laying on of hands and form is a theologically acceptable accompanying prayer of consecration. The Subject is the person being ordained. Minister and Intention are the biggies here. Intention must be to confer a sacrament. If there is not intention to administer a sacrament (in the Catholic sense) and impart sacramental grace then the ordination can not be valid. Intention is somewhat related to the form of the consecration. The words of the consecration should express and must not contradict the sacramental nature of the Holy Orders themselves, as well as the sacramental function of the ordained ministry particularly in offering the Eucharist. I assume most presbyterian do not believe ordination is sacramental? So, no I am not going to recognize Presbyterian Holy Orders just on those grounds. Proper minister means a man ordained with full Holy Orders to the Episcopacy, a validly ordained Bishop by chain of succession going back to the Apostles. Presbyterian do not claim to have a chain of ordination from the Apostles so on those grounds their ordinations are not valid.

  209. GNW,

    I only have time for a quick response, but I’d recommend you go back to the article and my previous comments. I attempted to show how the hierarchical institution of the church with the threefold office is something presumed in many of Bryan’s articles (See Section VIII C. for an example) and is something that the Antimodernist Oath assumes and that Luwdig Ott believes is a De Fide doctrine of the church based on the A.O.

    You final comment gets to the real issue dividing us and shows why the existence of the episcopate is important:

    Proper minister means a man ordained with full Holy Orders to the Episcopacy, a validly ordained Bishop by chain of succession going back to the Apostles. Presbyterian do not claim to have a chain of ordination from the Apostles so on those grounds their ordinations are not valid.

    Is this the way the process has always functioned? If the Apostles didn’t ordain bishops, as I’ve argued, that begins to breakdown necessary parts of your (the conservative Catholic) definition of ordination and succession.

  210. Friends, our reply to this essay is now posted. It is titled “The Bishops of History and the Catholic Faith: A Reply To Brandon Addison.”

    Pentecost, 2014.

  211. 2 Critical Questions on Ecclesiology:

    1) Does Rome have a truly unbroken and valid line of succession (even during her vaguest and darkest moments/pornocracy)? Some of the finest RC scholars say she does not, therefore this would seem to jeopardize her claims to primacy and the need to submit to her.

    These internal considerations show us that the concept of a succession list of episcopal successors is a mid-second century development.

    2) Brandon, exceptional work. God bless and uphold you. If you’ll permit me to play devil’s advocate, does it necessarily follow that this development was bad or something Christ does not will?

    I suppose even if the jury is still out on whether or not it is a dangerous accretion, you might say the point would still be that visible communion with Rome is not required since Christ’s original established ecclesiology is collegial/confederacy and therefore “schism” as understood by post-original Roman Catholicism, does not apply.

    David

    ps: Christopher Lake and others, I still owe you a fuller answer about my ecclesiology views but wanted to get this sorted out first before replying since it bears on our discussion. Thanks for your patience.

  212. David (re: #211)

    Does Rome have a truly unbroken and valid line of succession

    Yes. There is no evidence showing that the episcopal succession in Rome is broken. If you disagree, what evidence do you think shows this?

    does it necessarily follow that this development was bad or something Christ does not will?

    The notion that there was such a “development,” i.e. a mid-second century invention of a succession of bishops that was not present from the founding of the Church of Rome, is precisely the point in question, and is addressed in our article to which I linked in comment #210.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  213. David (re:#211),

    No problem, brother! I look forward to your longer reply to me whenever you are ready to resume our discussion. God bless, and thank you for your continued engagement here at CTC!

  214. David,

    does it necessarily follow that this development was bad or something Christ does not will?

    Absolutely not. I’m open to the development of the episcopate being a good or natural development in some sense. The Catholic scholars I’ve cited believe that this was a Spirit guided development. This is a theological argument, and one that can be had on theological grounds, however, that is different from a historical claim. To answer your question though, in no way do I believe episcopacy is “something bad” or an “accretion” per se, though I do believe that it was a development.

    While Bryan answers that there is no evidence that there is a “break” in the episcopal succession in Rome, you can see that I clearly disagree. In this regard, I’m simply mediating the position of specialists and scholars in the field. If you do a quick look through Bryan’s article’s footnotes and compare it to my footnotes you’ll notice one has a number of peer reviewed monographs and journal articles and the other does not (even though it contains nearly 4 times more footnotes, and in my word processor, over 4 times as many pages).

    I want to set the stage for you, but I want to emphasize that this is not an attempt to arbitrate between positions, but to set the players in their proper context. On the one hand, you have CtC and perhaps a few other voices arguing that there was no break in succession. On the other hand, you have the consensus of experts from inside the Church and outside of it arguing that there was a “break” in succession–or perhaps more accurately that there was no episcopal succession to begin with.

    Read CtC’s article and evaluate the evidence on its own merits, but I would encourage sincere inquirers to ask this question: Why do so many of the experts (conservative, liberal & indifferent; Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, & non-Christian) who know this field well not reach the same conclusions as CtC?

  215. Brandon, (re: #214)

    While Bryan answers that there is no evidence that there is a “break” in the episcopal succession in Rome, you can see that I clearly disagree. In this regard, I’m simply mediating the position of specialists and scholars in the field. If you do a quick look through Bryan’s article’s footnotes and compare it to my footnotes you’ll notice one has a number of peer reviewed monographs and journal articles and the other does not (even though it contains nearly 4 times more footnotes, and in my word processor, over 4 times as many pages).

    The count-noses way of determining truth is, in short, the democratic fallacy. And, as an appeal to authority, it is the weakest argument, as we explained in our reply. But please feel free any time to point to one piece of historical evidence showing that the succession in Rome is broken. If you have historical data that actually supports the claim (that the succession is broken), you shouldn’t need to appeal to the argument from authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  216. Bryan,

    The count-noses way of determining truth is, in short, the democratic fallacy. And, as an appeal to authority, it is the weakest argument, as we explained in our reply.

    Everything I said in comment #214 is compatible with my affirmation of these propositions.

    But please feel free any time to point to one piece of historical evidence showing that the succession in Rome is broken. If you have historical data that actually supports the claim (that the succession is broken), you shouldn’t need to appeal to the argument from authority.

    I’ve made that argument in roughly 75 pages of text and I’m planning on responding to your article and I’ve attempted to deal substantively with the evidence and not simply appeal to authority. I think your own 150+ page responses demonstrates that I’ve at least done more than simply appeal to authority. In other words, I’m not making an appeal to authority as the ground of my argument.

    I’m simply responding to David’s question from my perspective (that there was a “break”) and explaining that the substance of my position is one that is shared expansively in the academy.

    The fact that almost every expert in the field does not agree with your assessment is not a trivial piece of information, and I want all readers to know that when they wade through our roughly 200 pages worth of material–composed by two (you and me) individuals who do not have a PhD or even graduate emphasis in this specialized field. I’m strongly opposed to acquiescence to scholarship, but I do believe engagement is important, and you have left the academic literature largely unexplored. I’ve only encouraged David and others to ask, “Why do the experts not agree with Bryan?”

    If it counts for anything, I encourage people to apply that same standard to any of my work, and so I’ve never seen this as an appeal to authority, I’ve seen it as a commitment to careful thinking and humility when I disagree with experts in a field.

  217. Brandon, (re: #216)

    Everything I said in comment #214 is compatible with my affirmation of these propositions.

    The problem is that in #214 you appeal only to the greater number of references in your footnotes to “peer reviewed monographs and journal articles” than in the footnotes of our reply, rather than appealing (in #214) to any historical evidence. It is possible, yes, to affirm that the democratic fallacy is a fallacy, and simultaneously to commit it, but that is a performative contradiction.

    I’ve made that argument in roughly 75 pages of text …

    And in our article we showed both that your argument is unsound, and that none of the data to which you appealed is evidence for the truth of your thesis.

    I think your own 150+ page responses demonstrates that I’ve at least done more than simply appeal to authority. In other words, I’m not making an appeal to authority as the ground of my argument.

    Let’s clear something up, because I perceive a misunderstanding. My comment #215 is talking about your #214, not about your article.

    If in #214 you were talking about a ‘break’ sometime between AD 68 – 150, we’ve addressed that in our reply, and showed that every piece of historical data to which you appealed is not evidence for your thesis. If you think something we said there is false, please show why. If, however, in #214 you were talking about a ‘break’ sometime after AD 150 to the present, then that’s what I’m referring to when I say in #215 “please feel free any time to point to one piece of historical evidence showing that the succession in Rome is broken.”

    The fact that almost every expert in the field does not agree with your assessment is not a trivial piece of information,

    The question is not what is trivial and what is not trivial. The question is what is true. Do you teach your congregation to affirm Darwinian evolution simply because the majority of biologists affirm it? If not, then in order to be consistent (and not ad hoc in your selective appeal to authority), you too must recognize that the truth of the question does not reduce to appeals to authority when that authority is not divine, and therefore attempting to evaluate arguments by the number of appeals to authority (in footnotes), is misguided, because the question is not determined by the appeal to authority, but by the historical data itself, on which the question ultimately depends.

    you have left the academic literature largely unexplored.

    Our argument did not require it, because the data itself was adequate. The purpose of an article determines what ought to be included in it. If our purpose had been to refute some contemporary scholar, then it would have been important to include an evaluation of that scholar’s work. But our purpose was to evaluate your argument, and therefore we had no need to evaluate other contemporary people’s opinions and arguments as such, only the argument you presented. Our not “exploring” some contemporary scholar’s work in our article does not refute the truth of what we said in our article. If you think there is some evidence or argument that some scholar has presented, which we failed to address in our article, and which is pertinent to the question, please feel free to present it.

    I’ve only encouraged David and others to ask, “Why do the experts not agree with Bryan?”

    The question is a good question, and the answer involves philosophical assumptions loaded into historical methodology, as we explained in our article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  218. Bryan,

    Excellent question here,

    The question is what is true. Do you teach your congregation to affirm Darwinian evolution simply because the majority of biologists affirm it?

    No, I don’t tell them to accept Darwinian evolution because most biologists believe it. Instead, I counsel people to be very careful in how they express their disagreement with evolution because biologists have specialized training that non-specialists do not have. They are privy to more information and have spent their entire lives investing in biology. We should feel free to disagree with scholarly consensus, but we shouldn’t be allowed to summarily dismiss it. We should seek to first and foremost understand and interact, particularly if we are attempting to refute it.

    Furthermore, a thorough refutation of an idea, particularly a pervasive one like evolution, ought to carefully and systematically interact with the most relevant scholarship in the field. This is particularly true for a non-specialists because the non-specialist needs to demonstrate an understanding of the breadth of the issue and all the attendant circumstances (something that I will argue is not done in your response).

    In this case, you are responding to my article and so it would be unfair for me to expect you to falsify everyone else to have falsified me. Of course, there are certain pieces of my argument which are explicitly connected to other scholars views, and those scholars and the surrounding scholarship are not well addressed in your response, but I will be able to unpack that at a later time [For example, your inaccurate summaries of the scholarly discussion concerning fractionation and the composition of Irenaeus's bishop list]

    Finally, you said,

    Let’s clear something up, because I perceive a misunderstanding. My comment #215 is talking about your #214, not about your article.

    Then we could have the same pedantic discussion because you said the exact same thing in #212. The arguments have been laid out, I’ve indicated to you multiple times I will respond when I am able, but we come to a disagreement so of course we’re going to tell David different things. We ought to at least be agreeable in our disagreement.

    I’m withdrawing from these discussions for the foreseeable future, but my absence is not for absence of interest.

  219. Brandon, (re: #218)

    because the non-specialist needs to demonstrate an understanding of the breadth of the issue and all the attendant circumstances (something that I will argue is not done in your response).

    I’m looking forward to your response, but here’s a heads-up. If you intend to respond to our article by attempting to argue that we don’t understand x, I will subsequently respond by pointing out that this sort of a response is an ad hominem, and that nothing about us falsifies anything we said, but instead such a response leaves untouched both the truth of every claim in our article, and the soundness of our argumentation.

    We’ve been through this before, because in response to my evaluation (in comment #97 of the “Modern Scholarship” post) of your review of Lampe, you attempted twice to refute my evaluation by making me the object of your criticism (see comments #104 and comment #111 in that thread), and twice I pointed out in response (comments #107 and #115 of that thread) that nothing about me refutes anything I said. So I hope we can transcend the ad hominem sort of reply, because otherwise we will not be able to make headway in resolving the disagreement. (“You don’t understand.” “No, you don’t understand.” “No, you don’t understand. …”) That’s futile. Instead we have to focus on what claims are true and what claims are false, what does the data support and what doesn’t the data support, what arguments are good and what arguments are bad.

    Likewise, if your response ends up being an appeal to authority, you know very well that I will respond by showing that it is an appeal to authority, and pointing out that appeals to authority are the weakest of arguments, and that scholarly consensus is not the ultimately determiner of truth, as you yourself acknowledge in other areas (e.g. Darwinism), which is why the question can ultimately be determined only by examining the historical evidence itself, not by resting on scholarly consensus when it agrees with what we want, and rejecting it when it doesn’t, even in matters outside our specialty.

    So, the only way we can make progress, in resolving the disagreement, is if we focus on the historical data itself, rather than on our interlocutor’s level of understanding, or on how many references to scholarly works are in our respective footnotes.

    But I do agree that “we ought to at least be agreeable in our disagreement” if by “agreeable” you mean seeking agreement respectfully, charitably, and patiently. I am committed to that.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  220. Bryan,

    If you respond to my argument that you have not taken all of the attendant circumstances by asserting that it is an ad hominem, then I guess the conversation has run it’s course and I will leave the conversation and interaction with CtC believing that authentic dialogue is not really the goal of the site. It’s one guy’s opinion, so take it for what it’s worth.

    I won’t be surprised though, because for whatever my response in the other thread may lake in logical formality (this is after all a discussion on a blog) is substantively not an ad hominem, it is a critique of your argument, not you. And it’s an evaluation that your arguments are bad, not that you are bad. If you want to ignore the argument because you think it’s an “ad hominem” there won’t be much to discuss.

    Finally, I’m not sure why you feel the need to say that if my argument is an appeal to authority “you know very well that I will respond by showing that it is an appeal to authority.” Whatever the reason you felt compelled to write that (when I read it I get the impression that it is almost like a combative boast, but I may be wrong), I’ll keep that in mind.

  221. Brandon, (re: #220)

    If you respond to my argument that you have not taken all of the attendant circumstances by asserting that it is an ad hominem, then I guess the conversation has run it’s course …

    Careful. There is a very important difference between saying (a) here’s some evidence your argument did not take into account, and which falsifies what you said concerning the evidence, and saying (b) you don’t understand. The former is what I *hope* you will do, because that would be potentially fruitful. The latter is making *me* the object of your criticism, and does not move us toward agreement.

    for whatever my response in the other thread may lake in logical formality (this is after all a discussion on a blog) is substantively not an ad hominem, it is a critique of your argument, not you. And it’s an evaluation that your arguments are bad, not that you are bad.

    That’s exactly what I’m hoping, namely, that your response will show what’s wrong with our *argument,* rather than making *us* the object of your criticism.

    If you want to ignore the argument because you think it’s an “ad hominem” there won’t be much to discuss.

    I’ll never do that. But if you make *us* the object of your criticism, by saying that we don’t understand x or that we do not demonstrate an understanding of x (as you said in #218), then we have no choice but to call the ad hominem what it is, do we?

    Finally, I’m not sure why you feel the need to say that if my argument is an appeal to authority “you know very well that I will respond by showing that it is an appeal to authority.” Whatever the reason you felt compelled to write that (when I read it I get the impression that it is almost like a combative boast, but I may be wrong), I’ll keep that in mind.

    It is not a combative boast in the least. I’m simply trying to head off futile paths in advance. Here are the three options, as I see them. You can (a) attack me, by claiming that I don’t understand, or (b) you can appeal to authority (by, say, comparing the number of references to scholarly articles in footnotes), or (c) you can appeal to historical evidence to explain where and why you think our argument is unsound. I’m simply trying to explain in advance how I would respond if you chose (a) or (b), so that we can mutually agree to keep our focus on the historical evidence [i.e. the (c) approach], and not resort to those other two tactics. I hope that helps clarify why I said what I said.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  222. Bryan,
    Thank you very much for another article in the CtC best style and tradition. I appreciate the huge amount of time you all have spent to prepare it (most likely three-digit number of man-hours of work). The outcome is so useful in many aspects, not least in its discussion of reasonable approach to scant historical data.
    (BTW, I am curious whether in your work you have been inspired in any way by the combox discussion beneath Brandon’s original article?)
    As for alleged “academic consensus”, I am quite allergic to such statements. First, I have personally faced it on numerous occasions with respect to NT itself (e.g. “You obviously know that by now there is broad academic consensus that Mk 10,18 is the oldest surviving piece about historical (human) Jesus and all those stories about resurrection are just later accretions or inventions, don’t you?”). Second, as with all hasty generalizations or universal quantifiers, it is simply enough to indicate one example to the contrary to refute it. I know that you do not want to engage in that kind of polemics, but perhaps you could just recommend (or name) one or two academic authors who discuss the matter in question in full compliance with orthodox Catholic beliefs.

  223. @Brandon (216):

    “The fact that almost every expert in the field does not agree with your assessment is not a trivial piece of information, and I want all readers to know that when they wade through our roughly 200 pages worth of material–composed by two (you and me) individuals who do not have a PhD or even graduate emphasis in this specialized field. I’m strongly opposed to acquiescence to scholarship, but I do believe engagement is important, and you have left the academic literature largely unexplored. I’ve only encouraged David and others to ask, “Why do the experts not agree with Bryan?” ”

    Before I converted to Catholicism, I was having enormous trouble believing in God and Christianity. You see, most professional philosophers today are atheists, and few if any academic historians consider “plenary inspiration of the Bible” a tenable thesis in light of contemporary scholarship. Moreover, their arguments *against* both positions seemed to me entirely reasonable, and followed from their respective modus operandi quite well. In philosophy, the best arguments of William Lane Craig seemed little more than decent. In historiography, scholarship unhindered by prior doctrine interpreted literary oddities between and in the Gospels much more convincingly than traditional Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic scholarship. This bothered the heck out of me, until I dug deeper and looked into both the *history* of philosophy and the *history* of historiography: That “modus operandi” I formerly thought was reasonable I found historically contingent and irrational.

    In philosophy, there is the delusion that “accurate, scientific thought” began with Descartes, and that earlier thinkers are best kept in dusty bookshelves until we see a need to “reinterpret” them to avoid some modern dilemma. This would be excusable if our academic philosophers *understood* classical and medieval philosophy, but these experts often have *absolutely no idea what they are talking about*, and rarely get to the “Engage with pre-modern thinkers” stage. I do not deny that these experts are actually experts. They are. They are experts at understanding, clarifying, and debating a philosophical tradition dating to the early sixteenth century. They are (generally) not experts at defending that tradition, because they often have not been taught any other, or if they have, what they “know” is (generally) rife with errors. When I learned this, and studied philosophy prior to Descartes seriously, I was shocked to find that what preceded the Enlightenment was (imho) far, far more reasonable than what the Enlightenment created.

    But my disagreement with an overwhelming philosophical consensus is not “me vs. experts”. The generic academic philosopher I speak of is indeed an expert on post-15th-century-thought; he is *not* an expert on non-post-15th-century-thought or comparing post-15th-century-thought and non-post-15th-century-thought.

    As for historiography, the Enlightenment-esque principles of “responsible historical practice”, based on flawed philosophical theses as they were, made me look at contemporary historical scholarship more critically (not just history of religion!). I found that the generic academic historian is an expert at doing historiography within a certain philosophical outlook that is imbibed from the surrounding intellectual culture, and not something deduced from actual historiography. As a historian, then, he is indeed an expert. His conclusions seem to this non-expert to follow from his premises and modus operandi. Those last two, however, are philosophical and not within the expertise of a historian. When I disagree with this historian, I am not attacking his expertise in historiography, which is far greater than mine. I am merely pointing out the rickety philosophical edifice upon which he *places* his expertise.

  224. Ty, (re: #223)

    I found that the generic academic historian is an expert at doing historiography within a certain philosophical outlook that is imbibed from the surrounding intellectual culture, and not something deduced from actual historiography. As a historian, then, he is indeed an expert. His conclusions seem to this non-expert to follow from his premises and modus operandi. Those last two, however, are philosophical and not within the expertise of a historian. When I disagree with this historian, I am not attacking his expertise in historiography, which is far greater than mine. I am merely pointing out the rickety philosophical edifice upon which he *places* his expertise.

    Exactly, especially those last two sentences.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  225. Brandon, (re: #201)

    Here are some thoughts regarding your criticisms of my position at your link in #201:

    You wrote:

    What does this history have to do with your question? Well, in my estimation, Bryan has accepted the critique of postmodernism when it comes to texts but has not followed the logical progression to persons or existence itself.

    You have provided no argument showing that I have “accepted” the “critique of postmodernism;” you have merely asserted it.

    Somehow, while we cannot get outside of ourselves in understanding a text, we can do so when interpreting a person.

    I never claimed, nor do I believe, that we “cannot get outside of ourselves” in understanding a text.

    It is suggested that the problem with Protestantism is that with a book you cannot get past your interpretation of the text, …

    It is not that “with a book you cannot get past your interpretation of the text,” but rather, when a book is in itself hermeneutically underdetermined, the book itself cannot resolve the interpretive disagreements, and without any other authoritative resources the interpreting persons are left to choose for themselves among the available hermeneutical options.

    Bryan assumes that with the ability of an individual to clarify themselves leads to greater understanding, but that is only one potential outcome.

    I do not assume, nor have I claimed, that every attempt to clarify oneself necessarily leads to greater understanding on the part of the listener.

    There is also the possibility that I’ve raised above that the questioner misunderstands the clarification of the speaker. Moreover, there is the possibility that the speaker misunderstands the question of the questioner leading to more misunderstanding. And even if there is not misunderstanding on 1st and 2nd order questions, the possibility for misunderstanding continues into third and fourth order questions.

    Of course. But that’s fully compatible with what I’ve said.

    While agreeing with Bryan that his position does not necessitate an infinite hermeneutical regress, it does not address the difficulties inherent in personal communication.

    True. But that is fully compatible with everything I said being true.

    Instead, Bryan uses a rather simplistic situation where, at least in principle, the Church is able to move to “yes” or “no” questions. There is no disputing that Bryan has proposed a possible scenario in communicative discourse, but the natural question is, “Has the Church ever responded to a question with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’?” I’m not aware of that situation.

    The Church has done this hundreds of times. Every “if anyone says x, anathema sit” is a “no” to doctrine x. See, for example, all the canons of the Council of Trent. Each of those is a “no.” Every answer to a “dubium” is an “affirmative” or “negative.” See, for example, Denzinger 1848, 1862, 1863, etc.

    So while Bryan has provided us with an ideal situation for persons to clarify themselves, I’m not sure if he could provide an example of his proposed ideal.

    Reading through Denzinger will remedy your not being sure.

    If the many qualifications to knowing when the “person” of the Church was in fact speaking are not dense in themselves, consider that if you have a question that you want an infallible response to you will need a council with the Pope, and he’s only ever infallibly clarified two things in 2000 years.

    There are other levels of authority besides infallibility, as I have explained here. The Holy See answers a “dubium” on a fairly regular basis. Here is one example.

    Recent examples have shown how even if you have this conversation with the Pope the interpretive process can create further ambiguity. In Francis’s pastoral ministry he has been making phone calls to people that have written to him (a great thing for a Pope to be doing, IMO). During that conversation a woman claims that Francis told her that she was doing “nothing bad” taking communion as a divorcee. Whether or not this is actually what Francis said is unclear, but the fact remains that the woman walked away from that call believing that Francis’s answer had vindicated her desire to take the Eucharist.

    What I have written does not entail that everyone will understand accurately something the Magisterium says the first time it is published, or that no one will ever misunderstand the pope. Rather, the Magisterium’s unlimited intrinsic potency with respect to interpretive self-clarification allows any remaining confusion to be subsequently addressed, even through repeated iterations if necessary.

    but this story shows how further communicative discourse can in fact blur already murky discourse.

    And this occurring is fully compatible with the truth of what I’ve written.

    This does not mean that because some people believed this that it was so, but it only serves my point that there was serious ambiguity about what Honorius did and did not teach.

    Again, nothing about what I’ve said entails that Catholics will never be confused about what the Magisterium has or has not said. Insofar as you take my position to have the implication that no Catholics will ever be confused by a Magisterial document or while waiting for the Magisterium to clarify a matter, you have misunderstood what I’m saying, and are criticizing a straw man.

    Unfortunately, this leaves those initially involved in the conversation without answers to their clarifying questions. If the actual answer to the question of Sergius of Constantinople, about the teaching of Rome, didn’t come until after Honorius’s death, how has this process brought about clarification for Sergius? Sergius died in 836 and did not receive a formal answer to his question until 860 when both Sergius and Honorius were condemned at Constantinople III. Suffice it to say, the Council was of little use to Sergius 24 years after his death, particularly since at his death he had the support of (if not agreement with) Honorius.

    Nothing about what I’m saying entails that the Magisterial answer must arrive immediately or before one dies.

    This is simply two examples of the practical ways in which Bryan’s distinction between persons and texts is problematic in Rome’s own practice, …

    Neither example falsifies what I have said.

    but part of the reason for the discussion of all of the hermeneutical discussion above is also to show that among these philosophers you will not find the sorts of distinctions that Bryan is making.

    Here you are using an invalid argument, i.e. if no other philosopher has said what I have said, then this is evidence that what I am saying is false. But that conclusion does not follow.

    I concede that texts communicate their content differently than persons do and with a limited intrinsic potency for clarification, but that does not mean that their limited intrinsic potency makes clarification impossible.

    Of course. Nothing I’ve said entails otherwise.

    To state it in the form of a question, why does Bryan presume that in order to understand a text that there must be a living interpreter of the written text in order to determine what the text is saying?

    I’ve never held that presumption. See what I wrote above.

    If the response is that there are numerous interpretations (with no principled way to get past my interpretation of the text), then how does this escape the multiplicity of interpretations which likewise come from persons?

    Because the Magisterium has a visible head consisting of one person, and persons have an unlimited intrinsic potency for interpretive self-clarification.

    While Bryan appeals to the unlimited intrinsic potency of persons to clarify, they equally possess the unlimited intrinsic potency to obfuscate.

    I agree, but that’s fully compatible with the truth of what I said.

    Whether or not the person does in fact obfuscate is of course related to the nature of the person (that they are in fact able to offer an interpretation of the text and are not a liar), which is precisely why in the article Bryan focuses on the Divine institution of the Church—it was instituted by Jesus and is an extension of His incarnation (my summary and not Bryan’s words).

    This is fully compatible with what I said being true.

    The very first statement is stated in a way that implies persons do not “provide words that must be interpreted to be understood,”

    That’s a non sequitur. Nothing Matt said entails that person do not provide words that must be interpreted to be understood.

    It’s likewise unclear how the fallibility of interpretation means a book by its very nature could not be the supreme rule of faith and doctrine.

    Something being unclear to you does not show that anything we’ve said is false. (Again, “unclear” is a subjective criterion.)

    It is equally unclear what it means for a human or set of humans to make the final decision about the meaning of written texts.

    Your confusion about what Matt means is not an objection to what Matt has written, just as a student’s being unclear about what a teacher is teaching is not an objection to what the teacher is saying, but rather an indication of the student’s epistemic state. The proper response, on the part of the student, in such a case, is to ask the teacher for clarification, not treat his own confusion as if it is an objection to (let alone refutation of) what the teacher is saying.

    What is to guarantee my understanding of that person, and what is to guarantee that person [presumably in Matt’s article this “person” is the RCC] is accurately interpreting the passage?

    Nothing guarantees the former; the Holy Spirit guarantees the latter.

    This perspective adopts the postmodern critique towards written texts and an absolutist position regarding the communicative potency of the RCC, but this stance is unprincipled.

    No, it doesn’t, and no it isn’t. You have not provided any argument showing either that we’ve adopted a “postmodern critique” toward written texts, or that our position is unprincipled. You have merely asserted it.

    The claim, as it appears to me, is that the text is unclear, but with the teaching of the Magisterium the true meaning of the text becomes clearer. The truly problematic position with this is that this authority is assumed and asserted and the meaning of the text is only available outside the text itself, which renders the whole hermeneutical process meaningless in principle.

    This is non sequitur. Just because Philip had to help the eunuch interpret Isaiah, it does not follow that Isaiah was “meaningless” or the hermeneutical process by which Philip interpreted Isaiah was meaningless. Just because Jesus on the road to Emmaus had to open the eyes of the disciples to the meaning of the OT passages, it does not follow that those passages were meaningless, or that Jesus’s hermeneutical process was meaningless.

    Moreover, the Catholic approach is not to “assume” that the Magisterium has authority. That would be fideism. Rather, the divine authority of the Magisterium is established by the motives of credibility.

    The text doesn’t determine anything—by its very nature it cannot determine anything because we are only left with our own interpretations of the text—we must rely on an external authority to interpret the text for us. This is precisely why Dr. Horton labels such a perspective simultaneously skeptical and absolutist.

    First, labels don’t falsify anything. So merely calling it ‘skeptical’ or ‘absolutist’ doesn’t falsify anything. Second, our position is not that the text does not determine anything, but rather that it is in certain respects hermeneutically underdetermined, such that in itself (apart from Tradition and Magisterium) it cannot preserve unity of the faith. It functions rightly and fully only in the light of the Tradition, as determined and defined by the Magisterium.

    Particularly problematic is also the statement made by Matt (and implicitly assumed by Bryan) that books could not, in principle ever be a way of being the infallible guide for life and practice. This means that God could not—given the intrinsic qualities of books—reveal himself in Scripture without an infallible interpreter of his Word.

    This too is a non sequitur. The inability of a book to replace personal leadership in a community does not entail that God cannot reveal Himself in Scripture without an infallible interpreter.

    If this is true, then Scripture could not have been the only rule of faith in the OT, there needed to be something else. If Matt is correct, then what infallible interpretive authority existed in the OT?

    The prophets.

    Unfortunately, there is the assumption that by virtue of the Magisterium speaking, that removes the interpretive morass, but this is unprincipled philosophically and demonstrably false in history.

    You give no argument that this is “unprincipled philosophically.” You just use the word ‘unfortunately,’ as if that does the necessary argumentative work to demonstrate your claim. And you give no argument or evidence to support your “demonstrably false in history” claim. Presumably you are referring to the examples you used above. But in that case, you’re attacking a straw man. As I explained above, the Catholic position isn’t that there will never be interpretive confusion among Catholics, but that in each case, the existence of a living Magisterium provides in principle a way for the question to be resolved through further Magisterial teaching and clarification.

    Furthermore, this position is a subtle, unintentional distortion of the Reformed view. In all of this discussion of texts and persons, what seems to be overlooked is that the text of Scripture is the living voice of God. Scripture is living and active (Heb 4:12-13). It is not a “dead” text. The Spirit is active in our engagement with Scripture and that engagement in the Spirit transcends grammatical-historical methodology (it’s not a Pelagian exercise, as Bryan notes), as important as those tools are for proper understanding God’s Word. It is true that Scripture is a text, but it is a text that contains and conveys the living Word of God.

    Nothing we’ve said entails otherwise. The subsequent question is whether in the matter of the interpretation of Scripture the Spirit works fundamentally through the burning of each individual’s bosom in his or her study of Scripture (see “Play church“), or through the divinely established Magisterial organ.

    The reason that the validity of Apostolic Succession is so important is because without it there is no principled way for Rome to claim that she is the “person” that can speak to clarify the biblical text. If Rome is not who she claims to be then she can be wrong and perhaps more importantly she can be deceptive; things that are unfortunately true of persons.

    I agree. Same with Jesus, as C.S. Lewis pointed out.

    The reason for this though is that the problems you see inherent to the “Protestant” paradigm are precisely the same problems with the Catholic one, …

    That has yet to be shown. At least I haven’t found in your reply any “problem” for the Catholic position.

    but the only reason you would think that leads to agnosticism is because your approach has already adopted the postmodern skepticism of this age, which I believe is inculcated at CtC.

    I don’t doubt you “believe” this, Brandon, but you’ve given no reason or evidence demonstrating it.

    My point about Catholics and Protestants being in the same boat is that while there are some important philosophical questions that need to be asked and studied, we are on the same team.

    With regard to our baptism, and our love for Christ, I agree. But with regard to the question “Where is Christ’s Church?” it doesn’t seem we (i.e. you and I) are on the “same team.” We do not agree on the question “what is schism” and what defines schism from the Church, as opposed to apostasy? We don’t agree on what serves as the authoritative standard for determining orthodoxy vs. heresy? You think Scripture alone. We believe that the standard is the Scripture as informed by the Tradition, interpreted and defined by the Magisterium.

    My article is not a negative argument; it is a call to communion. Conversely, I believe that the arguments at CtC are built upon negative arguments—arguments that lack sophisticated philosophical grounding and demonstrably false historical assertions.

    Which of our arguments do you think “lack sophisticated philosophical grounding”? Which of our historical claims is “demonstrably false”? It is easy to hand-wave with general accusations from 30,000 feet.

    To the more specific questions of distinguishing human opinion from divine revelation, the only way to do that is to submit our opinions to divine revelation, which is present in the Word of God.

    Since Keith Mathison disagrees with you on this point, do you believe that Keith Mathison has failed to submit his opinion to divine revelation? Has W.G.T. Shedd (see footnote 4 here) failed to submit his opinion to divine revelation?

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  226. Excellent article Brandon – most informative and insightful. Thanks to Called to Communion for publishing here.

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