The Quest for the Historical Church: A Protestant AssessmentMar 24th, 2014 | By Guest Author | 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.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
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?
“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.
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.
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.
- 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. [↩]
- The link Sean Patrick provides does not provide an example of where Lampe’s theology impacts his conclusions. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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.” [↩]
- Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (Yale University Press: New Haven, 2006), 2. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Peter Brown, Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections, (Paulist Press: New York, 1970), 53. [↩]
- Brown, 73. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/05/apostolic-succession-and-historical-inquiry-some-preliminary-remarks/ [↩]
- Brown, 72. [↩]
- Patrick Burke, “The Monarchical Episcopate at the end of the First Century,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 7 (1970): 499-518. [↩]
- Hans Küng, Apostolic Succession: Rethinking a Barrier to Unity (Paulist Press: New York, 1968), 82-83. [↩]
- Francis Sullivan, From Apostles to Bishops: Development of the Episcopacy, (Paulist Press: New York, 2001), 15 & 217. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Dolan, 11. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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: [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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.” [↩]
- 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? [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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.” [↩]
- Brown, 331. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- I. Howard Marshall, International Critical Commentary, The Pastorals, (T & T Clark: Edinburgh, 1999), 514. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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).” [↩]
- Fee, 147. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Lane, 207 borrows this from the scholarship of W. Wiefel. [↩]
- Lane, 215-216. For an extended treatment, see how Lane utilizes the evidence 217-224. [↩]
- The reference to “Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13 could be a reference to the city of Rome, but it is unclear. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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.). [↩]
- See Selby, 81-84, 90-94. [↩]
- Brown, Episkope, 338. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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.” [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Translation from William R. Schoedel “Ignatius of Antioch” in the Hermeneia Commentary Series Ed. Helmut Koester (Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1985), 108. [↩]
- Schoedel, 109. Schoedel also states that there is no conception of Apostolic succession in Ignatius. See p. 49 n10. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Burke, 501. [↩]
- Burke, 513. [↩]
- Burke, 512. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Selby, 85. Selby attributes this observation to Hartog. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Burke, 508. [↩]
- For further argumentation on this see James F. McCue, “Bishops, Presbyters and Priests in Ignatius of Antioch,” Theological Studies 28 (1967): 828-834. [↩]
- See Lampe, 397-399, for how his thesis of fractionation corresponds with the Presbyterian governance of the church. [↩]
- See Lampe 399. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Burke, 509. [↩]
- Accessible here. [↩]
- Lampe, 404. [↩]
- Johannes Quasten, Patrology Volume I (Ave Maria Press: Notre Dame, 1976), 286. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- T.C.G Thornton, “High Priestly and Episcopal Successions in Hegesippus,” JTS 54.1 (2003): 160-163. [↩]
- Thornton, 162. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Lampe, 405, fn. 18. [↩]
- 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.” [↩]
- From comment #197″ in the “Apostolic Succession and Historical Inquiry: Some Preliminary Remarks” thread. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics Chapter 32. Accessed online here. [↩]
- Jerome, On Illustrious Men Chapter 15 as found here. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Quasten, 303. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Brent, Allen. “Was Hippolytus a Schismatic?” Vigiliae Christianae Leiden, 1995 (49) 215-244. [↩]
- 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.” [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Lampe (15-17; 310-313) even discusses how the conception of a corporation did not exist in the first century. [↩]
- Brent, 219-220. [↩]
- In 220-22 Brent also notes how Eusebius has a tendency to read his ecclesiastical situation into the texts that he was working with. [↩]
- Brent, 223-25. [↩]
- Brent, 224. [↩]
- Brent, 226.f [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Bernard Green, Christianity in Ancient Rome: The First Three Centuries (T&T Clark: New York, 2010), 92. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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). [↩]
- Green, 92-93. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Caragounis, 275. [↩]
- Caragounis, 279. [↩]
- Robert Lew Williams, Bishop Lists: Formation of Apostolic Succession of Bishops in Ecclesiastical Crises (Gorgias Press: Piscataway, N.J.,), 68. [↩]
- Williams, 45. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- Here is a popular recounting of this story. [↩]
- This oath was to be taken by every clergyman and religious worker in the Catholic Church until 1967. [↩]
- http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10moath.htm [↩]
- 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.’” [↩]
- See paragraph 77 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church accessible here. [↩]
- The highly technical definition of “possible” is best exemplified by Mr. Lloyd Christmas here. [↩]
- For a brief explanation and a few examples consult here. [↩]