A timeline of the early papacy

150 ad: the church at Rome is ruled by a plurality of presbyters who quarrel about status and honor. (Shepherd of Hermas). “They had a certain jealousy of one another over questions of preeminence and about some kind of distinction. But they are all fools to be jealous of one another regarding preeminence.”

Also note in Hermas: “Clement’s” “job” is to “send books abroad.” — Peter Lampe does not think this Clement is the same individual from 1 Clement, but the time frame is appropriate.

235: Hippolytus and Pontianus are exiled from Rome by the emperor “because of street fighting between their followers” (Collins citing Cerrato, Oxford 2002).

258: Cyprian (Carthage/west) and Firmilian (Caesarea/east) both go apoplectic when Stephen tries to exercise authority outside of Rome.

306: Rival “popes” exiled because of “violent clashes” (Collins)

308: Rival “popes” exiled because of “violent clashes” (Collins again).

325: Council of Nicea: Alexandria has authority over Egypt and Libya, just as “a similar custom exists with the Bishop of Rome.” The Bishop of Jerusalem is to be honored.

381: Constantinople: Because it is new Rome, the Bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy privileges of honour after the bishop of Rome. (This indicates Rome’s “honour” is due to its being the capital.)

431: Cyril, “stole” the council (Moffett 174, citing “Book of Heraclides) and “the followers of Cyril went about in the city girt and armed with clubs … with yells of barbarians, snorting fiercely, raging with extravagant arrogance against those whom they knew to be opposed to their doings…”

451: Chalcedon, 28th canon, passed by the council at the 16th session, “The fathers rightly accorded prerogatives to the see of Older Rome, since that is an imperial city; moved by the same purpose the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of New Rome …” (Rejected by the pope. But what were these “devout bishops” thinking?).

Schatz, summarizing: In any case it is clear that Roman primacy was not a given from the outset ; it underwent a long process of development whose initial phases extended well into the fifth century. The question is then: can we reasonably say of this historically developed papacy that it was instituted by Christ and therefore must always continue to exist?

His response is that the institution of the Church “must be understood in such a way that an awareness of what is essential and enduring … develops only as a result of historical challenges and experiences.”

That is there was no notion of an enduring office beyond Peter’s lifetime. There was no notion that Jesus expected Peter to have “successors,” nor that Matthew expected a successor to Peter (Schatz, pg 1).

Only after there was no longer a political power in the west to challenge papal claims, did the “awareness” of the “essential and enduring” nature of the papacy take hold.

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