Anencletus, Commonly Called Cletus also Known as Anacletus of Rome
Who was Anencletus? Was he the same person as Cletus and Anacletus? Was he a pope? Was he the third bishop of Rome after the Apostle Peter? Was he even a bishop?
The generally touted Catholic position is that Cletus was the third pope (from allegedly 76-88 A.D.) and that all subsequent leaders of the true church passed through him (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 1). Is that correct?
This article (along with Appendix A) will refer to the Bible, historical records, and Roman Catholic sources to attempt to properly answer those questions.
First though the name needs to be clarified. Here is what one Roman Catholic priest and scholar has written:
The name...Anacletus, is really Anencletus, a Greek adjective meaning "blameless." Since it was a common name for a slave, it may be indicative of his social origins (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p.34).
However, since the terms Anencletus/Cletus/Anacletus are commonly used, they will generally be interchangeable in this article.
A search of the terms Anencletus/Cletus/Anacletus that I made in four different translations of the Bible revealed no mention of an individual with either name in the entire Bible.
If Anencletus/Cletus/Anacletus was the ruler of all Christendom during the time he was claimed to be, then it seems odd that the Apostle John failed to mention him or his leadership in any of the books that he wrote after the beginning of Cletus' alleged pontificate (the Gospel According to John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and the Book of Revelation). Since John encouraged Christians to be faithful, it would seem that he would have somehow suggested that there would be a succession of faithful leaders to follow in Rome. Instead, he focused on the leadership of the church in the region of Asia Minor (Revelation 1-3).
John was the last of the original apostles to die and should have known who the leaders of the true church were around the time of his death (around 100 A.D.). And there is no reason to believe that he would have been at a lower status of Anencletus/Cletus/Anacletus who was not ordained directly by Christ, nor (see Appendix A) a pope, and nor probably even a bishop.
Some Significant Roman Catholic Teachings About Cletus/Anacletus
Was there both a Cletus and an Anacletus/Anencletus? Actually nobody knows, but for several centuries, those supporting the Roman Church said there were, but current Roman supporters no longer believe that. There was a second century Roman Bishop named Anicetus, but he is not related to Cletus/Anacletus.
Roman Catholic scholars admit that many of the early writers often cited as proof of various positions that the Roman Church now holds, disagreed about the initial list of the bishops of Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia specifically calls these varieties of order as shown below:
The varieties of order are as follows:
Linus, Cletus, Clemens (Hegesippus, ap. Epiphanium, Canon of Mass).
Linus, Anencletus, Clemens (Irenaeus, Africanus ap. Eusebium).
Linus, Anacletus, Clemens (Jerome).
Linus, Cletus, Anacletus, Clemens (Poem against Marcion),
Linus, Clemens, Cletus, Anacletus [Hippolytus (?), "Liberian Catal."- "Liber. Pont."].
Linus, Clemens, Anacletus (Optatus, Augustine).
At the present time no critic doubts that Cletus, Anacletus, Anencletus, are the same person. Anacletus is a Latin error; Cletus is a shortened (and more Christian) form of Anencletus. Lightfoot thought that the transposition of Clement in the "Liberian Catalogue" was a mere accident, like the similar error "Anicetus, Pius" for "Pius Anicetus", further on in the same list. But it may have been a deliberate alteration by Hippolytus, on the ground of the tradition mentioned by Tertullian (Chapman J. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Clement I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Perhaps it should be mentioned that instead of imputing motives to Hippolytus, it could be that Hippolytus simply may have been reporting the truth that he understood. It should be noted that both Tertullian (more on Tertullian is included later on in this article) and Hippolytus were two of only 5-6 major recognized historical writers between 1l0-220 A.D. and the only other two referenced in the above lists are Irenaeus and Hegesippus--the others date from a later period--and even Hegesippus's supposed list is preserved by Epiphanius, who wrote in the late 4th Century--the only earlier list supposedly by Hegesippus (Eusebius. Church History, Book IV, Chapter 22) only lists three 2nd century bishops of Rome. Catholic sources seem to acknowledge that Hegesippus wrote the initial list (which is not not accepted). But the simple fact it is apparent that there is historical controversy over who were the first several bishops of Rome or at least who may have taken over after Peter.
Here is what one Roman Catholic priest and scholar has written about Anecletus:
Anacletus evidently exercised a postion of pastoral leadership in Rome, but the monoepiscopal structure (also known as the monoarchical episcopate) was still not in place there...The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea (d. ca. 339) reports that he died during in the twelfth year of the Emperor Domitian's reign (81-96). The tradition that he died a martyr is unattested (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p.34).
If Anecletus died in the twelfth year of the Emperor Domitian's reign, then he would have died in 92/93 A.D., which differs from the officially accepted dates of the Vatican. If he did not die then, then this gives reason to question the writings of Eusebius.
While visiting the Vatican in 2004, I purchased a book in its basilica museum bookstore titled The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997) to understand better what certain supporters of the Roman Church now teach about the early leaders, like Cletus/Anacletus.
The book states that it is sponsored by the "Pontifical Administration, which has tutelage over the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter". It contained such statements on the early "bishops" of Rome as:
3. CLETUS OR ANACLETUS, ST. (76-88)..He made dispositions for the consecration of bishops and dictated the norms for ecclesiastical dress, prohibiting them from letting their beards and hair grow. He had a small chapel built over the tomb of St. Peter which was the nucleus on which Constantine erected the first great basilica in 324 dedicated to the prince of the apostles. Cletus died a martyr in the year 88 and was buried next to St. Peter.
These claims are in error in several places. First of all, Tertullian lists Clement as the successor to Peter (see Tertullian below) and Tertullian never mentions Cletus or Anacletus as a successor. Secondly, the dates listed above are without historical proof and are believed by Catholic scholars to be in error. Thirdly, as will be shown later, he could not have any dispositions for the norms of ecclesiastical dress as they were not done until at least the third century. Fourthly there is no evidence of him building a small chapel where the Basilica now stands. And fifthly, his martyrdom date is unlikely according to Roman Catholic scholars.
Regarding ecclesiastical dress/liturgical vestments, this was not something that Cletus was involved in as these changes did not exist that early. The Catholic Encyclopedia admits this:
The liturgical vestments have by no means remained the same from the founding of the Church until the present day. There is as great a difference between the vestments worn at the Holy Sacrifice in the pre-Constantinian period, and even in the following centuries, and those now customary at the services of the Church, as between the rite of the early Church and that of modern times...Four main periods may be distinguished in the development of the Christian priestly dress. The first embraces the era before Constantine. In that period the priestly dress did not yet differ from the secular costume in form and ornament. The dress of daily life was worn at the offices of the Church. In times of peace and under normal conditions better garments were probably used...The second period embraces the time from about the fourth to the ninth century. It is the most important epoch in the history ofliturgical vestments, the epoch in which not merely a priestly dress in a special sense was created, but one which at the same time determined the chief vestments of the present liturgical dress (Joseph Braun. Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett. Vestments. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Hence the statements above regarding Cletus' statements on these matters is false.
Who Was He?
Notice what the Liber Pontificalis states:
III. CLETUS Cletus, by nationality a Roman, from the precinct Vicus Patricius, so of Emilianus, occupied the see 7 years, 1 month and twenty days. He was bishop in the time of Vespasian and Titus...
V. ANENCLETUS Anencletus, by nationality a Greek from Athens, son of Anthiocus, occupied the see 12 years, 10 months and 7 days. He was bishop is the time of Domitian from the the 10th consulship... (Translated by Louise Ropes Loomis. The Book of the Popes (Liber Pontificalis. Originally published by Columbia University Press, NY 1916. 2006 edition by Evolution Publishing, Merchantville (NJ), pp. 7,9).
Yet at least one Catholic scholar claims:
At the present time no critic doubts that Cletus, Anacletus, Anencletus, are the same person. Anacletus is a Latin error; Cletus is a shortened (and more Christian) form of Anencletus (Chapman J. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Clement I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).
How can people with two different nationalities, two different fathers, and two differing periods of leadership be the same person?
Obviously they cannot be.
The simple truth is that much of what is claimed about those first called "Bishops of Rome" was simply made up centuries later. The so-called idea of clear Apostolic succession from Peter through early bishops of Rome cannot be historically proven--and there are so many contradictions in the claims that it appears to be disprovable.
Interestingly, the Catholic scholar T.J. Campbell, in The Catholic Encyclopedia, admits this regarding Anencletus/Cletus/Anacletus:
That he ordained a certain number of priests is nearly all we have of positive record about him, but we know he died a martyr, perhaps about 91 (Campbell T.J. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Anacletus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
This means that statements such as that he dictated the norms for ecclesiastical dress, etc. are simply unfounded. It also means that the death of his martyrdom is questionable. Furthermore, another Catholic scholar suggests that any martyrdom of Cletus was doubtful as he wrote:
For between Nero and Domitian there is no mention of any persecution of the Roman Church; and Irenaeus (1. c., III, iv, 3) from among the early Roman bishops designates only Telesphorus as a glorious martyr (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Linus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Since according to the Liber Pontificalis it was bishop Cornelius who supposedly moved the body of Peter to its present location, then it is not possible that Anacletus could have built a small chapel over the tomb of St. Peter that eventually became the basilica. Here is one written account (with the Latin afterwards):
The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches this about Anacletus:
Liber Pontificalis (6th century AD), 22: Cornelius [Pope 251-3]: "In his time, at the request of a certain lady Lucina, he took away the bodies of the apostles Saints Peter and Paul up out of the Catacombs [i.e. the spot Ad Catacumbas, where they had hurriedly been deposited after the fracas with the easterners] at night (in fact first of all [i.e. before their placement in the cemetery Ad Catacumbas] the blessed Lucina took the body of St Paul [qu. from where?] and put it on her estate on the Ostian Way close to the place where he was beheaded; the blessed bishop Cornelius took the body of St Peter [qu. from where?] and put it close to the place where he was impaled [meaning originally, in Jerusalem, but later the location was understood to be Rome]), to among the bodies of the holy bishops at the temple of Apollo on the Mons Aureus, on the Vatican at Nero's palace, on 29th June." This translation presumes the words inter corpora "to among the bodies" etc. at the end of the entry complement the verb levavit "took away ... up out of" earlier in the passage and that the phrase primum quidem ... crucificus est "in fact first of all ... where he was impaled" is either an original or or a later interpolation. Any other understanding leaves it unexplained whither the bodies were taken after they were removed from Ad Catacumbas. "IV. Hic temporibus suis, rogatus a quadam matrona Lucina, corpora apostolorum beati Petri et Pauli de Catacumbas levavit noctu: primum quidem corpus beati Pauli accepto beata Lucina posuit in praedio suo, via Ostense, iuxta locum ubi decollatus est; beati Petri accipit corpus beatus Cornelius episcopus et posuit iuxta locum ubi crucificus est, inter corpora sanctorum episcoporum, in templum Apollinis, in monte Aureum, in Vaticanum palatii Neroniani, III kal. iul. (The above is derived from Edmundson G. The Church in Rome in the First Century by THE BAMPTON LECTURES FOR 1913 at http://www.christianhospitality.org/pages_20items/pt2_first_church_rome.htm 11/19/05).
Whether he was the same as Cletus, who is also called Anencletus as well as Anacletus, has been the subject of endless discussion. Irenaeus, Eusebius, Augustine, Optatus, use both names indifferently as of one person. Tertullian omits him altogether. To add to the confusion, the order is different. Thus Irenaeus has Linus, Anacletus, Clement; whereas Augustine and Optatus put Clement before Anacletus. On the other hand, the "Catalogus Liberianus", the "Carmen contra Marcionem" and the "Liber Pontificalis", all most respectable for their antiquity, make Cletus and Anacletus distinct from each other; while the "Catalogus Felicianus" even sets the latter down as a Greek, the former as a Roman. Among the moderns, Hergenroether (Hist. de l'église, I 542, note) pronounces for their identity. So also the Bollandist De Smedt (Dissert. vii, 1). Dëllinger (Christenth. u K., 315) declares that "they are, without doubt, the same person"and that "the 'Catalogue of Liberius' merits little confidence before 230." Duchesne, " Origines chretiennes ", ranges himself on that side also but Jungmann (Dissert. Hist. Eccl., I, 123) leaves the question in doubt. The chronology is, of course, in consequence of all this, very undetermined, but Duchesne, in his "Origines", says "we are far from the day when the years, months, and days of the Pontifical Catalogue can be given with any guarantee of exactness. But is it necessary to be exact about popes of whom we know so little? We can accept the list of Irenaeus -- Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, Xystus, Telesphorus, Hyginus, Pius, and Anicetus. Anicetus reigned certainly in 154. That is all we can say with assurance about primitive pontifical chronology" (Campbell T.J. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Anacletus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
This causes a severe dilemma for the Roman Catholic Church. If there was both a Cletus and an Anacletus, it would suggest that Clement did not know Peter--and this is a major claim of the Roman Catholic Church, that he did.
But if there is not both a Cletus and an Anacletus, then some of their earliest historical documents are riddled with errors. And if all that is known for certain is that Anicetus was bishop of Rome in 154 (but the later book from Lopes says not until 155 A.D.), why does the Roman Church suggest that it is certain about its early origins?
What do we actually know based upon the Bible and historical fact?
There may have been a person named Cletus or Anacletus who someone recalled 70 years after his death. This person, or persons, may have a had a leadership role in the church in Rome. The Bible does not record that Cletus was the obvious leader of all Christians.
Since (please see Appendix A for documentation) there were no Roman Catholic popes prior to Siricius (Lopes, P. 13) nor bishops prior to the mid-second century, Cletus was neither a pope nor a bishop. He probably was the same person as Anacletus, but that will probably not be determined in this lifetime.
But either way, he was not the main successor for the true church according to the historical records that are now available.
Back to early Christianity page Previous is Linus Next is Clement
As scholars have pretty much come to the same conclusions about the lack of information on most of the early alleged bishops of Rome, this section is placed at the end so that the reader (who may have read the articles on Linus of Rome or What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History) will not have to read redundant information). But it is also here so readers will understand that there is absolutely no early historical justification to consider that Anencletus/Cletus/Anacletus was a pope or even an actual bishop--and that the early historical records support the concept that the early Christian church should be traced through Asia Minor and not Rome.
Dates of His "Reign"
There does not exist any actual evidence of the precise dates of any "reign" of those considered to have been early Roman Catholic leaders.
As at least one Catholic scholar has noted:
...the available evidence indicates that the church in Rome was led by a college of presbyters, rather than by a single bishop, for at least several decades of the second century (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 80,221-222).
This means that dates assigned to any particular person are quite arbitrary (and as related above, Eusebius' account differs from the Vatican's current position).
Although this is more true in relation to the first century listed Roman rulers, like Anencletus--Ireneaus essentially states (circa 180) the list, without any dates, that his list is based upon tradition (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses, Book III, Chapter 3, Verses 2,3).
Whereas the first list claimed to have been composed by Hegesippus around 155 A.D., and we have no copy of that preserved until Epiphanius claimed to have cited Hegesippus (Epiphanius. Haer., xxvii, 6). But even Hegesippus' list contained no dates.
The "Apostolic Fathers"
The term "apostolic fathers" is used by Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants alike to describe writings believed to have been written by those who knew personally or nearly personally, one or more of the original apostles. These writings probably begin after John finished with the Book of Revelation, and continued through about 156 A.D. (the last document probably being the letter of The Martyrdom of Polycarp or the Epistle to Diognetus--which could have been much later). These documents essentially were preserved by supporters of the Roman Catholic Church and it is unclear if they are exactly as originally written.Here is what the Roman Church teaches about them:
The Apostolic Fathers Christian writers of the first and second centuries who are known, or are considered, to have had personal relations with some of the Apostles, or to have been so influenced by them that their writings may be held as echoes of genuine Apostolic teaching. Though restricted by some to those who were actually disciples of the Apostles, the term applies by extension to certain writers who were previously believed to have been such, and virtually embraces all the remains of primitive Christian literature antedating the great apologies of the second century, and forming the link of tradition that binds these latter writings to those of the New Testament...The period of time covered by these writings extends from the last two decades of the first century for the Didache (80-100), Clement (c. 97), and probably Pseudo-Barnabas (96-98), through the first half of the second century, the approximate chronology being Ignatius, 110-117; Polycarp, 110-120; Hermas, in its present form, c.150; Papias, c.150. Geographically, Rome is represented by Clement and Hermas; Polycarp wrote from Smyrna, whence also Ignatius sent four of the seven epistles which he wrote on his way from Antioch through Asia Minor; Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia; the Didache was written in Egypt or Syria; the letter of Barnabas in Alexandria (Peterson J.B. Transcribed by Nicolette Ormsbee.The Apostolic Fathers. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
What is most interesting is that although the letter often ascribed to Clement mentions Apollos and Cephas (Peter, Chapter 47--which only says that Paul wrote about Cephas and Apollos), Paul (many times), and some messengers (Chapter 65), he never mentions Linus, Cletus, or anyone who became known as "the bishop of Rome" after him.
Although Ignatius mentions some local bishops in his letters, he also never mentions Linus, Cletus, or anyone who became "the bishop of Rome"--and his most praise is for Polycarp of Smyrna (see Ignatius' Letter to Polycarp).
In Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, he mentions Ignatius (in a positive light), but also Valens (who was a leader who Polycarp states left the faith, probably in Rome). Polycarp also never mentions Linus, Cletus, or anyone who became the bishop of Rome. The letter titled The Martyrdom of Polycarp is basically all about Polycarp, and it too never mentions Linus, Cletus, or anyone who became the bishop of Rome.
The Didache (otherwise known as The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles) mentions that deacons and bishops are to be appointed (15:1), but again it never mentions Linus, Cletus, or anyone who became the "bishop of Rome".
There is simply no direct, nor indirect, reference to Anencletus/Cletus/Anacletus in any of the writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers. Cletus, according to his complete omission from the writings of the "Apostolic Fathers" (circa 100-160 A.D.) simply did not have a major leadership role in the Church.
Was Irenaeus' Apostolic Tradition Accurate?
The generally touted Catholic position is that Anencletus/Cletus was the third pope, that he was the successor to Linus, and that all other leaders passed through him (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 1).
That position is based, to a great degree, upon the writings of Irenaeus of Lyon. Irenaeus was perhaps the first Roman Catholic supporter to write much about Church History. Here is everything he wrote about Cletus:
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 preeminent authority -- that is, the faithful everywhere -- inasmuch as the Apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those who are 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 (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses (Book III, Chapter 3, Verses 2,3). Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Irenaeus' account (circa 180 A.D.) says there were other successor churches and that from apostolic tradition it is derived that both Peter and Paul first started the great church in Rome and that they (NOT Peter alone) passed the leadership to Linus, who allegedly passed it on to Cletus.
Is this recording of apostolic tradition accurate?
According to the Bible and Roman Catholic scholars, no, at least portions of the tradition that Irenaeus alluded to in that passage was in error.
The Bible shows that Paul did not start the Church in Rome--thus the apostolic tradition that Irenaeus relied on is a biblically fraudulent one--as it is not true. For here is what Paul wrote to the church at Rome:
20. And I have so preached this Gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build
upon another mans foundation:
21. But as it is written, They to whom it hath not been preached of him, shall see: and they
that have not heard, shall understand.
22. For the which cause also I was hindered very much from coming unto you (Romans 15:20-22, Rheims New Testament of 1582).
There is no way that Paul could have written the above if he considered that he founded or co-founded the church in Rome as in these verses he explains that he did not first come to Rome lest he build on another man's foundation. (Note: I choose to use the Rheims New Testament of 1582 A.D. above as this is considered to the Catholic standard English translation of the New Testament).
The Catholic Encyclopedia agrees with me here (and not Irenaeus) as it states this about Paul's epistle to the Romans:
Paul would have worded his Epistle otherwise, if the community addressed were even mediately indebted to his apostolate (Merk A. Transcribed by W.G. Kofron. Epistle to the Romans. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Noted Catholic scholar F.A. Sullivan also agrees, as he wrote:
...it doesn't appear that Paul ever appointed any one person as "resident bishop" over any of his churches...
Irenaeus focuses on the church of Rome which he describes as "greatest, most ancient and known to all, founded and established by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul." Here we must acknowledge a bit of rhetoric, as the church of Rome was obviously not so ancient as those of Jerusalem or Antioch, nor was it actually founded by Peter or Paul (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, pp. 35,147).
And that is correct.
The fact is that the Bible itself mentions nothing about the Church of Rome in terms of any leadership significance for the true church. Other than Paul’s letter to those in Rome and his imprisonment there, only three other, non-related, times does the New Testament use the word ‘Rome’. The first mentions that Jews from Rome and other areas of the world were in Jerusalem around Pentecost (Acts 2:10); the second that Claudius had the Jews depart from Rome (Acts 18:2); and the third that involves Onesiphorus who visited Paul in Rome and later in Ephesus (2 Timothy 1:16-18). (While some writers believe that Peter was in Rome when he mentioned this in his first epistle--“The Church saluteth you, that is in Babylon, coelect,” 1 Peter 5:13--this was not a clear reference to Rome (as there was a Babylon in the Asia Minor region at the time), but even if it is referring to Rome, this does not prove that Rome was of central significance to the church--it only suggests that Peter may have once been in contact with Christians from Rome.
Furthermore, the basis for Cletus' inclusion is the Roman succession list of Irenaeus--it does not state that Linus acquired any inheritance from Peter, but from that the of Apostles (plural). But this is nowhere recorded or hinted about in scripture. This is also admitted by Catholics:
According to Irenaeus, Peter and Paul, not Peter alone, appointed Linus as the first in the succession of bishops of Rome. This suggests that Irenaeus did not think of Peter and Paul as bishops, or of Linus and those that followed as successors of Peter more than of Paul (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 148).
Thus it appears that many have been misled about Linus and any successive head of the Roman Church like Anencletus.
Since even Roman Catholic scholars admit that much of Irenaeus' "apostolic tradition" was in error, why would anyone believe that Linus and Cletus were the successors of Peter?
Tertullian was an important historian who may have known Irenaeus. He, however, does not mention Linus as the successor to Peter, nor does he mention Anencletus. Instead he, like the Liber Pontificalis (see below), names Clement.
Tertullian, around 200 A.D. wrote:
It is probable that Tertullian was aware of elders in Rome prior to Clement (as Irenaeus wrote prior to him), as well as bishops of Smyrna prior to Polycarp, but that Tertullian felt that the apostolic succession could only have gone through Polycarp (who he listed first) or Clement. It must be understood that Tertullian's writing above, according The Catholic Encyclopedia, is one of the most important writings regarding the Catholic Church. Specifically the Catholic Church teaches:
Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter; let heretics invent something to match this (Tertullian. Liber de praescriptione haereticorum. Circa 200 A.D. as cited in Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Among the writings of the Fathers, the following are the principal works which bear on the doctrine of the Church: ST. IRENÆUS, Adv. Hereses in P.G., VII; TERTULLIAN, De Prescriptionibus in P. L... (Joyce G.H. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. The Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Thus Catholics themselves must recognize the importance of these statements by Tertullian--there were two churches with proper apostolic claims as far as he was concerned. And not just Rome--but one in Asia Minor that had been led by the Apostle John through Polycarp and his descendants.
The Roman Catholic Church claims that reliance on Tertullian regarding Linus and Anencletus is in error:
As opposed to this testimony, we cannot accept as more reliable Tertullian's assertion, which unquestionably places St. Clement (De praescriptione, xxii) after the Apostle Peter, as was also done later by other Latin scholars (Jerome, "De vir. ill.", xv). The Roman list in Irenaeus has undoubtedly greater claims to historical authority (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Linus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).
So, if I am understanding these writings correctly, the Roman Catholic position is that the early writings of Irenaeus and Tertullian are among the principal works which bear on the doctrine of the Church, yet are both historically inaccurate. And these writings, in great measure, are the justification for the existence and doctrine of the Roman Church.
The simple fact is that Tertullian was a careful writer and historian. He must have been aware of Irenaeus' listing, but he also must have believed it to be in error. Unlike Irenaeus, whose historical account of Linus and Cletus contains at least biblically provable two errors, there are no such errors in Tertullian's account--and he cites Clement. But if the leadership did pass through to Clement, then there is a gap of over two decades from when Peter died and Clement took control over the church. And if that is the case, then there is no unbroken succession of Roman leaders starting from Peter.
No Roman Popes Prior to the 4th Century, No Roman Bishops Prior to the 2nd Century
By not referring to Cletus as either a pope or a bishop in this paper, I am not being disrespectful to his memory, but historically accurate.
It needs to be understood that the title pope for the bishop of Rome was NOT taken until the late fourth century as nearly all Catholic sources acknowledge. The following are two such sources:
SIRICIUS, ST. (384-399)...was the first to assume the title of pope from the Greek papa meaning father (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 13).
The title pope (papa)...It was apparently in the fourth century that it began to become a distinctive title of the Roman Pontiff. Pope Siricius (d. 398) seems so to use it (Ep. vi in P. L., XIII, 1164) (Joyce G. H. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. The Pope. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Therefore, any person wishing to be accurate would never refer to Anencletus as a pope or pontiff.
But what about bishop?
While there were bishops in the first century in Jerusalem, and at the latest, by the early 2nd century in Asia Minor, this was not the case in Rome.
When Ignatius of Antioch wrote eight epistles just prior to his martyrdom, he mentioned bishops in many areas--the bishop of Smyrna (Polycarp) mentioned the most. His style was to address his letters to the leaders of the various areas, and in areas that had bishops, he mentioned them. However, unlike most of his letters, his Epistle to the Romans never mentions a bishop in Rome by either name nor title. Since Ignatius is believed to have written these epistles in the early second century (circa 108 A.D.), this provides strong evidence that there was not a bishop of Rome at that time.
It should be noted that it is generally understood by scholars that there probably was no single bishop of Rome at the time of Anencletus.
Catholic scholars understand that the New Testament provides no support for the idea that one of the apostles appointed someone to be "bishop of Rome", as the shown in the following quotes:
We must conclude that the New Testament provides no basis for the notion that before the apostles died, they ordained one man for each of the churches they founded..."Was there a Bishop of Rome in the First Century?"...the available evidence indicates that the church in Rome was led by a college of presbyters, rather than by a single bishop, for at least several decades of the second century (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 80,221-222).
Admittedly the Catholic position, that bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution, remains far from easy to establish...The first problem has to do with the notion that Christ ordained apostles as bishops...The apostles were missionaries and founders of churches; there is no evidence, nor is it at all likely, that any one of them ever took up permanent residence in a particular church as its bishop...The letter of the Romans to the Corinthians, known as I Clement, which dates to about the year 96, provides good evidence that about 30 years after the death of St. Paul the church of Corinth was being led by a group of presbyters, with no indication of a bishop with authority over the whole local church...Most scholars are of the opinion that the church of Rome would most probably have also been led at that time by a group of presbyters...There exists a broad consensus among scholars, including most Catholic ones, that such churches as Alexandria, Philippi, Corinth and Rome most probably continued to be led for some time by a college of presbyters, and that only in the second century did the threefold structure of become generally the rule, with a bishop, assisted by presbyters, presiding over each local church (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, pp. 13,14,15).
ALTHOUGH CATHOLIC TRADITION, BEGINNING IN the late second and early third centuries, regards St. Peter as the first bishop of Rome and, therefore, as the first pope, there is no evidence that Peter was involved in the initial establishment of the Christian community in Rome (indeed, what evidence there is would seem to point in the opposite direction) or that he served as Rome's first bishop. Not until the pontificate of St. Pius I in the middle of the second century (ca. 142-ca. 155) did the Roman Church have a monoepiscopal structure of government (one bishop as pastoral leader of a diocese). Those who Catholic tradition lists as Peter's immediate successors (Linus, Anacletus, Clement, et al.) did not function as the one bishop of Rome (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p.25).
To begin with, indeed, there was no 'pope', no bishop as such, for the church in Rome was slow to develop the office of chief presbyter or bishop...Clement made no claim to write as bishop...There is no sure way to settle on a date by which the office of ruling bishop had emerged in Rome...but the process was certainly complete by the time of Anicetus in the mid-150s (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes, 2nd ed. Yale University Press, London, 2001, pp. 9, 10,13).
The above admissions by the Catholic scholars (one of whom happens to be a professor emeritus at the Gregorian University in Rome) demonstrates the historical accuracy of my position.
This realization is not a recent phenomena. Many decades ago, another Catholic scholar, A. Van Hove, wrote this about early bishops:
In other words, Roman Catholic scholars admit that although there were bishops in Jerusalem and Asia Minor in the first and second centuries, there is no mention of a monarchic episcopate (a bishopric) in other places, like Rome, until about the middle of the second century.
Various Catholic writings state that Hegesippus came to Rome in the mid-2nd century and asked about its early leaders. In some of his writings, F.A. Sullivan suggests that those Romans apparently mentioned names of leaders they had heard of (as most would have had no direct contact with any from the first century) as there were no early records with names. Because there was, at the time of Hegesippus' visit, a bishop of Rome and there had long been bishops in Jerusalem and Asia Minor, F.a. Sullivan also suggests that Hegesippus and later writers presumed that the early Roman leaders were also monarchical bishops, even though that is not considered to have been likely.
There were probably a lot of elders in Rome in the first 80 or so years after Paul's death. Since no one was necessarily a bishop that early, it seems that the early succession lists are simply an attempt to put an order of some possible elders that served in the church in Rome.
It is true that beginning sometime in the second century that there were truly individuals that could be described as bishops of Rome. But history is clear that there were no early popes in Rome and the idea of an unbroken list of pontiffs (actually bishops) beginning with Peter simply does not have any historical justification prior to sometime in the second century--over a century after Christ died.
Hence it should be clear to any who are interested in the truth, that Anencletus was not a pope nor a bishop.
Was Anencletus Peter's Spiritual Successor?
While I believe that the records of early church history show that Polycarp of Smyrna was the true and most influential leader of the Church of God after the last apostle (John) died, most who claim to be Roman Catholic believe that Linus, then Cletus, was the actual successor.
This poses quite a few problems as, even according to Roman Catholic sources, the Apostle John was alive for over three decades after Peter died.
Since Linus (and then also Cletus) was NOT an apostle, NOT a pope, and NOT even a bishop, it makes no sense that he would be over the Apostle John in rank and spiritual authority.
Furthermore, an old Roman Catholic writing titled the Liber Pontificalis (Book of Pontiffs) teaches this about Peter and his spiritual successor:
He consecrated St. Clement as bishop and entrusted the cathedra and the whole management of the church to him, saying: ‘As the power of government, that of binding and loosing, was handed to me by my Lord Jesus Christ, so I entrust it to you; ordain those who are to deal with various cases and execute the church’s affairs; do not be caught up in the cares of the world but ensure you are completely free for prayer and preaching to the people’ (Book of the Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis) 2nd edition. Translation by Raymond Davis. Liverpool University Press - Translated Texts for Historians, Liverpool, 2001, p.2).
Yet, the Roman Catholic Church does not seem to accept the above as it currently claims that Linus, then Cletus, was Peter's actual successor. Nor is there any early literature that specifically states that the cathedra went to Linus. Irenaeus, for example, never mentions it. The first historical mention about Linus and the cathedra seems to be in an anonymous poem "Against the Marcionites" written circa 267 A.D.--about 200 years after Peter's death! Thus the idea that Linus inherited the cathedra is not found in any records of Linus' and Peter's time.
Linus of Rome, while possibly the Christian that the Apostle Paul knew, was not the successor intended to lead the true church. Nor was Anencletus, who has no biblical or contemporary historical mention.
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Thiel B., Ph.D. Anencletus, Commonly Called Cletus also Known as Anacletus of Rome. www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007 0410
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