Was the early Christian church led by a pontiff from Rome?
Many would be surprised what Roman Catholic scholars admit and teach about early church history.
The Church of Rome teaches,
…that Peter founded the Church of Antioch, indicates the fact that he laboured a long period there, and also perhaps that he dwelt there towards the end of his life…It is also probable that Peter pursued his Apostolic labours in various districts of Asia Minor for it can scarcely be supposed that the entire period between his liberation from prison and the Council of the Apostles was spent uninterruptedly in one city, whether Antioch, Rome, or elsewhere… Peter returned occasionally to the original Christian Church of Jerusalem…The date of Peter’s death is thus not yet decided; the period between July, 64 (outbreak of the Neronian persecution), and the beginning of 68 (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
It is not biblically clear that Peter founded the church in Antioch (Stephen or Barnabas seems more likely, see Acts 11:19-22), but he probably spent a lot of time there Antioch (Galatians 2:11). However, it is clear even from Catholic history that Peter spent little time in Rome and thus did not fix his residence there. Even though certain scholars like J.P. Kirsch believe that Peter went to Rome, in The Catholic Encyclopedia, even he admits this about Peter,
…we possess no precise information regarding the details of his Roman sojourn (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
No precise information means that the Roman Church has essentially relied on accounts, nearly all of which were written over 100 years after Peter’s death, that say that he was in Rome and/or died in Rome. This is especially true because the biblical accounts never specify Rome and those that do specify locations of Peter point to Asia Minor and Jerusalem.
Hippolytus, considered by Roman Catholic scholars, as one of their greatest early theologians wrote:
Peter preached the Gospel in Pontus, and Galatia, and Cappadocia, and Betania, and Italy, and Asia (Hippolytus. On the Twelve Apostles Where Each of Them Preached, and Where He Met His End. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
Thus even these Roman accounts suggest that Peter could not have been in Rome very long (and biblical evidence, Acts 3:1-11; 4:13; 8:14; Galatians 2:9, suggests he was often with the Apostle John). A careful reading of 2 Peter 1:14-18 and Matthew 17:1-5 indicates that Peter was with James or John right before he died. Yet, since James died in Judea (Acts 12:1) by 39 A.D. and there is no evidence that John was in Rome prior to 90 A.D., this would suggest that Peter was NOT in Rome when he wrote that “the laying away of my tabernacle is at hand” (2 Peter 1:14, RNT)–for more information on Peter’s death and burial, including information from Catholic scholars (such as the Antonio Ferrua who is credited for finding Peter’s body, but later stated that he did not believe that he found Peter), see the article The Apostle Peter.
Thus the statement “Early Christian history tells us that before his death, he fixed his residence at Rome” seems biblicallyand historically false.
Interestingly, when personally addressing the leadership for the Christians who lived in Rome, Paul never mentioned Peter or any who were later claimed to be Roman bishops, even though he listed at least 27 others (see Romans 16).
The Catholic Encyclopedia article about the Epistle to the Romans mentions this about Paul not mentioning Peter:
The complete silence as to St. Peter is most easily explained by supposing that he was then absent from Rome. Paul may well have been aware of this fact, for the community was not entirely foreign to him. An epistle like the present would hardly have been sent while the Prince of the Apostles was in Rome and the reference to the ruler (xii, eight) would then be difficult to explain. Paul probably supposes that during the months between the composition and the arrival of the Epistle, the community would be more or less thrown on its own resources. (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).
Another explanation is that Peter simply was not in Rome long enough for Paul or any early writer to consider that Peter was actually the bishop of Rome.
Note that it takes MONTHS from when Paul could have written the epistle and for it to get to Rome. How could Paul have possibly assumed that that Peter was not in Rome then and would not be in it for months? Only because he knew Peter was not some type of bishop of Rome! Because if Peter was the bishop of Rome, Paul would have most likely at least referred to him or his absence in this epistle, as at some time he would have expected Peter to read it in Rome. But this never took place. Since it is believed that “Romans was likely written in the fall of A.D. 57″ (The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1997, p. 1876), it is most likely that Peter had not even been to Rome (as until at least 54 A.D. he had meetings in Jerusalem–see below).
Eamon Duffy, a Catholic scholar and a member of the Pontifical Historical Commission, observed:
Paul’s epistle to the Romans was written before either he or Peter ever set foot in Rome, to a Christian community already in existence (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, p.8).
Some modern Catholic scholars have admitted that Peter and the other Apostles were not a bishops, and could not have taken up residence in any city:
A “bishop” is a residential pastor who presides in a stable manner over the church in a city and its environs. The apostles were missionaries and founders of churches; there is no evidence, nor is it likely at all, that any one of them ever took up permanent residence in a particular church as its bishop (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 14).
The cited Catholic quotes show that the Church of Rome acknowledges that Peter labored long in Asia Minor (hence, he could not truly have been the bishop of Rome then as they are quite far apart–it normally took MONTHS to travel from Rome to Asia Minor in those days, plus there were no telephones or fast ways to communicate), tended to return to Jerusalem (which is near Asia Minor), spent little time in Rome, could not have been the bishop of any city, and that there are no precise details of anything that Peter did in Rome. While it is possible that Peter visited and even died in Rome (and this has been contested by some scholars), that of itself would not seem to be a reason for the city of Rome to have to be the place of the headquarters of the true church.
There also is no known early document that states that upon his death Peter bequeathed the cathedra to anyone (recall also that Jesus Himself died in Jerusalem, and the importance of His death to the Church is more significant than that of Peter). When Jesus discussed the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16) with Peter, this was in the Jerusalem area. When the Holy Spirit was given in Acts 2, this was in Jerusalem. Later, Peter and the other apostles spent a great deal of time in Asia Minor.
Furthermore, Rome was a Gentile area, not full of circumcised Israelites.
Who does the Bible teach had that responsibility? Look at what Paul wrote:
7. But contrariwise when they had seen that to me was committed the Gospel of the
prepuce, as to Peter of the circumcision
8. (for he that wrought in Peter to the Apostleship of the circumcision, wrought in me also
among the Gentiles) (Galatians 2:7-8).
Thus it does not appear that Peter was considered to be the bishop of Rome during Paul’s lifetime (and they both died about the same time) as Rome was clearly a Gentile area. If Peter, and he alone, had the keys, the fact that, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia “Peter pursued his Apostolic labours in various districts of Asia Minor” shows that PETER COULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE BISHOP OF ROME FOR MUCH OF THE TIME THAT HE “HAD THE KEYS”! IT IS AN ABSOLUTE FACT THAT PETER WAS NOT THE BISHOP OF ROME BEGINNING WITH THE START OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH that began on the Pentecost after Jesus was resurrected (Acts 1-2). NOR COULD PETER HAVE POSSIBLY BEEN BISHOP OF ROME FOR MUCH OF THE THIRTY-PLUS YEARS AFTER THAT TIME AS HE TRAVELED WITHIN ASIA MINOR AND TO JERUSALEM REPEATEDLY.
Rome is simply not close enough to Asia Minor or Jerusalem for Peter to have been based out of Rome. Thus Antioch or other regions within Asia Minor would seem to have been the main areas that Peter possibly could have had an episcopate. Actually, the book of Galatians specifically mentions that Paul visited Peter on two occasions, and both of those were in Jerusalem and not Rome. Why? Because Rome was still not the headquarters of the Church at a very late time in Peter’s life. This is clearly documented from the Bible:
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace,
16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,
17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days (Galatians1:15-18).
21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ (Galatians 1:21-22).
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me…
9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:1,9).
What does all that mean? According to The Catholic Encyclopedia,
St. Paul’s conversion was not prior to 34, nor his escape from Damascus and his first visit to Jerusalem, to 37 (St. Paul. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911).
Thus the earliest possible date for Paul to have made his second recorded visit to Jerusalem with Peter was 54 A.D. (3 years plus 17 plus 34 A.D., and it may have been later, like 57 A.D.). And from there, Peter told Paul to go to the Gentiles again. Hence Peter could not have become the Apostle to the Gentiles in Rome until much later (if at all)! Interestingly, The Catholic Encyclopedia admits,
It is comparatively seldom that the Fathers, when speaking of the power of the keys, make any reference to the supremacy of St. Peter (Joyce G.H. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Power of the Keys. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Also notice the following from a Roman Catholic priest and scholar:
The conferral of the power of the keys of the kingdom surely suggests an imposing measure of authority, given the symbolism of the keys, but there is no explicit indication that the authority conferred was meant to be exercised over others, much less that it be absolutely monarchical in kind…In Acts, in fact, Peter is shown consulting with other apostles and even being sent by them (8:14). He and John are portrayed as acting as a team (3:1-11; 4:1-22; 8:14). And Paul confronts Peter for his inconsistency and hypocrisy…Paul “opposed him to his face because he was clearly wrong” (Galatians 2:11; see also 12-14) (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., pp. 30-31).
Notice that even traditions of early Catholic writers did not teach that Peter was given sole authority as the devout Catholic historian von Dollinger noticed:
Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages (Matthew 16:18; John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter’s successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these three texts, yet not one of them who commentaries we possess–Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenas–has dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter!
Not one of them has explained the rock or foundation on which Christ would build His Church as the office given to Peter to be transmitted to his successors, but they understood by it either Christ Himself, or Peter’s confession of faith in Christ; often both together (Cited in Hunt D. A Women Rides the Beast. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene (OR) p. 146).
It was not until quite late that the Roman Catholic decided that Peter was the first bishop of Rome:
(254-57)…Stephen I seems to have been the first pope to have appealed to the classic “you are Peter’ text in Matthew’s Gospel (16:18) as the basis for Roman primacy…Peter was not regarded as the first Bishop of Rome until the late second or early third century (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., pp. 27,28).
Hence, it may be that the idea that Peter was the only apostle that church leadership could be traced through and that it must be Rome does not appear to have much early support.
It needs to be understood that as far back as the second century, both Irenaeus and Tertullian taught that some version of “apostolic succession” occurred in areas other than Rome. Furthermore, even into the 21st century, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the legitimacy of churches of the Eastern Orthodox based in cities such as Constantinople , Jerusalem, and Alexandria who were founded by someone other than the Apostle Peter (which tradition states were founded by the Apostles Andrew, James, and the gospel-writer Mark, respectively). More information can be found in the article Was Peter the Rock Who Alone Received the Keys of the Kingdom?
It is important to note that several Catholic scholars recognize that there is no proof that anyone was actually considered to be a bishop in Rome until sometime in the second century. One such Catholic scholar, A. Van Hove, wrote this about early bishops:
- This local superior authority, which was of Apostolic origin, was conferred by the Apostles upon a monarchic bishop, such as is understood by the term today. This is proved first by the example of Jerusalem, where James, who was not one of the Twelve Apostles, held the first place, and afterwards by those communities in Asia Minor of which Ignatius speaks, and where, at the beginning of the second century the monarchical episcopate existed, for Ignatius does not write as though the institution were a new one.
- In other communities, it is true, no mention is made of a monarchic episcopate until the middle of the second century (Van Hove A. Transcribed by Matthew Dean. Bishop. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).
In other words, 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 the middle of the second century.
Furthermore, even some more recent 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”.
The consensus of scholars is that there was NOT an apostolic succession of bishops starting from Peter in Rome. And notice that according to Roman Catholic scholars, the first clear bishop of Rome was not until the middle or latter half of the second century:
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).
…we have good reason to conclude that by the time of Anicetus (155-66), the church of Rome was being led by a bishop whose role resembled Ignatius or Polycarp (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 143).
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).
As I see the problem and its possible solution, it is not a question of apostolic succession in the sense of an historical chain of laying on of hands running back through the centuries to one of the apostles; this would be a very mechanical and individualistic vision, which by the way historically could hardly be proved and ascertained. The Catholic view is different from such an individualistic and mechanical approach. Its starting point is the collegium of the apostles as a whole; together they received the promise that Jesus Christ will be with them till the end of the world (Matt 28, 20). So after the death of the historical apostles they had to co–opt others who took over some of their apostolic functions. In this sense the whole of the episcopate stands in succession to the whole of the collegium of the apostles. To stand in the apostolic succession is not a matter of an individual historical chain but of collegial membership in a collegium, which as a whole goes back to the apostles by sharing the same apostolic faith and the same apostolic mission (Kasper, Cardinal Walter. Keynote speech from the Conference of the Society for Ecumenical Studies, the St. Alban’s Christian Study Centre and the Hertfordshire Newman Association at St. Alban’s Abbey, Hertfordshire, England, on May 17, 2003).
In March, 2006…I argued unity, unanimity and koinonia (communion) are fundamental concepts in the New Testament and in the early Church. I argued: “From the beginning the episcopal office was “koinonially” or collegially embedded in the communion of all bishops; it was never perceived as an office to be understood or practised individually” (Kasper, Cardinal Walter. Cardinal Kasper to Anglican Communion “The Aim of Our Dialogue Has Receded Further”. CANTERBURY, England, JULY 31, 2008 (Zenit.org)).
These are astounding admissions. These Roman Catholic scholars are essentially admitting that there was no possible succession of bishops beginning with Peter in Rome, there was NOT one bishop who led all of Christendom from the beginning, but that the succession of a bishop from the Apostle John to Polycarp did occur (and it occurred probably 60 years earlier).
When Ignatius wrote his various letters in the early second century, he referred to Polycarp as a bishop and mentioned bishops in nearly all of his letters. However, in his letter to the Romans he neither addresses it to any particular leader in Rome, nor does he ever refer to anyone as a bishop in Rome.
Various Catholic writings state that Hegesippus came to Rome in the mid-2nd century and asked about its early leaders. F.A. Sullivan and R.P. McBrien seem to suggest 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.
While there were certainly a lot of religious leaders in Rome, since the actual Christian Church (according the Catholics and nearly all those who profess Christ) began in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after Christ’s crucifixion, it is important to realize that both the Bible and Roman Catholic approved writings support the idea that there were true churches in the region the Bible refers to as Asia Minor (nearly all of which is now part of the country of Turkey).
When the Apostle John, for example, wrote the Book of Revelation, he was the last of the original 12 apostles to remain alive (and as an Apostle he ALSO would have been was part of the foundation of the church as Ephesians 2:19-22 teaches). And he specifically addressed Revelation “to the seven churches which are in Asia” (Revelation 1:4), and later listed those seven (vs. 1:11) all of which were in Asia Minor (here is an article on The Seven Churches of Revelation). He also never positively addressed the church in Rome in that or any other or his known writings (nor, except in his gospel account, did he ever mention Peter). Furthermore, The Catholic Encyclopedia records this about John,
John had a prominent position in the Apostolic body…the Apostle and Evangelist John lived in Asia Minor in the last decades of the first century and from Ephesus had guided the Churches of that province (Fonck L. Transcribed by Michael Little. St. John the Evangelist. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
But there is no scriptural reason to think that John only considered that the churches in Asia Minor were under his leadership. Actually, in one of his other letters, John also wrote “To the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1)–which appears to be a reference to the entire Church (see also Revelation 12:17). Hence he felt he had a leadership position related to the entire Church, not just those in Asia Minor.
This also appears to be confirmed from this quotation that Eusebius records:
Take and read the account which rims as follows: “Listen to a tale, which is not a mere tale, but a narrative concerning John the apostle, which has been handed down and treasured up in memory. For when, after the tyrant’s death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighboring territories of the Gentiles, to appoint bishops in some places, in other places to set in order whole churches, elsewhere to choose to the ministry some one of those that were pointed out by the Spirit…” (Eusebius. Church History, Book III, Chapter 23. Translated by the Rev. Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Referring to Irenaeus’ writings, Eusebius writes:
And in the third book of the same work he attests the same thing in the following words: “But the church in Ephesus also, which was founded by Paul, and where John remained until the time of Trajan, is a faithful witness of the apostolic tradition.” (Eusebius. Church History. Translated by the Rev. Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Now John greatly outlived Peter and is believed to have lived as late as 95-100 A.D. John was an apostle, the early leaders of Rome were only presbyters. The Bible clearly teaches that apostles were first (I Corinthians 12:28). Notice that even Roman Catholic scholars understand:
Unlike Peter, the pope is neither an apostle nor an eyewitness of the Risen Lord (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p.33).
Since that is true, it makes no sense that the Apostle John would be somehow subordinate to Linus, Anacletus, Clement, and Evaristus, all of whom have been claimed to have been pontiff after Peter died and while John was still alive.
What is true, and what does make sense, is that John had a disciple named Polycarp who became the bishop of Smyrna. While Ignatius may have had prominence in-between, his writings clearly endorsed Polycarp’s leadership. Polycarp was probably 25-30 years old when John died. Polycarp himself lived until his was martyred around 156 A.D. Look at what else is admitted by the Catholic historian Irenaeus about the early Church in Asia Minor, under the leadership of Polycarp:
Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4).
So we have from this Roman Catholic source that Polycarp and his successors in Asia Minor (at least until the time that Irenaeus wrote this, around 180 A.D.) practiced the true teachings that they learned from the apostles (it should be noted that these churches had several doctrines that differ from those currently held by the Roman Church, some of which are documented in the article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome). This is also later essentially confirmed by Tertullian:
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).
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:
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.
Here is the latest ContinuingCOG YouTube video titled: Church of God or Church of Rome: What Do Catholic Scholars Admit About Early Church History?
Some articles to assist in your studies may include:
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from c. 31 A.D. to 2014. A related sermon link would be Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D.
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. Is telling the truth about the early church citing Catholic accepted sources anti-Catholic? This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church. There is also a YouTube sermon on the subject titled Church of God or Church of Rome: What Do Catholic Scholars Admit About Early Church History?
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
What Was the Original Apostles’ Creed? What is the Nicene Creed? Did the original apostles write a creed? When was the first creed written? Are the creeds commonly used by the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics original?
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. December 25th was celebrated as his birthday. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity?
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Do they matter? Most say they must, but act like they do not. This article contains some history about the Church of God (sometimes referred to as the continuation of Primitive Christianity) over the past 2000 years. It also discusses the concept of church eras.
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?