Historical Literature on the earliest papacy

Roman Catholic apologists make much of the “ancient” nature of their church. But historical scholarship of the last 50-60 years has greatly put a damper on those claims, first in the evolution of the office of bishop, then in terms of the evolution of the office of the bishop of Rome and later the papacy.

Since Reformed believers who are active on blogs and in discussions may come across some of the claims of these Roman apologists, I thought it would be important to provide just an overview of some of the really groundbreaking work I’ve read on the early papacy. This by no means is a comprehensive list, but the authors here are all distinguished in their own fields, and (a) they all seem to agree, and (b) their work supports and builds on each other’s work. There is no one that I am aware of (other than some highly partisan Roman apologists) who disagree with the conclusions offered by these authors. Even the Roman Catholic “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly the Inquisition, formerly the Holy Office, recently led by Joseph Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI) has tacitly agreed with their work and admitted openly that “In the history of the Church, there is a continuity of doctrinal development on the primacy.”

http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFPRIMA.HTM

This admission of development is highly significant; as recently as 100 years ago, there was no admission that there was anything but an unbroken line of popes from the earliest ages, all of whom were entitled to “rule” the church in the same way that Peter supposedly was given the total power to “rule”:

Jesus Christ, therefore, appointed Peter to be that head of the Church; and He also determined that the authority instituted in perpetuity for the salvation of all should be inherited by His successors, in whom the same permanent authority of Peter himself should continue. … It was necessary that a government of this kind, since it belongs to the constitution and formation of the Church, as its principal element that is as the principle of unity and the foundation of lasting stability – should in no wise come to an end with St. Peter, but should pass to his successors from one to another. … For this reason the Pontiffs who succeed Peter in the Roman Episcopate receive the supreme power in the church, jure divino . “We define” (declare the Fathers of the Council of Florence) “that the Holy and Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold the primacy of the Church throughout the whole world: and that the same Roman Pontiff is the successor of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and the true Vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him, in Blessed Peter, by our Lord Jesus Christ to feed, to rule, and to govern the universal Church, as is also contained in the acts of ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons” (Conc. Florentinum). Similarly the Fourth Council of Lateran declares: “The Roman Church, as the mother and mistress of all the faithful, by the will of Christ obtains primacy of jurisdiction over all other Churches.” These declarations were preceded by the consent of antiquity which ever acknowledged, without the slightest doubt or hesitation, the Bishops of Rome, and revered them, as the legitimate successors of St. Peter.

http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13satis.htm

Recent scholarly works on the papacy that I’ve seen are dedicated to reconciling the more recent “development” view of the papacy with such pronouncements as Vatican I and the Satis Cognitum statement just above.

On the other hand, some very unscholarly Roman apologists will just merely assume that the old story is the correct one, and they will ignore the work that even current Catholic historians have done.

* * *

Probably the first and best of this new work on the papacy is Oscar Cullman’s 1953 work “Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr.” Cullman was a Lutheran and a very ecumenically-minded one at that. He was one of the Protestant observers at Vatican II. Karl Barth joked with him that his tombstone would carry the inscription “advisor to three popes.” Cullman provided a detailed study of virtually all of the scriptural and historical information known about Peter. He does consider, exegetically, Peter to be “the Rock” of Matt 16, but comes to these conclusions at the end of the work: There is no basis whatever in any ancient text for the assertion that Rome inherited the legal succession from Jerusalem” (231)

And concerning Clement of Rome, he says: ”it cannot be proved from reliable sources that he received his office from Peter or that he was the leader of the church at large.” (230) Now, you’ll be tempted to say “cannot be proved” doesn’t disprove it. But hold on, I’m not done with Clement yet.

One more thing, regarding “binding and loosing.” Cullman says: this cannot take place in the sense of a limitation to the future occupants of one Episcopal see. This principle of succession cannot be justified either from Scripture or from the history of the ancient church. In reality the leadership of the Church at large is not to be determined by succession in the sense of a link with one Episcopal see. (238)

Somewhat later (1960) came a work by “Daniel Wm. O’Connor,” Professor of Religion of St. Lawrence University, Columbia University Press. In “Peter in Rome” subtitled “The Literary, Liturgical, and Archeological Evidence,” O’Connor traces the pedigree of all the original “succession lists” from Rome.

The oldest of them all is from Hegesippus, who wrote in or around 166. Of course we only have the writings of Hegesippus because some of them are preserved by Eusebius. Hegesippus “claims to have compiled himself” the list of the bishops of Rome. That is, it was not a historical document; it did not exist prior to his arrival there. The reason he compiled it “was purely practical:

Hegesippus mentions that while he was at Corinth, he noticed that the Corinthians had remained in the true doctrine until Primus. Heresy was widespread at Rome, however, under Marcion, Basilides, and Valentinus. Therefore, Hegesippus wished to draw up a bishops’ list to be used in combating these heresies. By demonstrating the authorized channel through which the true doctrine had come down to the present (probably to the period of Eleutherus) from Peter and Paul, he hoped the Roman succession would serve as ‘a guarantee of the unbroken transmission of the original faith.’ (27-28)

O’Connor goes on to say that the names for the list were supplied “with reasonable accuracy” from the memories of those still living. He relies fairly heavily on the work of J.B. Lightfoot, the conservative Anglican bishop of the late 19th century who compiled the works of the “Apostolic Fathers.”

Regarding Peter in Rome, O’Connor gives these four conclusions:

1. Peter did reside in Rome at some time during his lifetime, most probably near the end of his life.
2. He was martyred there as a member of the Christian religion.
3. He was remembered in the traditions of the Church and in the erection of a simple monument near the place where he died.
4. His body was never recovered for burial by the Christian group which later, when relics became of great importance for apologetic reasons, came to believe that what originally had marked the general area of his death also indicated the precise placement of his grave.

(“Peter in Rome,” 209).

Keep in mind, too, that there was not any such thing as a “monarchical episcopacy” for maybe the first hundred years or more of the church. It evolved over time; many have traced this evolution. It is not in question except by individuals such as these Roman apologists who want to maintain the fantasies of some kind of unbroken succession.

Interestingly, regarding Peter and succession, the Catholic writer Raymond Brown says, “The claims of various sees to descend from particular members of the Twelve are highly dubious. It is interesting that the most serious of these is the claim of the bishops of Rome to descend from Peter, the one member of the Twelve who was almost a missionary apostle in the Pauline sense – a confirmation of our contention that whatever succession there was from apostleship to episcopate, it was primarily in reference to the Puauline type of apostleship, not that of the Twelve.” (“Priest and Bishop, Biblical Reflections,” Nihil Obstat, Imprimatur, 1970, pg 72.)

The Catholic historian Paul Johnson goes a bit further than Brown, in his 1976 work “History of Christianity”:

By the third century, lists of bishops, each of whom had consecrated his successor, and which went back to the original founding of the see by one or the other of the apostles, had been collected or manufactured by most of the great cities of the empire and were reproduced by Eusebius…— “A History of Christianity,” pgs 53 ff.)

Eusebius presents the lists as evidence that orthodoxy had a continuous tradition from the earliest times in all the great Episcopal sees and that all the heretical movements were subsequent aberrations from the mainline of Christianity.

Looking behind the lists, however, a different picture emerges. In Edessa, on the edge of the Syrian desert, the proofs of the early establishment of Christianity were forgeries, almost certainly manufactured under Bishop Kune, the first orthodox Bishop.

In Egypt, Orthodoxy was not established until the time of Bishop Demetrius, 189-231, who set up a number of other sees and manufactured a genealogical tree for his own bishopric of Alexandria, which traces the foundation through ten mythical predecessors back to Mark, and so to Peter and Jesus.

Even in Antioch, where both Peter and Paul had been active, there seems to have been confusion until the end of the second century. Antioch completely lost their list; “When Eusebius’s chief source for his Episcopal lists, Julius Africanus, tried to compile one for Antioch, he found only six names to cover the same period of time as twelve in Rome and ten in Alexandria.

Going back again in time, it is interesting to note the development of certain “enhancements” to the stories of succession. Of course Irenaeus passes along the factually incorrect statement which says that that Peter and Paul founded the church at Rome. He says, “Since it would be too long, in a work like this, to list the successions in all the churches (helpfully provided above by Johnson), we shall take only one of them, the church that is greatest, most ancient, and known to all, founded and set up by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul at Rome …” (Against Heresies, 3.3.2).

Peter and Paul neither “founded” nor “set up” the church at Rome. Paul of course wrote to the Romans in 56 or 58 ad that he had never been there, although the church was existing, thriving, and was attested as early as the Edict of Claudius as early as 49 ad (see Acts 18:2-3), having traveled there from Jerusalem, maybe as early as Acts 2, via the Puteoli-Rome trade routes.

Peter is said to have died in 64 ad, under Nero. There were many legends that Peter arrived at Rome during the reign of Claudius (41-54), and was “bishop” of Rome for 25 years. But Acts 15 places him in Jerusalem and Paul’s letters place him in Corinth and Galatia (not as a leader, but as a missionary) well into the 50’s, long after the church had been “founded” in Rome. Cullman, after a thorough investigation of the historical sources, says that he “became the leader of the Jewish Christian mission; that in this capacity, at a time which cannot be more closely determined but probably occurred at the end of his life, he came to Rome and there, after a very short work, died as a martyr under Nero.” (Cullman, “Peter,” pg. 152) Cullman refuses to discuss the notion that Peter lived in Rome for 25 years, noting that it is so obviously fictitious that it did not merit any serious discussion.

Continuing with the survey of the literature, there is a work by Peter Lampe, a Lutheran NT scholar who later signed a document requesting that Lutherans NOT agree to the 1999 “Joint Declaration on Justification.”

Lampe’s work, “From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries,” was written in 1987 and translated to English in 2003. The Catholic historian Eamon Duffy, said “all modern discussion of the issues must now start from the exhaustive and persuasive analysis by Peter Lampe.” (“Saints and Sinners,” “A History of the Popes,” Yale, 1997, 2001, pg. 421).

Here’s a review of this work, from Oxford’s Journal of Theological Studies:
http://reformation500.blogspot.com/2008/08/review-of-from-paul-to-valentinus.html

“From Paul to Valentinus” is a breathtaking achievement that has already become a classic and will repay careful attention for decades to come from researchers of early Roman Christianity or those seeking a model for writing a social history for other centres of ancient Christianity.

…the scholarly world owes a debt of gratitude to Lampe for presenting so thoroughly and rigorously the primary literature, archaeological data, and epigraphic material relating to ancient Roman Christianity, as well as distilling such a vast secondary literature on ancient Roman Christianity. Lampe shrewdly and expertly argues for his reconstruction of a socially diverse, theologically variegated Roman Christianity, non-centralized until the later second century, and bearing the marks of its domestic origins amongst the urban poor even as it progressively moved through the latter part of the second century into more élite circles. …

The picture that finally emerges from Lampe’s analysis of surviving evidence is one he names ‘the fractionation of Roman Christianity’ (pp. 357–408). Not until the second half of the second century, under Anicetus, do we find compelling evidence for a monarchical episcopacy, and when it emerges, it is to manage relief shipments to dispersed Christians as well as social aid for the Roman poor (pp. 403–4). Before this period Roman Christians were ‘fractionated’ amongst dispersed house/tenement churches, each presided over by its own presbyter–bishop. This accounts for the evidence of social and theological diversity in second-century Roman Christianity, evidence of a degree of tolerance of theologically disparate groups without a single authority to regulate belief and practice, and the relatively late appearance of unambiguous representation of a single bishop over Rome.

I’ve provided these endorsements from Duffy and JTS because Roman apologists will seek to dismiss the importance of this work in every way they possibly can.

For those of you who are interested in original research into primary source documents, Lampe seems to investigate virtually every piece of paper – every public record, every archaeological investigation, every public record – remaining from, or dating to, that time period. At the end of his investigation, he draws a picture of a “fractionated” church in Rome – a large network of house churches, modeled after the existing Synagogue structure which is known to have existed in that city.

One of the notable things that Lampe does is to analyze the “succession list” offered by Irenaeus in 3.3.2 of his work “Against Heresies.” Lampe connects the dots, and through a thorough comparison of the lists given by Hegesippus and Irenaeus, confirms that Irenaeus relied on the Hegesippus list, which he calls a “fictive construction.” (That is, as I’ve described above, it used names from recent memory in that city, and attributed to them a position on the list.)

Robert Eno, SS (order of the Sulpicians, an order whose mission is to teach Roman Catholic seminarians: “If there were no bishop of Rome , then how can one speak of a Petrine Succession?” (Eno, “The Rise of the Papacy, pg 29.)

What I found to be highly significant is that while Eno carefully traced “the rise” of the papacy, he did not come to any conclusions at the end of his work about the legitimacy of this process. For example, some Catholic writers point to the judgment of the church in deciding these matters, Eno says nothing. The reader is left with Eno’s unanswered question.

Roger Collins (http://www.shc.ed.ac.uk/staff/hon_fellows/rcollins) has written a very thorough history of the papacy:

Collins’s work is called “A definitive and accessible guide”; Collins seems to go even further than Lampe and the others do to say the first person who could possibly have been even a “local bishop” of Rome was Anicetus, 155-160 ad, and that the “office” that was supposed to have been “a permanent principle” and “visible foundation” actually had no basis whatever until perhaps the year 236 when “Fabian (236-250) has been proposed as the first bishop of Rome in the full sense” (14).

Regarding Clement, who is traditionally held to be the author of the letter 1 Clement, Adrian Fortescue (in his 1920 work “The Early Papacy,” re-published in 2008) wrote that Clement “commanded” with an authority, “one would almost say with an arbitrary tone, that has not been exceeded by any modern pope.”

Michael Holmes, in his “The Apostolic Fathers” (Third edition), describes 1 Clement as a “symbouleutic” (or “deliberative”) letter — “a category widely discussed by ancient rhetoricians and to which 1 Clement closely conforms”. It is impossible for this letter to carry “commands.” It is a letter written in a form by which a politician seeks to persuade.

In this matter, Collins even goes beyond Lampe, suggesting that Clement was in reality the messenger Clement cited in Hermas — but he goes into a great bit of detail about how that church, a network of small, scattered house churches employed, as its means of communication, a person who travelled among these churches carrying letters and other messages. Collins says that “Clement of Rome,” the third “pope” on the list, was in reality, this messenger. (He delivered the letter to the Corinthians, thus the letter, which does not name its author, bears the name of Clement.)

This is significant; Collins is not some kind of flaming liberal, with the late dating of these texts. In fact, he holds that Paul actually wrote the Pastoral Letters in his lifetime. But the lateness that he gives to Clement (20 years later than the traditional date) and an even later date given to Ignatius (“it is now generally agreed” that these letters “cannot be dated more precisely than to sometime between AD 125 and 150) make it more than plausible that the “authoritatively commanding” Clement really was no more than the church messenger, the amaneusis whose name became attached to a “symbouleutic” letter.

Beyond that, he goes into some detail about “Irenaeus and Tertullian’s apparent rewriting of the history of Christianity in Rome.” This is exactly what has been said by the other scholars I have cited, to much ridicule here. “Neither was interested in the history of the Church in Rome for its own sake” (15).

“There was … no individual, committee or council of leaders within the Christian movement that could pronounce on which beliefs and practices were acceptable and which were not. This was particularly true of Rome with its numerous small groups of believers. Different Christian teachers and organizers of house-churches offered a variety of interpretations of the faith and attracted particular followings, rather in the way that modern denominations provide choice for worshipers looking for practices that particularly appeal to them on emotional, intellectual, aesthetic or other grounds (15-16).

This is not an esoteric or a “liberal” interpretation of history. This is a mainstream historical position.

That is why, for the first time, the Vatican changed its story from “permanent” and “immediately given” to “we are conscious of development of the papacy” in 1996. They are trying to salvage the sinking “barque of Peter.” The papacy is built on a foundation of quicksand — of less than that — its foundation is nonexistent. It will go down; and thanks to the speed of the Internet, it may go down faster than anyone expects.

37 thoughts on “Historical Literature on the earliest papacy

  1. Hello-
    I was recently (Easter 2008) confirmed in the Catholic Church. A Reformed Baptist friend (former Pastor) sent this post to me. I am seeking some clarity b/c it seems that you’re conflating two issues in your post:

    1. Doctrinal Development
    2. Petrine Succession

    The Vatican’s acknowledgment regarding Development of Doctrine (Concerning the See of Peter) and its teaching regarding Petrine Succession are two separate issues. The acknowledgment of some degree of Doctrinal Development concerning the role of the Bishop of Rome isn’t the equivalent of the Vatican “changing its story” concerning Petrine Succession. Do you see what I’m trying to get at? Any clarification would be appreciated. Thank you!

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  2. Herbert, thank you for your comment. You wrote:

    I am seeking some clarity b/c it seems that you’re conflating two issues in your post:

    1. Doctrinal Development
    2. Petrine Succession

    The Vatican’s acknowledgment regarding Development of Doctrine (Concerning the See of Peter) and its teaching regarding Petrine Succession are two separate issues.

    It is one issue.

    Imagine a game of chess, in which one of the players, while at one time in the lead, finds himself suddenly losing ground. What would you think, then, if that player, against all the rules of the game, moved the pieces around, out of turn, so as to try to regain the lead?

    That’s exactly what “the Vatican’s acknowledgement regarding Development” has done.

    Owen Chadwick, in his work “From Bossuet to Newman” traces the adoption of “development”. There was a time when there was no such thing, and further, the church’s primary polemic against the reformation was “Semper Eadem,” or “always the same.” He says:

    In 1688, the mighty Bossuet (a French bishop and theologian) published his mightiest onslaught upon the Protestants, declared his axion that variation in the teaching of the faith must be a sign of error (pg 1, emphasis in original).

    In the 19th century, both Vatican I and the papal encyclical Satis Cognitum also spoke in terms of permanence with regard to the papacy:

    Jesus Christ, therefore, appointed Peter to be that head of the Church; and He also determined that the authority instituted in perpetuity for the salvation of all should be inherited by His successors, in whom the same permanent authority of Peter himself should continue. … From this text it is clear that by the will and command of God the Church rests upon St. Peter, just as a building rests on its foundation. Now the proper nature of a foundation is to be a principle of cohesion for the various parts of the building. It must be the necessary condition of stability and strength. Remove it and the whole building falls. It is consequently the office of St. Peter to support the Church, and to guard it in all its strength and indestructible unity. How could he fulfil this office without the power of commanding, forbidding, and judging, which is properly called jurisdiction? It is only by this power of jurisdiction that nations and commonwealths are held together. A primacy of honour and the shadowy right of giving advice and admonition,which is called direction, could never secure to any society of men unity or strength.

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13satis.htm

    Now, every historical study I’ve cited clearly says that (a) there was no monarchical bishop in Rome until the last half of the second century, and (b) the city of Rome was large enough in that day that “the church of Rome” really was a network of house churches ruled by a network of presbyters. Further to that, we know of a “central office” that was not a bishop, but more like a messenger service. There was no central meeting place. We know further that these presbyters, from time to time, argued among themselves as to who was greatest. Several of the writers suggest that “Pope Clement” really was the name of the messenger who delivered the letter from the church at Rome to the church at Corinth!

    It is very clear that Leo XIII, in the encyclical I’ve cited, has absolutely no concept that the pope of rome was anything but the permanent, commanding authority that could be nothing other than “the necessary condition of stability and strength.”

    I’ll remind you that while the papacy is backpedalling on the foundations of its own authority, the historical understanding of the life of Christ is greater and more well established than ever. See, for example, this blog entry by the New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, in which both an evangelical scholar and an atheist historian “both have argued that belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus must have emerged within two or three years after the death of Jesus.” Blomberg himself argues that such a belief was “probably reported in the same year it happened.”

    http://blog.bible.org/primetimejesus/content/resurrection-probably-reported-same-year-it-happened

    That is an amazing piece of detail. Even hostile scholarship is agreed that the bodily resurrection of Jesus was taught the very year that it happened. There is no need for “development” in that fundamental Christian belief.

    And yet, it took four centuries — some of the most difficult centuries in the history of the Christian church, for another “foundational” doctrine — the true papacy — to “develop”.

    We can and should question that.

    To believe the Catholic Church, some papal “dogmas” are more firmly to be believed than Scripture. See the curses at the end of the 1854 document Ineffabilis Deus and also at the end of the 1850 document Munificentissimus Deus.

    It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

    Rome has issued no similar curse for those who don’t believe Genesis 1:1, or even Romans 8, for example. Rome views Papal pronouncements more seriously than it does Scripture.

    Papal authority is central to Roman Catholicism. But now Rome is saying it is “conscious of development” in this all important, all-authoritative structure. Such “development” even Newman admits took four centuries to occur. When historical scholarship is confirming the historical teaching on the Resurrection, it is doing the opposite with respect to an early papacy.

    “Development” is a very weak link in a chain that is supposedly “a necessary condition” of the church.

    I’d urge you to look into this further, and reconsider your decision to enter the Catholic Church.

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  3. John,

    I am, frankly, blown away by the depth and thoughtfulness of your response to me. I certainly have a number of knee jerk reactions to it. But I’ll let it sink in for a few days. I thank you for your sincerity and kindness. I’ll be back around soon. Thanks. Herbert VanderLugt

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  4. John,

    Thank you for that very interesting post. I linked over from TurretinFan’s blog. It seems to me that you have done a great deal of research on the matter, and I appreciate it very much.

    Related to that is my contention that any unbroken succession is irrelevant to the question of rather true doctrine has been successfully passed down from one bishop (or other individual or “ecclesial community”) to the next. Clearly the Scriptures indicate that immediately people were getting things wrong, even though they had been taught directly by an apostle or his assistant/disciple (Gal. 1:6 ff.). Not only that, but history clearly shows us that the student most often breaks away from his mentor’s teaching to go beyond what he has learned, innovating, sometimes, for the sake of staking a claim to his own original thought; and this at the expense of being careful to keep the true faith as it had been passed on to him.

    In my view, “development” as it is used by the RCC can become a justification for all sorts of error which may be indistinguishable from whatever is defined as “tradition,” and that definition I have always found elusive in my conversations with Catholic e-pologists.

    It’s very telling what scholars have said about the formation of the papacy, on both sides of the Tiber and of the philosophical spectrum. One might be tempted to say that we have “the unanimous consent of the scholars” on our side. ;-)

    Blessings in Christ,

    Tim

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  5. Tim, thanks for your comments. You are right, it is amazing at how much agreement there is on this topic, among both the Catholic and Protestant scholars. I think if Luther and the Reformers knew then what we know now, the Reformation would have had a far greater impact than it did. But we have our chance now.

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  6. Hi John,

    I linked over to your blog while reading one of your posts on TPB, which is frustrating for me as I’m not Reformed and cannot participate.

    Anyway, getting to my point, I would like to say how much I appreciate your work. I’m a sort of armchair historian trying to bridge the gap between the NT and the modern Roman Catholic Church. To that end I have read numerous “popular” books on doctrinal history and develpoment which even at the rudimentary level I’m at clearly shows that Rome today is the result of centuries of development, all at the expense of Scripture.

    While it is easy to debunk the teachings of Rome by a comparison to the Bible, it is impossible to understand the reasons for the existance of Rome without some knowledge of all aspects of post 1st century life, political, religious, technological and so forth. This is as I’m sure you know time consuming and sometimes I ask myself why I put myself through this exercise. Answer is of course for the love of the truth.

    For me this quest for knowledge started simple enough. A visit with friends to my local Roman Catholic Church in my pre-christian teen years made me ask this simple question–Did St. Peter and St. Paul and the rest walk around the 1st century dirt roads of the Roman Empire draging along with them all the “stuff” we see on display today in Rome’s churches? Highly unlikely and quite unnecessary.

    Thanks for a great read Sir.

    Tom

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  7. Hello, John- You claim that we’re considering one issue. I still see two. As I see it, one can be totally consistent in his acknowledgment of both “development of doctrine concerning Roman Primacy” and “Petrine Succession.” I don’t see how the two are mutually exclusive.

    Indeed, it was Pope Leo XIII who appointed John Newman as cardinal. Obviously Pope Leo read and learned from Newman’s Development. Does it make sense that Pope Leo, after having seen the effect Newman’s Development was having during its time, would have written an encyclical fundamentally at odds with Newman’s widely read, highly regarded work? It seems more likely that Pope Leo saw his Encyclical, Satis Cognitum, as being completely consistent with Newman’s Development.

    I understand that you see the Newman-Pope Leo XIII-Vatican1 representations of the Papacy as being in conflict with one another. But obviously there are many bright men and women, who, having converted after the publication/promulgation of these teachings, weren’t intellectually/historically troubled by that which you perceive as contradictory teaching.

    I understand that you feel that the Church is guilty of having re-arranged the chess board mid-game. But unless you’re just going to claim to be smarter than Chesterton, Sayers, Newman, Pope Leo XIII, and any of the hundreds of Catholic intellectuals who must’ve simply overlooked this (perceived) inconsistency, it seems that the burden of proof lies with you to demonstrate quite conclusively that any Catholic authority has ever spoken of the development of doctrine in terms that call into question something as fundamental to Catholic teaching as Petrine Succession. In other words, to demonstrate that you’re not guilty of having conflated two distinct (yet closely related) issues (my original assertion), it would seem that the burden of proof lies with you to show in very specific terms how the teachings of John Cardinal Newman, Pope Leo XIII and the Fathers of the 1st Vatican Council were explicitly at odds with one another… Only then might it be worthwhile to look into what various Lutheran/Catholic/Evangelical historians have to say about the nascent Papacy. On the other hand, Catholics are bound to look to Scripture, Tradition (2nd Thessalonians 2:15), and the Magisterium (Luke 10:16) to speak to matters of faith, not archeology, and definitely not modern academia.

    Again, I am touched and honored that you responded to me with such dedication. I hope that you read these comments as they were intended to be sent: with charity, respect and kindness. And again, any further dialogue/perspective would be appreciated! Thanks again, Herbert VanderLugt

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  8. Herbert — I’ve wanted to respond to you sooner and in more detail, but I’ve just got too much other stuff to do. But I did want to respond.

    For the moment, I just have one question: Why is the burden of proof on me to “demonstrate quite conclusively that any Catholic authority has ever spoken of the development of doctrine in terms that call into question something as fundamental to Catholic teaching as Petrine Succession.”

    I’ve provided instances of Bossuet (a French archbishop and polemecist) who was quite confident that not only *development*, but *change* was regarded as corruption. Given his stature, the highest probability is that his line of thinking on this was standard Catholic thought.

    And there was quite a bit of inertia with this very thought all through the ages – the citation from Satis Cognitum was very much along the lines that the papacy had never changed from the beginning. You can find similar language in Vatican I, and even into the 20th century, with such writings as Adrien Fortescue (who made the claim that “Clement commanded” the Corinthians), and even into Pius XII. Growing up Catholic, I too was raised in a church with an elderly priest and nuns who did not hesitate to suggest that the Church had not changed for 2000 years.

    Only after improved historical investigation of the enlightenment and following, did folks like Mohler and Newman begin to see that the Catholic history about itself wasn’t holding up to scrutiny. That was Newman’s point in developing this “theory” — the Catholic Church needed an explanation, a “cover story” for why its doctrines had deviated so far over time.

    Now, if the historical evidence that I’ve presented is true, then there could not have been anything like a papacy early on. If you want, I will provide Scriptural exegesis of your “proof text” passages, demonstrating that those passages do not really say what you’ve intended them to say.

    The only thing you have is a presupposition, with only threadbare, if not nonexistent historical evidence that there was anything at all like even a bishop in Rome. (Newman concedes this.) But still, with all the weight of all the authority resting on an infallible papacy, you’d think that there was more than just a presupposition and a theory supporting that supposed authority.

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  9. “I’ve provided instances of Bossuet (a French archbishop and polemecist) who was quite confident that not only *development*, but *change* was regarded as corruption. Given his stature, the highest probability is that his line of thinking on this was standard Catholic thought.”

    Bossuet also had Gallican sympathies, so I would hesitate to elevate him unduly as a paragon of Catholic orthodoxy.

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  10. Alphonsus: Bossuet also had Gallican sympathies, so I would hesitate to elevate him unduly as a paragon of Catholic orthodoxy.

    Alphonsus: You may seek to undermine his reputation, but here is what the old Catholic encyclopedia says of him (among other things):

    it is above all the great controversialist that his contemporaries admire in him, the defender of tradition against all the novelties which sought to weaken it, the unwearying opponent of Jurieu, of Richard Simon, of Madame Guyon, and, incidentally, of Fénelon himself; he is the theologian of Providence, and — startling contrast — on the eve of the Regency, he is “the last of the Fathers of the Church”

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02698b.htm

    You may also take it up with Owen Chadwick, who chose him as the focus of his study.

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  11. Hi, John-

    Rather than attempting to respond to most of your most recent comment, I am just going to address the “one question” you posed.

    You wrote:
    [For the moment, I just have one question: Why is the burden of proof on me to “demonstrate quite conclusively that any Catholic authority has ever spoken of the development of doctrine in terms that call into question something as fundamental to Catholic teaching as Petrine Succession.”]

    The short answer to your question is simply this: “…because that’s what you’re claiming.”

    The burden of proof lies with the party who’s making the assertion, does it not? Without providing a “proof” or “clear/conclusive demonstration” that your assessment of things is indeed accurate, your position is just that- your position. My conscience cannot be bound by what I understand to be another man’s opinion.

    And at this point I don’t see how Pope Leo XIII, Pope Benedict XVI, John Cardinal Newman, Jacques Bossuet or any other Catholic has said anything that calls into question Petrine Succession (divergent views concerning doctrinal development notwithstanding).

    I appreciate your time and energy in this! To me it’s a sign that you actually care about me, the Truth and Christ’s Church… not just about winning an “argument”. Thank you for that.

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  12. John-

    I’m going to go ahead and interact with some of the other comments you’ve offered.

    You said:
    “I’ve provided instances of Bossuet (a French archbishop and polemecist) who was quite confident that not only *development*, but *change* was regarded as corruption. Given his stature, the highest probability is that his line of thinking on this was standard Catholic thought.”

    I am comfortable saying that “standard Catholic thought” has been quite mistaken/corrupt at certain points throughout history. The widely known phrase “Athanasius Contra Mundum” suggests to me that DESPITE periods of almost universal corruption/confusion, the Sovereign Lord has retained control of the Church, sometimes through one man (such as St. Athanasius). Fundamentally, my decision to become Catholic was based largely upon my understanding of God as a Father who would under no conditions desert His Flock.

    You also said:
    “…the citation from Satis Cognitum was very much along the lines that the papacy had never changed from the beginning.”

    1st of all, a plausible case can be made that St. Peter’s Primacy is recorded in Scripture. Satis Cognitum appeals to Scripture to demonstrate this very point. Further, Satis Cognitum was (obviously) written after Newman had written his Development. So, as I mentioned above, I see Satis Cognitum as being fully compatible with the ideas presented in Newman’s Development. So though your reading doesn’t allow for the reconciliation of Newman’s Development and Satis Cognitum, it certainly must have existed in the mind of its author, Pope Leo XIII.

    you said:
    “Only after improved historical investigation of the enlightenment and following, did folks like Mohler and Newman begin to see that the Catholic history about itself wasn’t holding up to scrutiny. That was Newman’s point in developing this “theory” — the Catholic Church needed an explanation, a “cover story” for why its doctrines had deviated so far over time.”

    Newman, however deceitful you perceive his efforts to be, couldn’t rewrite history. And I’m sure he didn’t see himself as providing a “cover story” as though he were party to mass deception. He was trying to make sense of a mess of corruption, confusion, bickering, spite, and unGodliness, without throwing the Christ out with all that filthy bathwater (just as modern revisionists such as Bart Ehrman have done). Also, Newman would certainly take issue with the idea that “doctrines had deviated so far over time.” It was the charge of “deviation of doctrine” he was working to invalidate.

    You also said:
    “Now, if the historical evidence that I’ve presented is true, then there could not have been anything like a papacy early on.”

    As far as I’m concerned, this type of appeal, when applied to matters of faith, is what produces ideas like those espoused by men such as John Dominic Crossan and John Shelby Spong. These men are certainly sharp, even brilliant in some ways. But their approaches to Christianity are marked, not by faith, but by cold historical analysis… which leads them to seek out their “historical” Jesus, a mere man, and in the minds of these men, a Jesus stripped of His divinity.

    When it comes to matters of faith, I am content with historical plausibility. You may believe that Eusebius’s reliance upon Hegessipus’s list is not reliable. I may believe it’s reliable. Again, my conscience cannot be bound by your assessment of history.

    And finally:
    “The only thing you have is a presupposition, with only threadbare, if not nonexistent historical evidence that there was anything at all like even a bishop in Rome.”

    I’ve seen comments from “skeptics” that read much like what you’ve written here. The only difference is that they replace your “even a bishop in Rome.” with “a Jesus of Nazareth.” Again, what I’m saying is that when we seek to discover historical and archeological truths to inform matters of faith, we’d better be careful what we ask for. Sure, somewhat of a case can be made (by Christian scholars) for an Empty Tomb. But how can any such historical assessment be binding on anyone’s conscience?

    Finally, I was not aware that Newman concedes the point that there was no bishop in Rome during that period and I am surprised to hear that! Could you possibly reference that for me? In my mind, I would have imagined Cardinal Newman as having been fully supportive of, for example, the following historical assessment of things (From St. Irenaeus, of course):

    “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self- pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say, ] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

    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.”

    Blessings, John! Sincerely, Herbert VanderLugt

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  13. Thanks for your thoughtful reply Herbert. At the moment, I’m contending with a little bit of snow; I have to walk a few miles and dig out my car, which got stuck last night, but I intend to provide a response in the near future.

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  14. “But Acts 15 places him[Peter]in Jerusalem and Paul’s letters place him in Corinth and Galatia (not as a leader, but as a missionary) well into the 50’s, long after the church had been “founded” in Rome.”

    I give you credit John. You haven’t change in the past 15 years.

    The reason Peter was in Jerusalem in Acts 15(49A.D.) was because of the reason you’ve already given namely “Edict of Claudius as early as 49 ad”.

    I never thanked you for suggesting Lampe’s work. IT is certainly worth reading. I don’t come to draw the inferences you do in his work and I disagree with some of his as well, but at least he doesn’t have the axe to grind that you have demonstrated over the years. Sorry that this has consumed so much of your life.

    I wish you well anyway. I hope your wife is safely back from serving our country.

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  15. By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, I didn’t exclusively cite Lampe. I cited a whole bunch of other historians, both Catholic and Protestant, all of whom agreed with Lampe, and not with you.

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  16. Oh, I noticed its just not worth going over the same stuff we used to go over for a 10 year period.

    Its one of those things about the net,your surfing on one thing and it leads to something else which leads you to something else and then I ended up on your blog.

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  17. Quickbeam, what can I say? I’ve been around. Except for posting a very few items I thought would be useful (for Nevski, I think), I’ve stayed away from your old discussion haunts.

    The Roman church has made such claims for itself over history. They can’t possibly be true, given its history. The Scriptures are sure and certain. That’s what it comes down to. I’m just finding sources that agree with that, and trying to share the good news.

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  18. “Except for posting a very few items I thought would be useful (for Nevski, I think), I’ve stayed away from your old discussion haunts.”

    LOL, well you haven’t missed much. I shut down Greg’s old board. I didn’t see the point of making the same discussion points over and over again.

    “They can’t possibly be true, given its history.”

    History is very interesting- church history more so at least to me. I’ve always liked this quote which I have on my blog- he was an Anglican priest.

    “It has been very well observed that there is no such thing as an impartial historian. Every man who sets out to trace the development of life, whether in politics, religion, or art, is bound to do so with some theory in his mind… The historian, or the theologian, who is most nearly impartial is not he who has no view, but he who is aware of other views, and can give them due consideration.”

    I think you’ve always given due consideration to secondary sources commenting on primary sources. I don’t see you giving that to the primary sources itself. I recognized however its because of your hatred of the institutional church. IOW, your intentions are good, but your filters aren’t.

    Anyway I’ve taken up more space on your blog then I intended. Have a great Lent! Sorry I think you participate in that tradition, if not I didn’t mean to offend.

    Blessings,

    QB

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  19. Since you are a conservative Reformed Christian, I assume that there are a lot of arguments being touted with wide-ranging agreement among modern scholars with which you would disagree, arguments in which you could readily point out the poor methodology. With that in mind, it seems to me that you are focusing here on “scholarly findings” that claim to refute traditional Catholic teachings because it’s convenient for you.

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    1. David — If the Roman Catholic Church is not what it says it is, if the papacy was not divinely instituted, which I believe to be the case, then we can start talking about modern scholars with whom I would disagree.

      As it stands, I’ve given a fairly good summary of information that I’ve read. If you can find “modern scholars with whom I would disagree” on this topic, you are free to point them out to me.

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  20. I didn’t mean to refer to scholars on this topic in particular. To be honest, I have only read a small amount about this issue and I readily admit that your familiarity with the secondary scholarship is is greater than mine. My point is more fundamental. Why should Christians care what the academic consensus is about the state of the Roman church in the 2nd century anymore than we care about the academic consensus regarding the reliability of scripture, the reality of Jesus’ miracles, or the idea that the Reformation was about religion and not politics?

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  21. David – Roman Catholic claims of authority are fully dependent on papal claims to be “divinely instituted.” But as Robert Eno (above) asks, “If there were no bishop of Rome , then how can one speak of a Petrine Succession?” (Eno, “The Rise of the Papacy, pg 29.)

    This is important because of the papacy’s more-than-grand claims for itself.

    On the other hand, note what Craig Blomberg says about the historicity of the church’s preaching on the Resurrection, here:

    http://blog.bible.org/primetimejesus/content/resurrection-probably-reported-same-year-it-happened

    So while there is a confluence of scholarship on Jesus and the New Testament claims for itself, the confluence of scholarship (presumably with the same biases) is going precisely the other way on the mere existence of an early Roman bishop.

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  22. What is the value of the modern historical discoveries? How come this alliance with modern-criticism? So I see again the typical “pick and choose” approach and according to the interests of a certain issue. Not fair. I know the issue involves much more and there are arguments from both sides, and I respect this opinion, but it seems strange to me the use of modern scholarship. They cannot be authoritative for conclusions.

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    1. I wouldn’t say it is an “alliance.” I would say that there is a confluence of conservative scholarship and “modern criticism” in some very important areas. See, for example, this posting:

      https://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/a-positive-view-of-christian-foundations/

      Here, for example, you’ve got a New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg, reporting on a presumably modernistic-critical Atheist and another, more conservative NT scholar, “both of whom have argued that belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus must have emerged within two or three years of the death of Jesus (whether or not one believes it actually happened).”

      That’s an amazing confluence of agreement on a historical point of fact. And that’s not the only “historical fact” for which there’s a high degree of agreement.

      My point here would be that if what you call “modern criticism” and modern critical methods can be used to support and “flesh out” the history of the life of Christ, then it should seem that it should also support the traditional Catholic story of an early papacy. But it does not support an early papacy. (Which, not coincidentally, supports the Protestant understanding of “development” of the papacy.)

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  23. Thanks for the clarification. I have to examine more the argument, but for one thing I am sure, that I like your gracious and serious treatment.

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