Linus of Rome

History of Early Christianity


September 23rd is the day recognized by the Catholics of Rome to honor Linus of Rome. Typically he is shown second on the list of bishops that purport to show the Roman Catholic pontiffs and is the claimed successor to the Apostle Peter. For information about him in the Spanish language, check out Linus no fue obispo de Roma.

There is an individual named Linus in the Bible. He is mentioned one time. Here is the only passage that mentions him:

Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick. Do your utmost to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren. The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen (2 Timothy 4:19-22).

The above was probably written, in approximately 67 A.D. – 68 A.D., by the Apostle Paul while in prison in Rome to the evangelist Timothy, who was in Ephesus.

This passage shows that Paul knew someone named Linus. Linus, therefore knew Paul, and was in Rome when Paul wrote this letter. It can probably be reasonably implied that Linus probably knew Timothy, and perhaps others in Ephesus. And based on Paul’s writings, it can be concluded that Paul, at that time, considered that particular Linus to be a Christian. It is probably logical to conclude that Linus met with Paul in prison on multiple occasions and probably, like the others, assisted him to some degree.

What it does not show is that Linus was to be the leader of those in Rome or ordained by Peter or the one to hold the leadership mantle of all Christendom. Others are listed before him, hence, at least at the time Paul wrote this letter, there is no preeminence for Linus in Rome (and it should be noted that one of the proofs that Rome often cites to prove that Peter had preeminence is that Peter was quite often listed first in various New Testament passages involving multiple people). Linus simply was one of many who knew and probably assisted the Apostle Paul. The lack of emphasis/preeminence in Paul’s writings would seem to suggest that Linus could not have been the one to become the “bishop of Rome” and the successor of Peter and Paul in 67 A.D. Especially since it is believed that the Apostle Paul probably did not die until 68 A.D.

Whether or not this is the same individual named Linus that many Roman Catholics consider to be the first pope (the first “bishop of Rome”) to succeed Peter cannot be determined from the passages in 2 Timothy. This is confirmed by Catholic scholars, such as J.P. Kirsch, who wrote:

We cannot be positive whether this identification of the pope as being the Linus mentioned in II Timothy 4:21, goes back to an ancient and reliable source, or originated later on account of the similarity of the name (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Linus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

But it seems that even if the Roman Catholics are referring to the same person, that he was not the one who was going to immediately become THE bishop of Rome–if he was, it would be logical that Paul would have given Linus some special mention. Instead, he is simply grouped in with several others in Rome at that time (nor is Linus even mentioned first).

There are several demonstrably incorrect claims made about him by some in the Church of Rome. For example, here is something from a book I purchased in Vatican City:

2. LINUS, ST. (67-76)…He was the first to take up the inheritance of St. Peter…He made disposition for women to be admitted to the holy places and attend functions with their heads covered…He was buried beside St. Peter in the first Vatican burial spot. It is certain that he did exist while some have thrown doubt on his election to the pontificate. (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni as sponsored by the Pontifical Administration, Roma, 1997, p. 1)

The main historical fact is that Linus’ name showed up on a list. Not that he was Peter’s successor.

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. (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Linus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. 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)

Much about Linus is more than improbable.

Netherlands’ Priest Roderick Vonhögen is/was the Chief Executive Officer of a pro-Catholic media group (SQPN) which correctly teaches, “Pope Saint Linus…ancient documents about his papacy have proven to be inaccurate or apocryphal” (Pope Saint Linus., viewed 09/18/12).

Yet, Linus is claimed to have been the first successor of Peter and head of all Christendom by the Church 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 communities without any central structure…Rome was a constellation of house churches, independent of one another, each of which was loosely governed by an elder. The communities thus basically followed the pattern of the Jewish synagogues out of which they developed. (O’Malley JW. A History of the Popes. Sheed & Ward, 2009, p. 11)

It should be pointed out that the Apostle John outlived Linus and some of the others considered to have been early “popes.” Thus, the above admission is consistent with the Church of God view that the leadership of the Christian church in the late first century was clearly in Asia Minor, and not Rome, as that is where the Apostle John was based.

The Apostle Paul noted that there were three leaders in Jerusalem during one of his visits there:

James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars (Galatians 2:9).

He undoubtedly listed James first because James was the leader who actually lived in Jerusalem (the others were mainly visiting then). But notice that Paul then listed Cephas, who is Peter, and then John. This may suggest that Paul considered that Peter, at that time, had higher authority, sometimes called primacy, than John then did. It also shows that Peter apparently conferred with John, hence Peter helped train him as a potential successor.

Now, possibly around 64-67 A.D., Peter was killed, hence he no longer held physical primacy over the remaining apostles.

As it turned out John greatly outlived Peter and is believed to have lived as late as 98-105 A.D. (he also outlived James).

John was an apostle, while the early leaders of Rome were only presbyters.

The Bible clearly teaches that apostles were first (1 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 “bishop of Rome” and supposedly had primacy over all Christianity after Peter died and while John was still alive. John would have held the mantle of Christian leadership.

Note that Paul wrote:

And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28).

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).

And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors: (Ephesians 4:11, Rheims New Testament).

And since the Bible teaches that the true church is first led by apostles and other positions are lower ranked, there is no way that the Apostle John would have been below any bishop (essentially a pastor) in rank–Note that although the Bible uses the Greek term for pastor more than the one for bishop, it seems to show that the terms are interchangeable (see 1 Peter 2:25).

Hence, after Peter died (as well as the other apostles), it is clear that the one true successor–who had been appointed by Christ Himself–would be the Apostle John (the last of the original apostles to die) and that true apostolic successors would probably have had contact with him. John was the successor to Peter. This is consistent with the Bible.

It should also be mentioned that none of the Roman Bishops took the title Pope until the late 4th century, so there is no way that Linus was Pope Linus. It is also not clear that the early leaders in Rome were called ‘bishop’ prior to Anicetus in the mid-second century A.D.

Furthermore, presuming Linus was a faithful Christian leader, he would have held beliefs much more consistent with the Continuing Church of God than the Church of Rome. Those interested in the beliefs of the earliest Christians may wish to read the free documented book: Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church.

That being said, there likely was a genuine Church of God Christian leader in Rome named Linus who may have been an elder. Since there is no contemporary biblical nor other historical evidence that Rome had a bishop over it then, etc. Linus was certainly not the “Bishop of Rome” who somehow supposedly succeeded the Apostle Peter. Catholics and others might be surprised to learn that the first known “Bishop of Rome” did not take that title until the mid-second century and that title “Pope” or Pontificus Maximus was not taken by the bishops of Rome until the late fourth century.

Some items of possibly related interest may including the following:

“Pope” Linus (67-76)…He is claimed to be the first to take up the inheritance from Peter, but he is omitted from Tertullian’s list. There is a Linus mentioned in the Bible. For some information about him in the Spanish language, check out Linus no fue obispo de Roma.
Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church. Did the original “catholic church” have doctrines held by the Continuing Church of God? Did Church of God leaders uses the term “catholic church” to ever describe the church they were part of? Here are links to related sermons: Original Catholic Church of God? , Original Catholic Doctrine: Creed, Liturgy, Baptism, Passover, and What Type of Catholic was Polycarp of Smyrna?, Tradition, Holy Days, Salvation, Dress, & Celibacy, and Early Heresies and Heretics, and Doctrines: 3 Days, Abortion, Ecumenism, Meats, Tithes, Crosses, Destiny, and more, and Saturday or Sunday?
Was Peter the Rock Who Alone Received the Keys of the Kingdom? How should Matthew 16:18-19 be understood?
The Apostle Peter He was an original apostle and early Christian leader. Where was Peter buried? Where did Peter die?
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. Is telling the truth about the early church citing Catholic accepted sources anti-Catholic? This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Laying on of Hands This is an elementary principle of Hebrews 6. Have you properly had hands laid upon you? Here is a link to a related sermon: Laying on of Hands and Succession.
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter! Here is a link to a sermon: Claims of Apostolic Succession. Here is a related articlein the Spanish language La sucesión apostólica. ¿Ocurrió en Roma, Alejandría, Constantinopla, Antioquía, Jerusalén o Asia Menor?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Herbert W. Armstrong, the Philadelphia Church, & the Mantle Herbert Armstrong claims God had him raise the Philadelphia up. Are there reasons to believe that the Philadelphia mantle in now within the CCOG? Here is a link to a related sermon: Herbert W. Armstrong and the Philadelphia Mantle.
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
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? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?
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 Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links 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 and Continuing History of the Church of God: 17th-20th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, French: L’Histoire Continue de l’Église de Dieu and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

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