As one born into a Roman Catholic family, I am aware of how Roman Catholics suggest that theirs is the original church with an unbroken line of successors beginning with Peter. However, there seems to be a difference in how they present this to the general public and what the Bible, and even Roman Catholic scholars, teach about the early (first and second century) church history.
This article will attempt to discuss how the Roman Catholic Church portrays its early history, and what the Bible and certain (mainly Roman Catholic) scholars have concluded about what really happened.
The Generally Suggested Position from the Roman Catholics
The following, from The Catholic Encyclopedia, is a fair representation of how the average Roman Catholic views church history:
It has been seen that Christ not only established the episcopate in the persons of the Twelve but, further, created in St. Peter the office of supreme pastor of the Church. Early Christian history tells us that before his death, he fixed his residence at Rome, and ruled the Church there as its bishop. It is from Rome that he dates his first Epistle, speaking of the city under the name of Babylon, a designation which St. John also gives it in the Apocalypse (c. xviii). At Rome, too, he suffered martyrdom in company with St. Paul, A.D. 67. The list of his successors in the see is known, from Linus, Anacletus, and Clement, who were the first to follow him, down to the reigning pontiff. The Church has ever seen in the occupant of the See of Rome the successor of Peter in the supreme pastorate (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).
But is that account completely accurate?
Also 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)--a version with Pope Benedict XVI in it was for sale in the Vatican when I visited it in 2009. Both versions of the book states that it was sponsored by the "Pontifical Administration, which has tutelage over the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter". Both contained such statements on the early "bishops" of Rome as:
1. PETER, ST...
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...
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...
4. CLEMENT I, ST. (88-97)...He was among the first baptized by St. Peter...Clement was the one to introduce the liturgical vestments into the sacred functions and the use of the word Amen. He appointed seven notaries, one for each ecclesiastical area of Rome, to edit and file all information regarding martyred Christians...
5. EVARISTUS, ST. (97-105)...He also instituted a group of seven deacons who job it was to write down the popes utterances so as to avoid disputes about what he had said...Evaristus was martyred in 105...
(Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, pp. 1,2).
Is that list of pronouncements accurate? Or is mostly myth and legend? (Note: A longer list of the first claimed bishops of Rome is shown on the Timeline of History page).
The teachings in this Roman source made me at first conclude that these early listed "bishops" of Rome, after Peter (who as will be shown later, could not have been the bishop of Rome), may not have been faithful true Christians as many of the declarations they allegedly made do not square with scripture. Then I began to wonder if there was any historical evidence that they made those claims.
If they did not make those pronouncements, should this be the type of information that the Vatican sells to those they call pilgrims (which they seem to define as any one who profess Christ who visits the Vatican)? What really happened in the first and early second centuries?
Perhaps some statements by a prominent Roman Catholic scholar may be of interest here (any bolding mine):
The continuity between Pope and Apostle rests on traditions which stretch back almost to the very beginning of the written records of Christianity. It was already well established by the year AD 180, when the early Christian writer Irenaeus of Lyons invoked it in defence of orthodox Christianity. The Church of Rome was for him the 'great and illustrious Church' to which, 'on account of its commanding position, every church, that is the faithful everywhere, must resort'. Irenaeus thought that the Church had been 'founded and organised at Rome by the two glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul,' and that its faith had been reliably passed down to posterity by an unbroken succession of bishops, the first of them chosen and consecrated by the Apostles themselves. He named the bishops who had succeeded the Apostles, in the process providing us with the earliest surviving list of the popes--Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, and so on down to Irenaeus' contemporary and friend Eleutherius, Bishop of Rome from AD 174 to 189.
All the essential claims of the modern papacy, it might seem, are contained in this Gospel saying about the Rock, and in Irenaeus' account of the apostolic pedigree of the early bishops of Rome. Yet matters are not so simple. The popes trace their commission from Christ through Peter, yet for Irenaeus the authority of the Church at Rome came from its foundation by two Apostles, not by one, Peter and Paul not Peter alone. The tradition that Peter and Paul had been put to death at the hands of Nero in Rome about the year AD 64 was universally accepted in the second century, and by the end of that century pilgrims to Rome were being shown the 'trophies' of the Apostles, their tombs, or cenotaphs, Peter's on the Vatican Hill, and Paul's on the Via Ostiensis, outside the walls on the road to the coast. Yet on all of this the New Testament is silent. Later legend would fill out the details of Peter's life and death in Rome--his struggles with the magician and father of heresy, Simon Magus, his miracles, his attempted escape from persecution in Rome, a flight from which he was turned back by a reproachful vision of Christ (the 'Quo Vadis' legend), and finally his crucifixion upside down in the Vatican Circus in the time of the Emperor Nero. These stories were to be accepted as sober history by some of the greatest minds of the early Church--Origen, Ambrose, Augustine. But they are pious romance, not history, and the fact is that we have no reliable accounts either of Peter's later life or of the manner or place of his death. Neither Peter nor Paul founded the Church at Rome, for there were Christians in the city before either of the Apostles set foot there. Nor can we assume, as Irenaeus did, that the Apostles established there a succession of bishops to carry on their work in the city, for all the indications are that there was no single bishop at Rome for almost a century after the deaths of the Apostles. In fact, where ever we turn, the solid outlines of the petrine succession at Rome seem to blur and dissolve...
Neither Paul, Acts nor any of the Gospels tells us anything direct about Peter's death, and none of them even hints that the special role of Peter could be passed on to any single 'successor'. There is, therefore, nothing directly approaching a papal theory in the pages of the New Testament (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, pp.2,6).
There was a strong anti-Roman tradition in the early Church. Rome was the harlot city soaked in the blood of the saints, the centre from which spread out wave after wave of persecution. The Book of Revelations' gloating vision of the coming ruin of Rome, 'Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great' (Revelations 14:8), remained a persistent strand so long as the empire continued to persecute the church, and survived even into the Middle Ages (ibid).
I decided to look at the writings of the Bible and some recognized Catholic scholars to see whether those statements about the early bishops of Rome were true or are in error.
There Were No Bishops of Rome Who Titled Themselves Pontifex Maximus Until the Late Fourth Century
Catholic scholars understand that the pagan sun cult of Mithraism maintained that it had a type of pope in Rome before the Church of Rome had one:
Mithraism...reached its zenith during the third century, and vanished under the repressive regulations of Theodosius at the end of the fourth century...There were seven degrees of initiation into the mithraic mysteries…The fathers conducted the worship. The chief of the fathers, a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called "Pater Patrum" or Pater Patratus." (Arendzen, J.P. Mithraism.)
It was about the time that Theodosius helped eliminate the cult of Mithraism that the Bishop of Rome took the title Pope.
Catholic scholar Duffy observed a shift in how the Roman Bishops acted:
The Romanisation of the papacy was more than a matter of external decoration. Self-consciously, the popes began to model their actions and their style as Christian leaders on the procedures of the Roman state (Duffy, p. 40).
While Roman Catholics refer to many early Bishops of Rome as popes, the reality is that the term pope, or more specifically Pontifex Maximus, was not held by the Bishops of Rome until a few decades after Constantine.
The title Pontifex Maximus had been held by many Roman Emperors, including Constantine. Here is a report from The Catholic Encyclopedia about the early reign of Constantine:
Could not Sol Deus Invictus, to whom even Constantine dedicated his coins for a long time, or Sol Mithras Deus Invictus, venerated by Diocletian and Galerius, become the supreme god of the empire? Constantine may have pondered over this. Nor had he absolutely rejected the thought even after a miraculous event had strongly influenced him in favour of the God of the Christians…As pontifex maximus he watched over the heathen worship and protected its rights (Herbermann, Charles, and Georg Grupp. Constantine the Great. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 1 Sept. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04295c.htm>).
A few decades after Constantine died, the Roman Emperor Gratian refused the title. Here is one report:
Pontifex Maximus…Gratian refused the pontifical robe. He was the last Roman emperor to hold that title, for the college of Pontiffs was abolished under Emperor Theodosius in 395 C.E. (White C. The Emergence of Christianity. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007 p. 89).
However, Catholic sources confirm that Bishop Siricius quickly picked up the title:
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).
In addition, it may be of interest to note that even with the Roman Catholic Church, the title "Pope" was not exclusive to the Bishop of Rome for a long time. Notice the following two sources:
The title pope, once used with far greater latitude (see below, section V), is at present employed solely to denote the Bishop of Rome...
V...The title pope (papa) was, as has been stated, at one time employed with far more latitude. In the East it has always been used to designate simple priests. In the Western Church, however, it seems from the beginning to have been restricted to bishops (Tertullian, "De Pud." 13). 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), and Ennodius of Pavia (d. 473) employs it still more clearly in this sense in a letter to Pope Symmachus (P. L., LXIII, 69). Yet as late as the seventh century St. Gall (d. 640) addresses Desiderius of Cahors as papa (P. L., LXXXVII, 265). Gregory VII finally prescribed that it should be confined to the successors of Peter (The Pope. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Moreover, it was only in the year 1073 that Pope Gregory VI forbade Catholics to call anyone pope except the Bishop of Rome. Before then, many bishops were fondly addressed as 'pope' or 'papa' (De Rosa, Peter. Vicars of Christ. Poolbeg Press, Dublin, 2000, p. 14).
Rome and Paul
The general Catholic position, as noted earlier, is based to a great degree upon the writings of Irenaeus of Lyon, who was perhaps the first Roman Catholic supporter to write much about Church History. Here is some of what he wrote around 180 A.D.:
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...
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).
Yet, the Roman Catholic Church admits that at least part of that account of Irenaeus (circa 180 A.D.) regarding a tradition derived from the apostles that both Peter and Paul first started the great church in Rome and that they (NOT Peter alone) passed the leadership to Linus was in error. Furthermore, it needs to be noted that Irenaeus never lists Peter as the first bishop of Rome--nor does he ever call Peter a bishop--Irenaeus lists Linus as one who knew Paul, hence if any one appointed Linus to any position of prominence, logic would dictate that this would have been Paul (and that is what the so-called Apostolic Constitutions states).
Notice this comment from a Catholic scholar about Irenaeus, Peter, Paul, and Rome:
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, p. 147).
The Catholic Encyclopedia also agrees with F.A. Sullivan 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).
Furthermore, the Bible clearly agrees with The Catholic Encyclopedia, and F.A. Sullivan here. The Bible shows that Paul did not start the Church in Rome--thus the apostolic tradition that Irenaeus relied on is a fraudulent one--as it is not true--it is a myth. 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 NT of 1582, unless otherwise indicated).
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. as this is considered to the Catholic standard English translation of the New Testament).
Catholic scholar F.A. Sullivan also further agrees, as he wrote:
...it doesn't appear that Paul ever appointed any one person as "resident bishop" over any of his churches...(Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 35).
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).
And that is certainly correct concerning Rome. There were no "bishops of Rome" in the first century and certain Roman Catholic scholars understand this (see below), hence the idea that there is an unbroken line of bishops in apostolic succession from Rome is false (more information can be found in the article Apostolic Succession).
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--the "Babylon" of Revelation, according to the Rheims' translation is called "Babylon the great", hence the latter can be Rome and the former not Rome--for more information, please see the article Peter and Rome), 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.
Perhaps it should be mentioned that the position of late 20th century Cardinal Jean-Guenolé-Marie Daniélou was that church history has generally been mistaught and misses many aspects of what he calls Jewish Christianity. He specifically wrote that this has led to a “false picture of Christian history” (Daniélou J, Cardinal. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, Philadelphia, p. 2). And while there are issues with aspects of his research, he was correct that the vast majority have not been properly taught the truth of church history and overlooked Christianity that is more “Jewish” than that accepted by most of the mainstream churches. Sadly in the 21st century, many seem to prefer the false version of history than the real one.
Information on the real one is documented in the free online pdf booklet: Continuing History of the Church of God.
Was the Headquarters of the True Church To Remain in the Same City?
Notice the following Catholic claim:
Founded by Christ, propagated by His apostles, from Jerusalem through Asia Minor to Rome as its permanent world center, from which it spread throughout the world according to the mandate of its Divine Founder:(Catholic Church. Star Quest Production Network, Priest Roderick Vonhögen - Chief Executive Officer. http://saints.sqpn.com/catholic-church/)
Now, it is absolutely certain that the Church founded by Jesus began in Jerusalem as Acts 1 and 2 show. It is also absolutely certain that the apostles went from Jerusalem via Antioch to Asia Minor. And while it is true that the Apostle Paul went to Rome, there was no type of mandate that Rome would be its "permanent world center."
While as this page mentioned above, there is no support in the Bible itself about Rome being the headquarters of Christendom, the real question is: Was the headquarters of the true church to remain in one city such as Rome?
According to the Apostle Paul, no that was impossible, as he wrote:
14 For we have not here a permanent city: but we seek that which is to come (Hebrews 13:14, Rheims NT).
14 There is no permanent city for us here; we are looking for the one which is yet to be. (Hebrews 13:14, New Jerusalem Bible).
Clearly Paul is teaching that there would not be a permanent city for Christians, until the city which is to come (New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:2). Thus Paul is teaching that no human city, including Rome, could be a permanent headquarter's city for believers.
Let us look at what Jesus taught the future leadership of the church on this matter:
22…and you shall be odious to all men for my name, but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved. 23 And when they shall persecute you in this city, flee into another (Matthew 10:22-23, RNT).
22 You will be universally hated on account of my name; but anyone who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. In truth I tell you, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of man comes. (Matthew 10:22-23, NJB)
Jesus has not yet come and whatever Christians there have been in Palestine have been chased through all the cities in that geographic region since Jesus stated this ( the Crusades helped insure this). Thus Jesus is obviously referring to more cities than are in the area of Palestine (and hence is including cities of the other tribes of Israel or simply areas of "spiritual Israel").
Jesus, thus, seems to be prophesying that it would not be possible that the headquarters of the true church could permanently remain in any one city for hundreds or nearly two thousand years. These statements from Jesus and Paul would suggest that only a church whose headquarters moved relatively often could possibly be the true church. This has happened to the true Church of God throughout history, which is best represented today by the Continuing Church of God--the original faith continues (Jude 3), even though the city of leadership base has changed many times throughout history.
Thus, even the Catholic Rheims New Testament and the New Jerusalem Bible effectively help prove that no single city, including Rome, could have remained the headquarters of Christendom for nearly 2000 years!
Varieties of Order
Another truth about Rome is that it admits that many of the early writers it cites as proof of various positions that it holds, disagreed about the initial list of the bishops of Rome.
For example, 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 110-220 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. Here is a translation of that of what Eusebius says Hegesippus' words were:
"And the church of Corinth continued in the true faith until Primus was bishop in Corinth. I conversed with them on my way to Rome, and abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were mutually refreshed in the true doctrine. And when I had come to Rome I remained there until Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And Anicetus was succeeded by Soter, and he by Eleutherus. In every succession, and in every city that is held which is preached by the law and the prophets and the Lord" (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book IV, Chapter 22, verses 2-3. Originally written in 4th century. Translated by A.C. McGiffert. Digiread Books, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. )
Catholic sources seem to acknowledge that Hegesippus wrote the initial list, though the above account does not prove it (at least one Catholic scholar translated the above to state that Hegesippus wrote the "succession" list then). 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.
Other Roman Catholic scholars have acknowledged problems in the pope lists and the commonly portrayed view of Roman Catholic history:
History, "the teacher of life", teaches that there were no popes in the modern sense of the word (that is, as the sole Bishop of Rome) until the middle of the second century. Until then, the church of Rome was governed not by a single bishop but by a committee or council of elders and presbyter-bishops, perhaps with one individual acting as the body's convener or chair. Those prominent in the Roman community may have been the ones whom the Catholic Church regards as immediate successors of Peter himself: Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, et al. But we cannot be certain. It is significant, for example, that when St. Ignatius of Antioch (d ca. 107) addressed his famous letters to the various churches of the Mediterranean world, the letter to Rome was the only one in which the local bishop is not mentioned. Indeed, there is no evidence that Peter himself ever functioned in an episcopal role in Rome. Although traditionally regarded as the founder of the church there along with the Apostle Paul, Peter was not even present when Christianity first came to Rome in the early 40s (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p. 396).
Furthermore, 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 mention seems to be in an anonymous poem "Against the Marcionites" written circa 267 A.D.--about 200 years after Peter's death!).
There is another early writing that seems to agree, however, more with the Liber Pontificalis:
For some ask, Since Linus and Cletus were bishops in the city of Rome before this Clement, how could Clement himself, writing to James, say that the chair of teaching was handed over to him by Peter? Now of this we have heard this explanation, that Linus and Cletus were indeed bishops in the city of Rome before Clement, but during the lifetime of Peter: that is, that they undertook the care of the episcopate, and that he fulfilled the office of apostleship; as is found also to have been the case at Caesarea, where, when he himself was present, he yet had Zacchaeus, ordained by himself, as bishop. And in this way both statements will appear to be true, both that these bishops are reckoned before Clement, and yet that Clement received the teacher's seat on the death of Peter. But now let us see how Clement, writing to James the Lord's brother, begins his narrative (Rufinus. Preface to the Recognitions of Clement. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 8. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
Also, 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).
The above is one of the earliest places that specific apostles are claimed to have placed leaders in Rome. But notice that it claims that Linus was put in place by Paul and Clemens (or Clement) by Peter. This is in contradiction to the claim that the "bishops of Rome" were all supposedly Peter's successors.
Furthermore, it is of interest to state that some Catholics 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 quote:
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).
This may explain why there are differences in order in the early lists: there were probably a lot of elders and since no one was necessarily a bishop, it seems that the early lists are probably based on some recollections of whom some of those early Roman elders were.
The Church of Rome teaches,
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,
...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).
...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, 8) 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?.
Linus is claimed to have been the first bishop of Rome to have taken over from Peter. But if Clement was given the cathedra, then it is clear that the bishop of Rome did not receive it as Clement was not believed to have been the bishop of Rome until decades after Linus's death--and if it was given to Clement, then Rome itself would have no reason to have dominance in the true church.
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 hesitant to do so. 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 monarchical 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).
Here are some claims made by Roman Catholics about him:
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...(Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 1).
Is that true?Here is some 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. (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. 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, even Roman Catholic scholars admit that Linus did not do what the Vatican book says he did, and that this head covering statement was arbitrarily attributed to Linus. He did not make it.
In addition, J.P. Kirsch is stating that Linus was not martyred. If he was martyred, then that indicates that Linus was simply not one of the early top leaders of Rome. We simply have no real information about Linus' life, his teachings, or his death, other than that Paul mentioned someone named Linus (more information is included in the article Linus of Rome).
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'Mallet JW. A History of the Popes. Sheed & Ward, 2009, p. 11)
It should be pointed out that the Apostle John is believed to have greatly 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, the basis for Linus' inclusion is the succession list of Irenaeus (stated earlier), 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 apostolic succession to the head of the Roman Church.
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". He 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.
Here are some of the claims about Cletus:
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...(Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 1).
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 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 his martyrdom is questionable. And also that statements such as that he dictated the norms for ecclesiastical dress, etc. are simply unfounded. Actually, he did not establish ecclesiatical dress. Notice:
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).
Furthermore, since according to the Liber Pontificalis it was bishop Cornelius who supposedly moved the body of Peter to its present location (nearly two centuries after Peter died), 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:
XXII Cornelius (Pope 251-253)...He during his pontificate at the request of a certain matron Lucina, took up the bodies of the apostles, blessed Peter and Paul up out of the catacombs by night; first the body of blessed Paul was received by the blessed Lucina] and laid in her own garden on the Via Ostiensis, near the place where he was beheaded; the body of the blessed Peter was received by the blessed Cornelius, the bishop, and laid near to the place where he was crucified, among the bodies of the holy bishops, in the shrine of Apollo, on the Mons Aureus, in the Batican, by the palace of Nero, on June 29. (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. 25-26).
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 (which Hegesippus, the first one who allegedly made up the bishop list), 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 clearly 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?
The truth is that the researchers and scholars of the Roman Church actually are aware that there is no firm support for the general early Catholic claims of apostolic succession.
Here is some of what is claimed about Clement:
4. CLEMENT I, ST. (88-97)...He was among the first baptized by St. Peter...Clement was the one to introduce the liturgical vestments into the sacred functions and the use of the word Amen. He appointed seven notaries, one for each ecclesiastical area of Rome, to edit and file all information regarding martyred Christians...He can be considered the first pope to have abdicated (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 2).
It seems impossible that Clement could have appointed seven notaries as the church in Rome then was not large or did not have a major staff. Furthermore, if there were seven notaries, then at minimum one would think that they would have preserve at least who the original "bishops of Rome" were, however they apparently did not. The first list was apparently composed by Hegesippus around 155 A.D., and we have no copy of that preserved until Epiphanius claimed to have cited Hegesippus 170 years or so later.
The actual first known list was actually from Irenaeus around 180 A.D. and it contains no details about the early bishops. The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches this about Clement:
But what about Roman Catholic Church vestments? It needs to be understood Clement could not have come with liturgical vestments as they did not exist that early. The Catholic Encyclopedia admits this, regarding the time of Stephen 1 (254-257):
Now Linus and Cletus had each twelve years attributed to them in the list. If Hippolytus found Cletus doubled by an error (Cletus XII, Anacletus XII), the accession of Clement would appear to be thirty-six years after the death of the Apostles. As this would make it almost impossible for Clement to have been their contemporary, it may have caused Hippolytus to shift him to an earlier position. Further, St. Epiphanius says (loc. cit. ): "Whether he received episcopal ordination from Peter in the life-time of the Apostles, and declined the office, for he says in one of his epistles 'I retire, I depart, let the people of God be in peace', (for we have found this set down in certain Memoirs), or whether he was appointed by the Bishop Cletus after he had succeeded the Apostles, we do not clearly know." The "Memoirs" were certainly those of Hegesippus. It seems unlikely that he is appealed to only for the quotation from the Epistle, c. liv; probably Epiphanius means that Hegesippus stated that Clement had been ordained by Peter and declined to be bishop, but twenty-four years later really exercised the office for nine years. Epiphanius could not reconcile these two facts; Hippolytus seems to have rejected the latter...The Church of Corinth had been led by a few violent spirits into a sedition against its rulers. No appeal seems to have been made to Rome, but a letter was sent in the name of the Church of Rome by St. Clement to restore peace and unity. He begins by explaining that his delay in writing has been caused by the sudden calamities which, one after another, had just been falling upon the Roman Church. The reference is clearly to the persecution of Domitian...There is little intentional dogmatic teaching in the Epistle, for it is almost wholly hortatory. A passage on the Holy Trinity is important. Clement uses the Old Testament affirmation "The Lord liveth", substituting the Trinity thus: "As God liveth, and the Lord Jesus Christ liveth and the Holy Spirit -- the faith and hope of the elect, so surely he that performeth", etc...The Epistle is in the name of the Church of Rome but the early authorities always ascribe it to Clement. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, wrote c. 170 to the Romans in Pope Soter's time: "To-day we kept the holy day, the Lord's day, and on it we read your letter- and we shall ever have it to give us instruction, even as the former one written through Clement" (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., IV, xxx) (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).
In his days the vestments worn by the clergy at Mass and other church services did not differ in shape or material from those ordinarily worn by the laity (Mann H. Transcribed by Kenneth M. Caldwell. Pope St. Stephen I. 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).
Hence the statements earlier claiming that Clement's developed the rules on these matters is also false.
Clement is actually both a problem and a key-link for the Roman Church and its claims to supremacy over all of Christendom.He is a problem, specifically, because he is considered the key-link establishing the supremacy of the bishop of Rome. And this key-link is very, very tenuous (he is also a problem as his statement about God and the Lord living suggests that the Holy Spirit is somehow different, and that is not a trinitarian view--please see the article Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings from Before the Beginning).
Essentially, many Roman Catholics believe that a late 1st century letter to the Corinthians shows that Clement felt that he had the authority over all other Christian churches. And thus, this is the earliest proof that in fact, the cathedra went to the bishops of Rome and therefore (according to this line of reasoning) is still there today.
The first problem is that the letter never says any individual sent it. So even if it was from Clement, he apparently did not feel he himself had what Catholics now call the cathedra (the ecclesiastical chair or authority), for it was unsigned. The second problem is that there is no indication that the Corinthians were in any way writing to Clement. And the third is that recent Catholic scholarship admits that "I Clement" does not establish the primacy of the Roman Church:
In the past, Catholic writers have interpreted this intervention as an early exercise of Roman primacy, but now it is generally recognized as the kind of exhortation one church could address another without any claim to authority over it...I Clement certainly does not support the theory that before the apostles died, they appointed one man as bishop in each of the churches they founded. This letter witnesses rather to the fact that in the last decade of the first century, the collegial ministry of a group of presbyters...was still maintained in the Pauline church of Corinth. This was most likely also the case in the church in Rome at this period (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, pp. 91,101).
During the time that Clement was claimed to be bishop of Rome, Catholic historians reported that John was taken to Rome from Ephesus, then suddenly exiled to Patmos, by Emperor Domitian (Tertullian. The Prescription Against Heretics. Chapter 36. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight), and, “after the tyrant's death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus” (Eusebius. Church History. Book III, Chapter 23).
About this time, a schism occurred in Corinth and someone apparently decided to contact the Christians in Rome for assistance. I firmly believe that this probably was because John was believed to have been in Rome then (or possibly just because one of that congregation happened to have been traveling in that direction).
Notice that the letter says the response was delayed:
[b]ecause of the sudden and repeated misfortunes and reverses which have happened to us (The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians commonly known as First Clement. Verse 1. Holmes MW, ed. As translated in The Apostolic Fathers Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 3rd printing 2004, pp. 28-29).
It is logical to conclude that these misfortunes included John’s exile. The letter commonly called I Clement was apparently later sent to Asia Minor as it is believed by Catholic (Monroy MS. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 338) and other scholars to have been cited by Polycarp (Letter to the Philippians, 13:2) who was a follower of the Apostle John.
Although many Catholics suggest the response sent is definitive proof that Rome was the ruling Church, the letter actually refers to its contents only as “our advice,” does not list any author, and does not otherwise prove anything about Roman authority. And it may have only been sent because they did not believe that John would have been able to respond--and that may be why .
Regarding this letter one Catholic scholar has written:
Most scholars are of the opinion that the church of Rome would most probably be have also been led at that time by a group of presbyters (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 15).
If this letter from the Corinthians was sent to Rome because John and others were there, it simply shows that some in Corinth were trying to contact the leadership of the Church. Also, it seems logical that those in the Church at Rome may have decided that since John had been exiled, they should simply respond with their opinion.
Perhaps, it should be noted that Ignatius, while in Smyrna, sent a letter “via the Ephesians” to the Church in Rome (Ignatius. Letter to the Romans. Verse 10. In Holmes. pp. 176-177) as well as other letters to several other churches, in addition he specifically wrote, "Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestinated before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory" (Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians. In Holmes, pp.136-137) --its unchangeable glory is that EPHESUS of Asia Minor was the first of the churches listed in Revelation 2 (see The Ephesus Church Era). It would appear that based on Corinthian letter logic, Catholics should have more reason to accept Asia Minor as the ruling Church instead of Rome.
While at least one book written by a Roman Catholic attempts to claim that the letters from Ignatius (to the Romans) and allegedly Clement (to the Corinthians) prove the primacy of Rome, even the author of that book admits the following:
There is no clear statement in either Clement or Ignatius, in the form of a dogmatic pronouncement of Rome's primacy...(Ray, Stephen K. Upon This Rock. St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999, p. 141).
And although that author concludes that these letters must be promoting Rome's primacy, that author neglects to mention that the circumstances of the Apostle John at the time of the alleged "Clement" letter or that Ignatius wrote greater praise to the church in Ephesus. Hence the reality is that neither letter proves Roman primacy--and those letters are the earliest cited extra-biblical sources normally claimed to do so.
Here is some of what is claimed about Evaristus:
The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches this about Evaristus:
5. EVARISTUS, ST. (97-105)...He also instituted a group of seven deacons who job it was to write down the popes utterances so as to avoid disputes about what he had said...Evaristus was martyred in 105...(Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 2).
The earliest historical sources offer no authentic data about him...The martyrdom of Evaristus, though traditional, is not historically proven. His feast occurs 26 Oct. The two decretals ascribed to him by Pseudo-Isidore are forged (Kirsch J. P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Evaristus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Thus, the Vatican should not be selling a book (which is produced under the sponsorship of the Pontifical Administration) that declares that he was martyred and that he had seven recorders of his utterances as no certain recording has ever been found!
It seems impossible that Evaristus could have appointed seven deacons as the church in Rome then was not large or did not have a major staff. Furthermore, if there were seven writing deacons who recorded the bishop's utterances, then at minimum one would think that they would have preserve at least who the original "bishops of Rome" were, however they apparently did not.
Alexander and Sixtus
Alexander and Sixtus are normally listed next on modern Catholic succession lists.
While it is far from certain that any of the early claimed "bishops of Rome", like Alexander, actually existed, at least one Roman Catholic scholar has hinted that perhaps Sixtus has simply a convenient made-up name. Notice:
The earliest list to survive for Rome is the one supplied by Irenaeus, and in it this symbolic function is very clearly at work. Irenaeus underlines the parallels between the Apostles and bishops by naming precisely twelve bishops of Rome between Peter and the current incumbent, Eleutherius. The sixth of these bishops is named Sixtus. It all seems suspiciously tidy. The list is certainly a good deal tidier than the actual transition to rule by a single bishop can have been (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, p.14).
The first Roman leadership list was apparently composed by Hegesippus around 155/156 A.D., and we have no copy of that preserved until Epiphanius (late 4th century) claimed to have cited Hegesippus. The actual first known list was actually from Irenaeus around 180 A.D. and he provides no details, just names, about the early bishops.
Perhaps I should add here that since there is no proof that the early bishops of Rome actually did anything that would be seen as Roman Catholic (like mass rules, holy water, priestly attire, etc.), I believe that it is possible that the early leaders in Rome through Evaristus (or maybe Alexander) may actually have been part of the true Church of God and did not consider themselves to be Roman Catholic in the sense that Roman Catholics now suggest them to be.
It also should be noted that although this article listed Linus, etc. in the generally proposed Roman order, the fact is that there was not one "Church of Rome" or even a major "Church of Rome" until probably the mid-second century. The Christianity community in Rome was essentially decentralized for probably the first 100 years of Christians being there.
One Roman Catholic scholar observed:
In the same way, the ordering of the early Christian community in Rome seems to have reflected the organisation of the synagogues which originally sheltered it, and to have consisted of a constellation of independent churches meeting in the houses of wealthy members of the community. Each of these house churches had its own leaders, the elders or 'presbyters'...To begin with, indeed there was no 'pope', no bishop as such, for the church in Rome was slow to develop the office of a chief presbyter or bishop...The visionary treatise The Shepherd of Hermas, written in Rome in the second century, speaks always collectively of the 'rulers of the Church', or the 'elders that preside over the Church', and again the author makes no attempt to distinguish between bishops and elders. Clement is indeed mentioned (if Hermas' Clement is the same man..., which we cannot presume) but not as presiding bishop...Everything we know about the church in Rome during its first hundred years confirms this general picture...a loose constellation of churches placed in private houses or, as time went on and the community grew, meeting in rented halls in markets and public baths. It was without a dominant ruling officer, its elders or leaders sharing responsibility, but distributing tasks like that of a foreign correspondent (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, pp. 9-11)
The above is also consistent with the fact that the Apostle Paul noted that there were house churches in Rome in his day (see Romans 16:3-5,6-15).
Did John Write About Rome?
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 the last four writings of John (the three epistles, plus the Book of Revelation) all were written after the death of Peter and all warned true Christians to be faithful. 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.
It is interesting to note that the Roman Catholic Church does believe that there are references in John's writings to Rome, and that they are negative. Specifically, John warned about Babylon throughout the Book of Revelation, called the Book of the Apocalypse in Roman Catholic writings. Here is some of what John wrote:
4. And the woman was clothed round about with purple and scarlet, and gilded with gold, and precious stone, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of the abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
5. And in her forehead a name written, "Mystery": Babylon the great, mother of the fornications and the abominations of the earth.
6. And I saw the woman drunken of the blood of the Saints, and of the blood of the martyrs of JESUS. And I marveled when I had seen her, with great admiration.
7. And the Angel said to me, Why doest thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and the ten horns.
8. The beast which thou sawest, was, and is not, and shall come up out of the bottomless depth, and go into destruction: and the inhabitants on the earth (whose names are not written in the book of life from the making of the world) shall marvel, seeing the beast that was, and is not.
9. And here is understanding, that hath wisdom. The seven heads: are seven hills, upon which the woman sitteth, and they are seven kings (Apocalypse 17:4-9).
Of course, Rome is the most famous city of seven hills in the entire earth. And John is writing that this woman has some influence over worldly kings.
Catholic scholars teach:
9. The seven heads are the seven hills, on which the woman sits. That is, the city of Rome. (Victorinus. Commentary on the Apocalypse, from the seventh chapter. Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0712.htm>)
"The Church that is in Babylon saluteth you, and so doth my son Mark" (1 Peter 5:13). That Babylon stands for Rome, as usual amongst pious Jews, and not for the real Babylon, then without Christians, is admitted by common consent (cf. F.J.A. Hort, "Judaistic Christianity", London, 1895, 155) (Wilhelm J. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Apostolic Succession. 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).
The seven headed city is probably Rome (septicolis-- seven hills) (Dupont Yves. Catholic Prophecy. TAN Books, 1973, p.24).
The woman sits on a scarlet beast, which is full of blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns (illustrating the close relationship between the historical city of Rome and the beast, the symbol of the Roman Empire, see Revelation 17:3). This woman (Rome) has been called Babylon the great and is drunk with the blood the saints and martyrs (see 17:5-6)...Another code for the symbols of the beast is announced in Revelation 17:9: "This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven mountains on which the woman is seated" (an obvious reference to the city of Rome built on seven hills).(Kurz, W. What Does the Bible Say About the End Times? A Catholic View. Servant Books, Cincinnati. Nihil Obstat: Kistner H., Schehr T.P. Imprimi Potest: Link F., Paul J.M. Imprimatur: Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxillary Bishop, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 19, 2004, pp. 165,166)
G. Rossi (1873): We must observe that St. Malachy does not mention the last Pope as a distinct person from the preceding one, whom he styles Glory of the Olive. He merely says, “During the last persecution of the Church, Peter II, a Roman, shall reign. He shall feed the flock in many tribulations, at the end of which the City of the Seven Hills (Rome) will be destroyed, and the awful Judge shall judge his people.” According to St. Malachy, then, only ten, or at most eleven, popes remain to be in future more or less legitimately elected. We say more or less legitimately elected, because out of those future popes it is to be feared that one or two will be unlawfully elected as anti-popes. (Rossi G. THE CHRISTIAN TRUMPET, OR, Previsions and Predictions about Impending General Calamities, The Universal Triumph of the Church, The Coming of Antichrist, The Last Judgment, and The End of the World. Compiled by PELLEGRINO [Gaudentius Rossi], A Missionary Priest with Superior's permission. Boston, THOS. B. NOONAND & CO., 1873, p. 139)
...the Apocalypse was an inexhaustible quarry where to dig for invectives that they might hurl then against the Roman hierarchy. The seven hills of Rome, the scarlet robes of the cardinals, and the unfortunate abuses of the papal court made the application easy and tempting (Van den Biesen, Christian. "Apocalypse." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 5 Oct. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01594b.htm>).
Nor must we look for order in the Apocalypse; but we must follow the meaning of those things which are prophesied. Therefore in the trumpets and phials is signified either the desolation of the plagues that are sent upon the earth, or the madness of Antichrist himself, or the cutting off of the peoples, or the diversity of the plagues, or the hope in the kingdom of the saints, or the ruin of states, or the great overthrow of Babylon, that is, the Roman state (Victorinus. Commentary on the Apocalypse, Chapter 7, Verse 8. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
There was a strong anti-Roman tradition in the early Church. Rome was the harlot city soaked in the blood of the saints, the centre from which spread out wave after wave of persecution. The Book of Revelations' gloating vision of the coming ruin of Rome, 'Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great' (Revelations 14:8), remained a persistent strand so long as the empire continued to persecute the church, and survived even into the Middle Ages (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, pp. 16-17).
The author of the Commentaries upon the Apocalypse set forth in St. Ambrose name, writeth thus: This...sometime signifieth Rome, specially which at that time when the Apostle wrote this, did persecute the Church of God. But otherwise it signifieth the whole city of the Devil, that is, the universal corps of the reprobate. Tertullian also taketh it for Rome, thus, Babylon (saith he) in St. John is a figure of the city of Rome, being so great, so proud of the Empire, and the destroyer of the saints. Which is plainly spoken of that city, when it was heathen, the head of the terrene dominion of the world, the persecutor of the Apostles and their successors, the seat of Nero, Domitian, and the like, Christ's special enemies, the sink of idolatry, and false worship of the Pagan gods (Annotations on Chapter 17 of the Apocalypse. The Original And True Rheims New Testament Of Anno Domini 1582. Prepared and Edited by Dr. William G. von Peters. Ph.D. 2004, copyright assigned to VSC Corp. Page 583).
So while in Peter's writings, the Roman Catholics suggest that Babylon is the church in Rome, in John's they prefer to believe that John is only referring to the Roman state or those that are reprobate (Victorinus is considered a "Church Father" by Roman Catholics). However, it appears clear that even the Catholics admit that John is referring to a reprobate church (he used the analogy of a woman) as Babylon and that early Christians identified that with Rome. A reprobate church would seem to be one that incorporates non-biblical practices (such as certain traditions) as superior to biblical ones.
Catholics may be surprised to read what two of their scholars (Will and Ariel Durant) wrote about Catholic Christianity:
Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world (Durant W and A. The Story of Civilization: Caesar and Christ, a history of Roman civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A.D. 325 Volume 3 of The Story of Civilization. Simon and Schuster, 1935 Original from the University of Virginia Digitized Apr 10, 2008, p. 595).
This should give Catholics pause to think. It appears that the Durants are stating that Catholicism is essentially a pagan creation, while The Catholic Encyclopedia (and other Catholic scholars) teach that Rome is Babylon.
But irrespective of these passages, John (the last living original apostle) never writes anything positive about Rome or the church there.
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, Clement, 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, Clement, 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".
The alleged Epistle of Barnabas, that basically no one accepts as written by the biblical Barnabas, never mentions Linus, Cletus, or anyone who became the bishop of Rome. The Epistle to Diognetus (it does mention a Clement who is alive, but since this book is believed to have been written after the Roman Clement's death, it probably is not referring to him) does not discuss any specific one who became known as "bishop of Rome".
The extant Fragments of Papias do mention some of the 12 apostles (but nothing about Rome) and various writers record that Papias was a disciple of Polycarp, but again the actual writings of Papias do not mention Linus, Cletus, or anyone who became the bishop of Rome (there is a writing from Eusebius in the 4th century that mentions that 2nd/3rd century Clement of Alexander and Papias wrote about a certain incident--not related to Rome). In other words, none of the early accepted writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers ever clearly mentions any bishop of Rome by name.
Even Ignatius' letter to the church in Rome does not mention anyone who is listed as a "bishop of Rome" by the Roman Catholic Church (and he does mention a bishop of other areas in all of his other letters). This odd silence should let all who are interested reflect on the fact that SINCE NONE OF THE EARLY ROMAN BISHOPS ARE CLEARLY INDENTIFIED IN ANY OF THE EXTANT WRITINGS OF THE SO-CALLED APOSTOLIC FATHERS, THAT THE ROMAN BISHOPS SIMPLY DID NOT THEN HAVE ANY STANDING OF PROMINANT SIGNIFICANCE TO THE CHURCH (or that there simply were not any recognized "bishops of Rome" when most were written). This simply shows that there is absolutely no contemporary documentation proving that there were early bishops of Rome and that they had no authority that anyone felt needed to be acknowledged outside of Rome. It is also of interest to note that although Ignatius does mention bishops in Asia Minor (and often by name, like Polycarp), his writings never suggest that there is a bishop in Rome.
Although it is hard to demonstrate a negative, I went through every translated page of the book by Michael W. Holmes titled The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations from Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004 printing to investigate what the writings actually state--and the writings do not support the idea of any clear Roman primacy. But what can be clearly demonstrated is that Polycarp was a prominent leader of the Church, was believed to have been appointed by the Apostle John, and was considered to have been faithful to the teachings from the actual apostles by all the "apostolic fathers" that wrote about him.
The most or second most important document in this set, from a Roman Catholic perspective, is probably the 2nd Century writing called The Shepherd of Hermas. This writing mentions "officials of the church" (Vision 2:2.6) in what is believed to be the Roman Church and later it mentions someone named Clement (2:4.3). However, even this is not demonstrating that there even was a bishop of Rome at that time, as Catholic scholars admit:
The Greek word rendered "officials" is prohegoumenois...Literally it means "those who go before and lead the way"...the word is plural...nor is there any indication of a single bishop in the church for which Hermas is writing (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 133).
Clement is indeed mentioned (if Hermas' Clement is the same man as the author of the letter written at least a generation before, which we cannot assume) but not as presiding bishop (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes, 2nd ed. Yale University Press, London, 2001, p. 10).
One presbyter (and Clement was specifically mentioned in The Shepherd of Hermas) was charged with corresponding with these other communities and probably also dispensing aid to those in need. As such, Clement, and others in his position would have functioned as a kind of foreign minister of the Roman church rather than as its monarchical bishop (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p.35).
According to the Muratorian Canon (c. 180-205), The Shepherd of Hermas was written by the brother of Roman Pius, thus it was probably written around 150 A.D. The Shepherd of Hermas is a rather odd writing, as it allegedly contains someone's visions. Having read it, I doubt that The Shepherd of Hermas is referring to the Roman Clement (nor does it ever refer to Clement as a bishop or a presbyter). Let's look at the passage that mentions a person named Clement:
Therefore you will write two little books, and you will send one to Clement and one to Grapte. The Clement will send it to the cities abroad, because that is his job. (Shepherd of Hermas. Vision 2.4.3 also referred to as 8.3 in: Holmes M. The Apostolic Fathers--Greek Text and English Translations, 3rd printing 2004. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI) p. 345).
Notice that this passage also talks about another person (Grapte). Notice that both Grapte and Clement are each to receive a copy of the same book (and no one considers that any one named Grapte was the bishop of Rome). The Shepherd of Hermas was written around 150 A.D., thus the Roman Clement that would have died 50 or so years before Hermas allegedly had this vision--hence sending out books to cities could not have still been his job. Because of that and because Clement was a fairly common name back then, I do not believe that this passage is referring to the Roman Clement.
However, even if The Shepherd of Hermas was referring to the earlier Clement, it simply does not provide any proof that Clement was considered to be the head of all Christendom (more on Clement, as well as the relevant passage from The Shepherd of Hermas, can be found in the article Clement: Leader of Rome?). Nor are there any writings in the so-called "Apostolic Fathers" that do.
The writings in the so-called "Apostolic Fathers" actually provide the much support for Polycarp and other leaders in Asia Minor, and not Rome.
The "Apostolic Fathers" Teach that the Church of Smyrna, Not Rome, was the Original Catholic Church. Is teaching the truth anti-Catholic?
While many people would say that the Church of Rome was the original "catholic church," that actually is not accurate. And Catholic scholars and Catholic-approved writings, such as the so-called "Apostolic Fathers," understand the truth about this matter.
According to The Catholic Encyclopedia and other early sources, it was the Church of God in Smyrna that was first referred to as the "catholic church."
Here is what The Catholic Encyclopedia itself teaches:
The combination "the Catholic Church" (he katholike ekklesia) is found for the first time in the letter of St. Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, written about the year 110. The words run: "Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be, even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal [katholike] Church." However, in view of the context, some difference of opinion prevails as to the precise connotation of the italicized word...by the beginning of the fourth century it seems to have almost entirely supplanted the primitive and more general meaning...The reference (c. 155) to "the bishop of the catholic church in Smyrna" (Letter on the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, xvi), a phrase which necessarily presupposes a more technical use of the word, is due, some critics think, to interpolation...(Thurston H. Catholic. Transcribed by Gordon A. Jenness. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Thus, Catholic scholars teach that the first two times the term "catholic church" seems to be used in the old literature it is in reference to the Church of God in Smyrna that was led by Polycarp.
Here is the first time the term "catholic church" is used and is from a letter written by Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans around 110 AD:
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father, and of the beloved Jesus Christ, which has through mercy obtained every kind of gift, which is filled with faith and love, and is deficient in no gift, most worthy of God, and adorned with holiness: the Church which is at Smyrna, in Asia, wishes abundance of happiness, through the immaculate Spirit and word of God...
See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles...
Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church...(Ignatius. Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 0.0., 8.1, 8.2).
The "bishop" he was referring to was Polycarp, for, as was reported earlier, Polycarp was appointed the "bishop of the Church in Smyrna." Thus, the first time that the term "catholic church" is used, it is in a letter to those in Smyrna.
Of course, Ignatius knew that Polycarp was then bishop of Smyrna because also around 110 A.D. he wrote:
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus , to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnæans , or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: [ wishes ] abundance of happiness (Ignatius. Letter to Polycarp, 0.0.).
Hence, Ignatius knew that Polycarp was the bishop of the Church of the Smyrnæans, that they were part of the Church of God, and being under Christ made them part of the catholic (universal) church.
The second time the term "catholic church" seems to be found in ancient writings is in a letter written about 156 A.D.:
...the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the catholic church which is in Smyrna (The Smyrnaeans. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 16.2).
Thus, it was Polycarp's church--the Smyrnaean Church of God--that truly was the original "catholic church." Note: I have used lower case for the term "catholic church" in the translations because the term, according to most scholars, was used more of as a description than a title, But the fact is that the expression "catholic church" was originally directed to the Church of God in Smyrna.
The term "catholic church" was later taken by the Church of Rome, even though that church does not hold to many of the doctrines and practices that the Smyrnaean Church of God under Polycarp's leadership held. Is it anti-Catholic (or anti-Catholicism) to point the facts out? Some have suggested that, which is odd since Catholic scholars freely admit that the first one or two times the term "catholic church" is clearly used in the ancient literature referred to the Church of God in Smyrna, not Rome.
Perhaps it should be pointed out that Polycarp and Ignatius were binitarian (see also Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning). Notice that the Catholic Mauricio Saavedra Monroy recognize that Polycarp made binitarian statements:
As for the binitarian confessional formula, which confesses the Father and the Son, we likewise find examples in Polycarp and Ignatius. (Monroy MS. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 292)
The original church as NOT trinitarian--and Catholic scholars will admit that the matter was not resolved for them until the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. (see also Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?).
When Were There Bishops in Rome?
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:
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.
This may explain why there are differences in order in the early Roman bishop lists: there were probably a lot of elders in its first 80 or so years of existence and since no one was necessarily a bishop that early, it seems that the early lists are simply an attempt to put an order of some possible elders that served in the church in Rome.
Anicetus apparently referred to his predecessors as presbyters. Irenaeus records this:
And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome in the time of Anicetus…For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. (Irenaeus. FRAGMENTS FROM THE LOST WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc).
Though this does not mean that none could not have been called "bishop", it should be noted that there is no contemporaneous proof that anyone such as Pius I actually held the title "Bishop of Rome", but it is possible that he did (he apparently immediately preceded Anicetus). But this is not clear.
However, it may be that the reason that Anicetus was the first Roman leader to clearly hold the title "Bishop" of Rome was that others in the area of Rome decided that one with the title "bishop" was necessary to show that someone had higher authority than the various heretical leaders that were in the area of Rome at that time (such as Valentinus and Marcion, for two examples). It is also possible that by this time, the number of people who professed Christ in Rome was starting to become significant as this number probably was much less than those in the areas of Asia Minor, Antioch, and Jerusalem in the early second century.
Thus 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 beginning with Peter simply does not have any historical justification prior to sometime in the second century--over a century after Christ died.
Furthermore notice this from a Roman Catholic priest and scholar:
It is not until the middle of the third century that special importance began to be accorded the faith of the church of Rome (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p.21).
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:
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:
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).
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 Catholic historian Eusebius quoted a letter from Polycrates (who wrote just before Tertullian did) made it clear that at that time, the church leaders of Asia Minor looked to Polycrates (and not Rome) for the leadership of the church. Polycrates specifically claimed that unlike the Roman bishops, the Apostles (like Philip and John) were Quartodecimans. It should be noted, that starting with Polycarp's refusal change Passover to a Sunday observance that Anicetus wanted to Polycrates' similar stand with Victor, Catholic scholars admit that the Churches in Asia Minor refused to accept the authority of even the late second century bishops of Rome. Thus the Catholic scholars admit that the there were problems with Rome trying to control the churches in Asia Minor --and this is because they clearly would not accept the authority of the bishop of Rome (see Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24 were this is clearly documented). This is compelling evidence that Roman Catholic scholars know that there was a different church in Asia Minor that would not accept Roman authority and had doctrines that the Vatican has historically condemned. Yet, it realizes that many of the early Asia Minor leaders were prominent.
Interestingly, Eusebius wrote this:
In those days also Melito, bishop of the parish in Sardis, and Apolinarius, bishop of Hierapolis, enjoyed great distinction (Eusebius. Church History. Book IV, Chapter 26).
It should be noted that both Melito and Apollinaris were also Quartodecimans. Apollinaris was from Hierapolis (so he was probably following what the apostle Philip taught, as Philip died there--Polycrates records that Philip was observed the Passover on the 14th of Nisan). The Roman Church also specifically acknowledges that those in Asia Minor from Polycarp through Polycrates refused to accept its authority. They even quote Polycrates saying the following to bishop Victor "it is more important to obey God than men" (Lopes, p.5) when Polycrates and others in Asia Minor refused to stop observing Passover on the 14th of Nisan and switch to Sunday as the Romans urged.
Catholic scholars also understand that Christian Gentile in Asia Minor still attended some type of weekly service on the Sabbath (e.g. Monroy, Mauricio Saavedra. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, pp. 318, 332, see also The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad).
Was the idea of the Bishop of Rome having infallibility an original concept?
A Protestant author wrote:
History conclusively denies both apostolic succession and papal infallibility. And in fact, many popes denied the latter also, among them Vigilius (537-55), Clement IV (1265-8), Gregory XI (1370-8), Adrian VI (1522-3), Paul IV (1555-9) and even Innocent III (1198-1216)...(Hunt D. A Women Rides the Beast. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene (OR) p. 117).
Of course, the truth about not having Apostolic Succession is known by Roman Catholic scholars. And here are comments from two Catholics (Hans Kung and Pope John XII) regarding papal infallibility:
And here are comments from two Catholics (Hans Kung and Pope John XII) regarding papal infallibility:
Catholic theologian Hans Kung writes:
With regard to the origin of the Roman doctrine of infallibility:...[it] did not slowly "develop" or "unfold," but rather it was created in one stroke in the late 1200s [by] an eccentric Franciscan, Peter Olivi (d. 1298), repeatedly accused of heresy. At first no one took Olivi's notion seriously...
Olivi's theory was soon denounced by a pontiff...Pope John XXII...John produced his Bull Qui quorundam (1324)...In it, John XXII reviled the doctrine of papal infallibility as "the work of the devil." (Ibid, pp. 112-113).
During the latter years of Olivi's life, Benedetto Gaetani became Pope Boniface VIII (1293). In 1302, he issued what is known as the bull Unam Sanctum that claimed:
We are obliged by the faith to believe and to hold—and we do firmly believe and sincerely confess—that there is one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and that outside this Church there is neither salvation nor remission of sins…
Therefore, if the Greeks or others say that they are not committed to Peter and his successors, they necessarily confess that they are not Christ’s sheep……
in this Church and in her power are two swords…Both are in the power of the Church, the spiritual sword and the material. But the latter is to be used for the Church, the former by her; the former by the priest, the latter by kings and captains but at the will of the priest…
Furthermore, we declare, state, define, and pronounce that it is altogether necessary for salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff (Cited in Bettenson H, ed., Documents of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press, 1943, pp. 126-127).
This was a bold and blasphemous position to take—the Bible says:
...the name of JESUS CHRIST…And there is not salvation in any other. For neither is there any other name under heaven given to men, wherein we must be saved. (Acts 4:10,12).
The Pope is NOT Jesus Christ and being subject to him is simply not a biblical requirement for salvation.
As his pronouncement was made as a matter of “faith”, was Pope Boniface VIII infallible when he published it? If so, then this seems to disagree with positions take by some of the later popes, as well as the Bible.
But what kind of person was Pope Boniface VIII?
Notice what the Catholic writer E. Duffy wrote:
Boniface is a mysterious man, proud, ambitious fierce...It was Boniface who declared the first Jubilee or Holy Year in 1300, when tens of thousands of pilgrims converged on Rome to gain indulgences, adding enormously to the prestige of the papacy…(and in the process enriching the Roman basilicas, where the sacristans were said to have had to scoop in pilgrim offerings with rakes). This promise of ‘full and copious pardon’ to all who visited Peter and the Lateran after confessing their sins was the most spectacular exercise of power of the keys since Urban II issued the first Crusade Indulgence…
Boniface…displayed some of the worst traits of clerical careerism, enriching his relatives at the expense of the Church, and waging a relentless was against family’s traditional rivals (Duffy, p. 160).
A former Catholic priest wrote:
Few popes ever enriched their kin as much as Boniface did…A libertine, he once had a married woman and her daughter as his mistresses (De Rosa, p. 75).
A current Catholic priest and scholar wrote:
Boniface VIII…Other popes were more inept and more corrupt, but none made claims for the papacy that were further removed from the spirit of the Apostle Peter, not to mention the Lord himself (McBrien, p. 232).
Boniface certainly sounds like one more driven by his own lusts that one who was a true apostolic successor—but he is claimed to be for nearly a decade (1293-1303). He also was confined to eternal torment by Dante in his Divine Comedy while Boniface VIII was still alive (Lopes, p. 69).
A few decades after Boniface VIII's death, here is some of what Pope John XXII wrote:
Because the father of lies is said to have so blinded the minds of certain [men], that they by [means of] false madness have obscured Our constitutions...Moreover, they have used as much as word as writing to impugn the aforesaid constitutions, for the alleged reason, as is shown: They say that "That which the Roman Pontiffs had defined by [means of] the key of knowledge, in faith and morals, once for all, persists unchangeable to such an extent, that it is not lawful for a successor to call it again into doubt, nor to affirm the contrary," although concerning those things, which have been ordained by [means of] the key of power, they assert it to be otherwise...
On account of which moreover, since it was previously mentioned in the aforesaid consideration, namely, that "It is not licit for their successors to call again into doubt those things, which were defined once for all by the key of knowledge in faith or morals by the Supreme Pontiffs, although it is otherwise," so they say, " in regards to those things, which have been ordained by the Supreme Pontiffs by [means of] the key of power," it is evidently clear from the following things [that] this is directly contrary to the truth...
If therefore after an interdict of a general council it was lawful for the supreme Pontiffs to confirm orders [that] had not been confirmed, and for their successors to dissolve completely [those which] had been so confirmed, is it not wonderful, if, what only the supreme Pontiff may declare or ordain concerning the rules of [religious] orders, it is lawful for his successors to declare or to change to other things...
We do declare that each and every [person], who by word or writing on his own or by means of another or others presumes [to do] such things publicly, and that also they, who teach these in regards to such things and do as has been aforementioned, have fallen into condemned heresy, and [are to be treated] as heretics to be avoided. If anyone, moreover, would presume by word or writing to knowingly defend or approve, one after the other, the heresies condemned by the constitution "Quum inter praedictam," or either of them, after [having taken] counsel of the same brother [cardinals], We judge that he is to be visibly treated as a heretic by all.
(John XXII. Quia quorundam. November 10, 1324 A. D. English translation made from the latin text, transcribed from "EXTRAVAG. IOANN. XXII. TIT. XIV. DE VERBORUM SIGNIFICATIONE CAP V ", DECRETALIUM CCOLLECTIONES, AKADEMISCHE DRUCK - U. VERLAGSANSTALT GRAZ, 1959, which was published as a second volume in a reprint of Codex Iuris Canonicis, ed. B. Tauchnitz, Leipzig,1879.)
Of course the logical question is if popes are infallible, then John XXII was infallible when he denounced papal infallibility, and even seems to condemn followers of it as heretics?
But for some reason, many Roman Catholics tend to accept such contradictions.
Pope Adrian VI declared the following in 1523 to the Imperial Diet meeting in Nuermberg:
We know that for many years abominations have been committed even in the Holy See: trafficking in sacred things, transgression of the commandments in such measure that everything turns to scandal. One should not be surprised that the sickness has descended from the head to the members, from popes to prelates. All of us, prelates and ecclesiastics, have strayed from the path of justice. For a long time no one has pursued the good. (Cited in Socci A. The Fourth Secret of Fatima, Loreto Publications, English Language translation 2009, p. 142)
So, since Pope Adrian VI said "[f]or a long time no one has pursued the good", does not this suggest that there was no possible unbroken "apostolic succession" in Rome even according to the Roman pontiff?
In partial response to the Protestant reformers (note: the genuine Church of God is NOT technically Protestant, does not consider that the Protestant reformers were true Christians, and traces its history before that Protestant movement), a Vatican commission to look into Catholic abuses was put together by Pope Paul III and was under the direction of Cardinal Gasparo Contarini and Cardinal Carafa (Cardinal Carafa became Pope Paul IV in 1555). It was called the Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia of 1537.
Here is some information on it and its recommendations to reform the Church of Rome:
Abuses in the Appointment of Ministers. Eight abuses relating to the appointment of ministers and the filling of benefices are here discussed with accompanying remedies. Each of these eight abuses has in common the need for the pope’s servants to be qualified for the office which they are discharging. Such qualifications included being educated and of upright moral character. These abuses are, respectively:
1 The ordination of clerics and especially of priests in which no care is taken, no diligence employed, so that indiscriminately the most unskilled, men of the vilest stock and of evil morals, adolescents, are admitted to Holy Orders and to the priesthood.
2 In the bestowing of ecclesiastical benefices, provision is made for the person on whom the benefices are bestowed, but not for the flock. In other words, appointments were made without regard to whom would be most beneficial to the church.
3 Persons resigning from a beneficence is able to reserve all income and payment for the beneficence for himself.
4 The only consideration in the exchange of beneficences is profit from simony.
5 The great many ways in which the law against the bequeathing of a beneficence in a will can be mocked and transgressed.
6 The reservation of beneficences in which the occasion arises when news of another’s death is received with joy due to the expectation to assume that office.
7 The holding of a plurality of beneficences and the holding of beneficences that are “incompatible.”
8 The simultaneous holding of the “incompatible”offices of bishop and cardinal.
This section of abuses closes with an appeal for the pope to avoid public hypocrisy in his choice of exercising reform in this area. The pope is encouraged to set straight and correct the abuses in his own appointments before seeking to correct the abuses of others...
Abuses in Pastoral Care and Administration. These abuses are largely matters of pastoral and curial absenteeism, the administration of discipline on lay members, and the taking and exercising of religious orders. Briefly, and in summary paraphrase, the abuses outlined here are:
1 Bishops and parish priests must not be absent from their churches and parishes under heavy financial penalty.
2 Similarly, cardinals are not to be absent from the Curia.
3 In the punishing and correcting of evildoers, those deserving such discipline are able to free themselves from the appropriate jurisdictions.
4 All conventional religious orders ought to be done away with by prohibiting the admission of novices; and the appointments of preachers and confessors needs attention and correction.
5 Various forms of public sacrilege in the convents, including the teaching of ungodly philosophical things in the public schools and the studying of Erasmus’ Colloquies in grammar schools.
Miscellaneous Abuses. The abuses catalogued in this section are also in regard to privileges granted by the pope and relate to his authority as universal Pontiff, but which do not fall under either of the previous two categories. These abuses are not described in as much length or detail, though some of them are of a seemingly greater ethical and theological importance. They can be summarized as follows:
1 Renegade friars who refuse to wear their habits after taking their vows should not granted dispensations to do so.
2 “Pardoners of the Holy Spirit”should no longer deceive peasants and simple people with superstitions.
3 Those established in Holy Orders ought not be granted a dispensation to take a wife. Note: this is the only reform in which the Protestant cause is referenced. This particular reform is encouraged “especially in these times when the Lutherans lay such great stress on this matter.”
4 Marriage ought not be allowed within the second degree of consanguinuity.
5 Those guilty of simony are, for all practical purposes, able to purchase absolution. This should henceforth not be allowable.
6 Permission should not be granted to clerics to bequeath ecclesiastical property.
7 Confessional letters and the use of portable altars should not be readily allowed.
8 Indulgences should only be granted no more than once a year in each principal city.
9 The pope should no longer have the authority to alter the designee of a sum of money bequeathed in a will.
Abuses Pertaining to the Bishopric of Rome. The four brief abuses highlighted here all stem from the view that the city of Rome and the church of Rome are the mother and teacher of all other cities and churches. Therefore, the city and the church ought to be models of piety and polity. Even the appearance of impropriety ought not to be tolerated in this model city and church. In this vein, then, the following abuses are offered:
1 The vile and ignorant priests of the basilica of St. Peter wear robes such as should not even be worn in poor churches.
2 Harlots are allowed to roam the city, attended by clerics and members of cardinals’ households.
3 Hatred and animosity are allowed to brood among the populace without any concern by the bishop to bring reconciliation.
4 The care of orphans and widows in woefully lacking.
This document ends its rather matter-of-fact discussion of these abuses with a concluding appeal to God for this pope, Paul III, to be used to turn away the divine wrath so warranted by decrepit state of Catholicism.
(WALTER MITTY AND CATHOLIC INSTITUTIONAL REFORM A SUMMARY AND RESPONSE TO THE CONSILIUM DE EMENDANDA ECCLESIA OF 1537, http://22.214.171.124/custom?q=cache:NQtBJ_QA8qMJ:www.gfclouisville.org/Consilium%2520Summary.pdf+Consilium+Emendanda&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=us&client=pub-3424586877958463 viewed 08/10/08--based on Contarini, Gasparo, et al. “The Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia.”In Catholic Reform: From Cardinal Ximenes to the Council of Trent, 1495–1563, John C. Olin, 65–79. New York: Fordham University Press, 1990.)
Although Cardinal Carafa is considered to have been the principal author of the Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia, in 1557, only two years after his ascension to pope, he created the Index of Forbidden Books, an act of “unprecedented and quite unrealistic severity.” He even placed his Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia on the Index.
But if the Popes are infallible, how could they allow simonizers and harlots to practice freely? Certainly, that is a violation of both faith and morals.
Anyway, here is what a modern Catholic scholar has written:
Papal Infallibility: The second major papal dogma defined by the First Vatican Council in the nineteenth century is that of papal infallibility…papal infallibility is a dimension of the Church’s infallibility, not vice versa…there is no explicit basis for the doctrine of papal infallibility in the New Testament. It was not until the middle of the third century that special importance began to be accorded the faith of the church of Rome…The formal concept of infallibility was not applied to the papacy until the fourteenth century…
Infallibility, therefore, is not a personal prerogative of the pope. It would be inaccurate to say without qualification that “the pope is infallible.” A pope is only infallible, according to Vatican I, when he is in the act of defining a dogma of faith or morals under the conditions specified McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., pp. 20-22).
It should be of interest to note that papal infallibility, according to the above Catholic priest and scholar, was not really a concept until the fourteen century, and did not really get defined until the nineteenth century.
I would like to add that I believe for the next several years that the Roman Catholics will downplay the concept of “papal infallibility” to applying in very few pronouncements throughout history in order to look better to groups that they wish to join with them, such as the Eastern Orthodox.
What this article demonstrates is that there is a difference between the perception that most Catholics of Rome tend to have and what the facts of history actually show.
And some of those undisputed facts are:
1) The Bible itself never speaks of Rome in any manner suggesting its supremacy.
2) The historical evidence shows that Peter did not spend much (if any) time in Rome.
3) There were several early lists of Roman bishops that disagree with each other.
4) The bishop of Rome did not assume the title of Pope until towards the end of the fourth century.
5) Much of what is told about the lives of the early bishops of Rome is not based upon historical fact.
6) The idea that the Letter to the Corinthians proves Rome's early primacy is an assertion that does not completely follow from the letter itself.
7) The writings of the so-called "apostolic fathers" do not indicate a Roman primacy, nor clearly identify any as Roman bishops by name.
8) The writings of the so-called "apostolic fathers" do indicate that Ignatius and Polycarp had leadership roles in Asia Minor.
9) The original "catholic church," the Church of God in Smyrna, held beliefs that are now condemned by the Vatician.
10) The early churches in Asia Minor, which claimed apostolic succession from the last living apostle John, did not accept the rule of the Roman bishops.
11) Catholic sources admit that there was a succession of leaders/bishops in Asia Minor that could be traced to an original apostle.
Actual Catholic scholars who are interested in the truth realize that:
a) There is no early firm evidence that Peter was a bishop (nor proof he could have been in Rome long enough to have possibly even been considered its specific leader).
b) Paul did not found the Church in Rome.
c) There is no early evidence that Peter (or Paul) directly transferred his authority to Linus (and Tertullian does not even list Linus as a successor).
d) The identity of Cletus/Anacletus/Anencletus was unclear for centuries (Hippolytus says this was two different people).
e) The letter attributed to Clement is not authoritative, and that Clement abdicated his position (thus there are serious problems associated with the first four so-called bishops of Rome).
f) There were probably no certain bishops of Rome until the mid-second century (see Apostolic Succession).
g) There were no Roman Catholic popes prior to 384 A.D.--and even within the Roman Church it was not an exclusive title until the eleventh century.
h) There is almost nothing known about any of the 1st century people usually listed as bishops of Rome, and thus that almost every major act attributed to them is simply not based upon verifiable fact.
i) That there was a church faithful to the apostolic teachings in Asia Minor in the second century, led by leaders (such as Polycarp and Polycrates) who would not accept Roman authority.
j) Even the idea of "papal infallibility" was a not an original concept within even their own church, nor the New Testament.
And, for those willing to read what is admitted, these are the facts and scholarly positions on what all Roman Catholic sources should be teaching about the first and early second century church.
If much of what is in this article is a surprise to you, do not let that concern you to greatly as others have been startled by the truth when they delved into this matter. After looking at the truth about early Catholic history, a scholar who is a Catholic priest (and who is also professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, a Roman Catholic University and who also wrote the book Catholicism) stated:
However, what a nonhistorian like myself was startled to discover as he rummaged his way through these diverse secondary sources is the vast number of discrepancies, inconsistencies, and outright errors regarding dates and names and sometimes even regarding the details of of significant historical events, such as papal elections (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p.3).
Of course, most Catholic and other scholars are aware of the history the first and second century Church in Asia Minor, but fail to emphasize it. Perhaps it is because the Church that was in Asia Minor at the time of these early Roman bishops held many doctrines different from those held by the Church of Rome.
Would you like to learn more? Check out the following:
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE?
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. Two related sermon links would include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. In Spanish: Marque aquí para ver el pdf folleto: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios.
More information on this early history can also be found in the article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome. Those interested in seeing Rome may wish to view Photos of Rome. Those interested in seeing the doctrines that Roman Catholic accepted leaders/saints taught (many of which differ from positions now held by the Roman Catholic Church should read the article Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Genuine Church of God?
Thiel B. Ph.D. What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History? www.cogwriter.com/roman.htm (c) 2005/2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2015 0822
Back to Early Christianity page
Back to COGwriter home page