Linus of Rome
Who was Linus? Did he know the Apostle Paul? Was he the first pope? Was he the second bishop of Rome after the Apostle Peter? Was he even a bishop?
The generally touted Catholic position is that Linus was the second pope, that he was ordained by Peter, and that all other leaders passed through him (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni as sponsored by the Pontifical Administration, Roma, 1997, p. 1).
Is any of that correct?
This article will refer to the Bible, historical records, and Roman Catholic sources to attempt to properly answer those questions.
One Catholic scholar and priest noted:
Very little is known about Linus. St. Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 200) and the historian Eusebius of Caesarea (d. ca. 339) identified him with the companion of Paul who sent greetings from Rome to Timothy in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:21), but Scripture Scholars are generally hesistant to do so...It should be remembered that contrary to pious Catholic belief--that monoarchical episcopal structure of church governance (also known as the monarchical episcopate, in which each diocese was headed by a single bishop) still did not exist in Rome at this time (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., pp. 33-34).
There is an individual named Linus in the Bible. He is mentioned one time. Here is the only passage that mentions him:
Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick. Do your utmost to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren. The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen (2 Timothy 4:19-22).
The above was probably written, in approximately 67 A.D. - 68 A.D., by the Apostle Paul while in prison in Rome to the evangelist Timothy, who was in Ephesus.
This shows that Paul knew someone named Linus. Linus, therefore knew Paul, and was in Rome when Paul wrote this letter. It can probably be reasonably implied that Linus probably knew Timothy, and perhaps others in Ephesus. And based on Paul's writings, it can be concluded that Paul, at that time, considered that particular Linus to be a Christian. It is probably logical to conclude that Linus met with Paul in prison on multiple occasions and probably, like the others, assisted him to some degree.
What it does not show is that Linus was to be the leader of those in Rome or ordained by Peter. Others are listed before him, hence, at least at the time Paul wrote this letter, there is no preeminence for Linus in Rome (and it should be noted that one of the proofs that Rome often cites to prove that Peter had preeminence is that Peter was quite often listed first in various New Testament passages involving multiple people). Linus simply was one of many who knew and probably assisted the Apostle Paul. The lack of emphasis/preeminence in Paul's writings would seem to suggest that Linus could not have been the one to become the "bishop of Rome" and the successor of Peter and Paul in 67 A.D. Especially since it is believed that the Apostle Paul probably did not die until 68 A.D.
Whether or not this is the same individual named Linus that many Roman Catholics consider to be the first pope (the first "bishop of Rome") to succeed Peter cannot be determined from the passages in 2 Timothy. This is confirmed by Catholic scholars, such as J.P. Kirsch, who wrote:
We cannot be positive whether this identification of the pope as being the Linus mentioned in II Timothy 4:21, goes back to an ancient and reliable source, or originated later on account of the similarity of the name (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).
But it seems that even if the Roman Catholics are referring to the same person, that he was not the one who was going to immediately become THE bishop of Rome--if he was it would be logical if Paul would have given Linus some special mention. Instead, he is simply grouped in with several others in Rome at that time (nor is Linus even mentioned first).
Some Significant (and Inaccurate) Roman Catholic Teachings About Linus
Here are some claims made by Roman Catholics about Linus:
2. LINUS, ST. (67-76)...He was the first to take up the inheritance of St. Peter...He made disposition for women to be admitted to the holy places and attend functions with their heads covered...He was buried beside St. Peter in the first Vatican burial spot. It is certain that he did exist while some have thrown doubt on his election to the pontificate. In fact Tertullian maintains that Cletus and not Linus was the successor to St. Peter (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 1).
This claim is in error in several places. First of all, Tertullian lists Clement, and not Cletus as the successor to Peter (see Tertullian below). Secondly, the dates listed above are without historical proof. And thirdly, there is no record of Linus making any dispositions of anything.Here is some of what the Catholic scholar J.P. Kirsch wrote in The Catholic Encyclopedia about Linus:
Linus was chosen to be head of the community of Christians in Rome, after the death of the Apostle. For this reason his pontificate dates from the year of the death of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which, however, is not known for certain (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).
Thus it is clear that there is no historical evidence from that time period that indicates that Linus was chosen to do anything. Notice that there is no proof about any of the dates of an alleged pontificate. Also, based upon my review of historical documents, I concur with the fourth century writers referred to above that Linus was not the successor to Peter, but simply a leader in Rome during the time of the apostles (though I differ somewhat in that I see no historical evidence that Linus was the MAIN leader).
Here is more of what the Catholic scholar J.P. Kirsch wrote in The Catholic Encyclopedia about Linus:
The "Liber Pontificalis" asserts that Linus's home was in Tuscany, and that his father's name was Herculanus; but we cannot discover the origin of this assertion. According to the same work on the popes, Linus is supposed to have issued a decree "in conformity with the ordinance of St. Peter", that women should have their heads covered in church. Without doubt this decree is apocryphal, and copied by the author of the "Liber Pontificalis" from the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (11:5) and arbitrarily attributed to the first successor of the Apostle in Rome. The statement made in the same source, that Linus suffered martyrdom, cannot be proved and is improbable. 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. Finally this book asserts that Linus after his death, was buried in the Vatican beside St. Peter. We do not know whether the author had any decisive reason for this assertion...There was nothing in the liturgical tradition of the fourth-century Roman Church to prove this, because it was only at the end of the second century that any special feast of martyrs was instituted and consequently Linus does not appear in the fourth-century lists of the feasts of the Roman saints...But from a manuscript of Torrigio's we see that on the sarcophagus in question there were other letters beside the word Linus, so that they rather belonged to some other name (such as Aquilinus, Anullinus). The place of the discovery of the tomb is a proof that it could not be the tomb of Linus (De Rossi, "Inscriptiones christianae urbis Romae", II, 23-7) (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).
In other words, Roman Catholic scholars admit that Linus did not do what the Vatican book (I bought the book in the museum at St. Peter's in the Vatican) says he did, and that this head covering statement was arbitrarily attributed to Linus. Linus did not make it.
In addition, J.P. Kirsch is stating that the evidence is that Linus was not martyred and that Linus was likely not buried next to Peter (other Catholic scholars have reached similar conclusions).
Netherland's Priest Roderick Vonhögen is the Chief Executive Officer of a pro-Catholic media group (called SQPN) which correctly teaches, “Pope Saint Linus...ancient documents about his papacy have proven to be inaccurate or apocryphal” (Pope Saint Linus. saints.sqpn.com/saintl23.htm, viewed 09/18/12).
Thus, Catholic scholars admit that there is no real information about Linus' life, his teachings, or his death, other than that Paul mentioned someone named Linus, and that over a century after his death, his name comes up. Yet, he is the one that the Church of Rome seems to claim ruled over all Christendom.
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. And there are contradictory dates associated with Linus.
As at least two Catholic scholars and priests have 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).
Early sources, including Eusebius, claim Linus held office for about twelve years, but they are not clear about the exact dates or his exact pastoral role and authority. It should be remembered that contrary to pious Catholic belief--that monoarchical episcopal structure of church governance (also known as the monarchical episcopate, in which each diocese was headed by a single bishop) still did not exist in Rome at this time (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p. 34).
Another Catholic scholar wrote:
Linus's term of office, according to the papal lists handed down to us, lasted only twelve years. The Liberian Catalogue shows that it lasted twelve years, four months, and twelve days. The dates given in this catalogue, A.D. 56 until A.D. 67, are incorrect. Perhaps it was on account of these dates that the writers of the fourth century gave their opinion that Linus had held the position of head of the Roman community during the life of the Apostle (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).
This suggests that the dates assigned to Linus are quite arbitrary. It also means that if the dates in The Liberian Catalogue were correct, then Linus was supposedly the Bishop of Rome (although there is no evidence from that time-period indicating that he ever was a bishop) while Peter and Paul were alive and that he died about the same time that they did.
Linus is not unique in that the dates assigned to him have major uncertainty, as this applies to the other claimed first century listed Roman rulers. It needs to be understood that all Ireneaus essentially states (circa 180) is a list, without any dates--and even the list is based upon tradition--plus it claims that both Paul and Peter appointed Linus (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses, Book III, Chapter 3, Verses 2,3), which is not quite how this is normally taught (Irenaeus also claimed that Peter and Paul founded the Church of Rome and that is easily disprovable and acknowledged by even Roman Catholic scholars and translations of the Bible, see What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History?). And Irenaeus' document is the oldest one claiming a list of Roman leaders.
Now it should be noted that the first list is claimed to have been composed by Hegesippus around 155 A.D., however we have no copy of it. But what we do have is a writing from Epiphanius who claimed to have cited Hegesippus in other places and, elsewhere, reports a list (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book I (Sects 1-46). Section 27, Verses 6:2-7. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 2009, pp. 113-114 Note: The Catholic Encyclopedia cites this as Haer., xxvii, 6). But even the "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 at all 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 Linus in any of the writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers. Linus, 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 about that Linus being the second pope and that he was ordained by Peter, 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 Linus:
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.
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 Linus' inclusion is the Roman succession list of Irenaeus, 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 succession to the head of the Roman Church.
Since even Roman Catholic scholars admit that much of Irenaeus' "apostolic tradition" was in error, why would anyone believe that Linus was the successor of Peter?
Tertullian was an important historian who may have known Irenaeus. He, however, does not mention Linus as the successor to Peter. 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 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 contains at least biblically provable two errors, there are no such errors in Tertullian's account.
No Roman Popes Prior to the 4th Century, No Roman Bishops Prior to the 2nd Century
By not referring to Linus as either a pope or a bishop in this paper, I am not being disrespectful to his memory, but historically accurate.
Here is what John O'Malley, a Jesuit Priest and Catholic historian, published:
The earliest lists of popes begin, not with Peter, but with a man named Linus. The reason Peter's name was not listed was because he was an apostle, which was a super-category, much superior to pope or bishop...The Christian community at Rome well into the second century operated as a collection of separate communites without any central structure...Rome was a constellation of house churches, independent of one another, each of which was loosely governed by an elder. The communities thus basically followed the pattern of the Jewish synagogues out of which they developed. (O'Malley JW. A History of the Popes. Sheed & Ward, 2009, p. 11)
It should be pointed out that the Apostle John outlived Linus and some of the others considered to have been early “popes.” Thus, the above admission is consistent with the Church of God view that the leadership of the Christian church in the late first century was clearly in Asia Minor, and not Rome, as that is where the Apostle John was based.
Furthermore, 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 Linus 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.
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 Linus was not a pope nor a bishop.
I should also add that nothing in the Bible, specifically the writings of John (who was alive when all, up to possibly Evaristus, were in Rome), gives Rome any prominent standing. Actually, John never specifically uses the term Rome in any of his writings.
This is quite significant since all the writings of John (the Gospel According to John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and the Book of Revelation) were written after the death of Peter and all warned true Christians to be faithful. If Linus 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.
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). If John had any reason to believe that the cathedra passed only from Peter to Linus and the later Roman bishops, it seems incredible that he would not have directly written that the bishop of Rome held the cathedra and that this was the location of the true Church. Instead, in his very last writing, he wrote about the true churches that were in Asia Minor.
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 Linus, who clearly was not ordained directly by Christ, nor a pope, and nor probably even a bishop.
Was Linus 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 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 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 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.
In the late third century, a spurious document called the Apostolic Constitutions makes the following claim:
Of the church of Rome, Linus the son of Claudia was the first, ordained by Paul; and Clemens, after Linus' death, the second, ordained by me Peter (Apostolic Constitutions, Book VII, Section IV/Chapter XLVI).
Linus of Rome, while possibly the Christian that the Apostle Paul knew, was not the successor intended to lead the true church appointed by Peter as Roman Catholics tend to claim.
Furthermore, it needs to be pointed out that Linus was listed as the first "bishop" of Rome a hundred years after he died (there were no bishops of Rome then) and that Irenaeus lists someday he calls Sixtus (or Xytus) as the sixth "bishop of Rome".
Irenaeus does not ever list Peter as bishop of Rome or ever as the first bishop. Hence, there was no early tradition that Linus was the second bishop of Rome who took over from Peter.
What do we actually know based upon the Bible and historical fact?
There was once a Christian named Linus who knew the Apostle Paul. Linus, at least for a time, lived in Rome. The Bible does not record that Linus was the obvious future leader of all Christians. Linus was NOT an apostle, NOT a pope, and NOT even a bishop--though he may have been an elder.
We have no real information about his life, his teachings, or his death.
Most of the traditions ascribed to him have been admitted by Roman Catholic scholars to be in error, with others admitted to be without historical foundation. And many accounts are in contradiction.
Contemporary history records nothing about him, other than Paul's mention, and later Irenaeus lists him (over one hundred years after his death).
The only Linus we know of was a Christian who lived and served in Rome, but of whom we have no reason to believe he was the spiritual successor of Peter. Therefore the often repeated Roman claim that they have an unbroken line of successors from Peter beginning with Linus is historically inaccurate.
The fact is that the Apostle John would have outlived Linus and any succession from Peter would logically have ended up passing through John, not Linus.
Three articles of of related interest might be:
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome
What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History?
Thiel B., Ph.D. Linus of Rome. www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2012 0921
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