An Exchange on the Papacy and Early Church History

An Exchange on the Papacy
and Early Church History

By: Matt1618

This is an exchange that I had on a Message Board. The person went by the name of Shammah, and his comments are in red. My response is in Blue.

I would like to first express my deepest gratitude to men like Christophorus, known to us as Ignatius of Antioch, to Polycarp of Smyrna, to Origen and to the one holy and catholic church that they were a part of and whose Spirit has been passed on to us their descendants.

If you do, then why don’t you hold to the faith that they expressed? They all held to what the Roman Catholic church teaches. Ignatius in his letter wrote to the church in Rome that "Presides in Love." Ignatius mentions this Church as the Church that teaches the whole world. He teaches of the necessity and binding authority of bishops who have the authority to pass on down the truth, and only through them would there be a valid Eucharist, for example. He writes that those who do not confess that the Eucharist is actually the flesh and blood of Christ, are heterodox, for example. He shows that only those in communion with the Bishops established by Jesus and his successors are those validly in this Church.

That done, I would like to express in the fiercest terms that I consider it a grave insult that such men and such a church would be labelled "Roman Catholic" and have to bear the infamy of men devoid of their Spirit. It is true that the much later RCC is legitimately the physical descendant of the original catholic church, but that is meaningless, because it is in no way their spiritual descendants.

Correction - They celebrated the Eucharist as the true flesh and blood of Christ, and saw the Eucharist in terms of sacrifice. They had authoritative Bishops whose authority was binding, just as the Bible teaches (Mt. 18:18, Acts 15). As Ignatius wrote, outside the authority of the Bishops, there was no Catholic Church. Jesus Christ could not be separated from that Church. When Polycarp was martyred, his bones were used as relics (similar to the bones of Elisha in the Old Testament), and were used in commemoration when the Eucharist Sacrifice was celebrated.)

The early Fathers all held to infant baptism as the Church teaches and all held to Baptismal Regeneration, exactly as the Roman Catholic Church teaches. These Church Fathers held to the teachings that are condemned by Protestants and/or whatever sect you are. That is just for starters, and we thus are the spiritual descendents.

Some historical facts:
1.) Clement of Rome, supposedly the third pope, used bishops (overseers) in the plural interchangeably with presbyters (elders), just as Paul and Peter did, indicating the early Roman practice of multiple bishops, not one bishop who was a pope. He didn't even sign his name to his letter, because it was from the church at Rome, not himself as some pope (1 Clement 42,44).

Correction - He definitely wrote the letter by himself. All the Church Fathers who ever referred to this letter, always saw Pope Clement as the author. They never mentioned it as being written by multiple bishops. If the fact that he did not specifically sign the letter proves that he didn’t write the letter by himself, then do you believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote the Gospels? None of them signed the Gospels. Or do you think that each of the Gospels were written by a bunch of editors, as a lot of bogus scholarship claims? The same Apostolic oral tradition that verifies the authorship of the Gospels, also verify that Clement himself wrote the letter. If Rome had no universal authority, why was this letter written, and warned that anybody who disobeyed what was written in this letter by the Pope, was committing a grave sin? Why was this letter from Corinth referred to Rome at all, if there was no such authority? Why was a living apostle, John, ignored, who actually lived closer to the Church in Corinth? Because Pope Clement had such authority.

2.) Ignatius wrote seven letters, most to John's churches which had one bishop. He emphasized submission to the bishop in almost every paragraph. No such admonition was given in his letter to Rome, the only one of Paul's churches to whom he wrote, which would have had many bishops. The same is true of Polycarp's letter to the Philippians, which addresses only elders and deacons.

Correction - So you admit that only those in communion with the Bishops are those fully in union with Christ. Do you have Bishops in your 20th century sect that can be traced to these successors, as our Church can? Any simple reading of the introduction of the letter of Ignatius to Rome will see the unique honor that Ignatius gives to the Church of Rome. For a quick correction of the idea that no one had to submit to Rome, from Chapter 3 of this letter he writes "Ye have never envied anyone; ye have taught others. Now I desire that those things may be confirmed by your conduct, which in your instructions ye enjoin on others

3.) Cyprian, often quoted as saying the bishop occupies Peter's seat, believed that about every bishop, not just the Roman one. He even called a council of 82 bishops (c. AD 250) that renounced bishop Stephen of Rome's decision concerning the rebaptism of heretics. That council also specifically denounced Stephen's claim to be a bishop over other bishops. (The proceedings of that council can be found in vol. 5 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers series, published by Eerdmans and Hendricksons)

Correction - Cyprian specifically referred to the Chair only of Peter, and how one must be in union with that Chair. One example:"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says , ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it… And again He says to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep’ John 21:17. On him he builds the Church. …and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith?" Juergens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1, p. 220. That is just for starters. Yes, later on he did make a mistake by calling other errant Bishops and Councils, just like there were other heretical Councils held in making errant claims on Christology (All Christians will affirm that those Councils were bogus, errant, and the Pope was right on the issues of Christology, against Nestorian, Monophysites, and Arians). But the decision of this errant council made by Cyprian did not hold sway, and Christendom down through the ages hold that Pope Stephen was correct on the issue. BTW, the very fact that the erring Bishops condemned Pope Stephen for him asserting authority over all the Bishops show indeed that this authority was asserted. The fact that Pope Stephen’s view is the one that was held by all succeeding generations show this Primacy.

4.) Augustine (writing c. AD 400), in his work Against Donatus, agreed with Stephen against Cyprian on rebaptizing heretics. He apologized for disagreeing with so great a bishop as Cyprian, but never even bothered to mention that a supposed pope like Stephen agreed with him.

Correction - Just because one time he does not mention Pope Stephen, does not do away with the numerous statements that St. Augustine made in regards to the primacy of the Papacy. Just one quick example: Epistle xlii, "The Roman Church, in which the Primacy of the Apostolic See has always been in force. If one wants to see a debate with a Catholic and Protestant debate the issue of particularly Augustine, but also other Church Fathers and their view of the Papacy, see It shows without a doubt the primacy of the Pope in the early church.

5) Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome about AD 600, wrote a letter to John of Constantinople saying that it was blasphemy for John to claim the title of universal bishop. He said it was offered to the Roman bishop by an earlier council, but no Roman bishop would take such a title because it is not right to do so.

Correction - A Cannard often used by Protestants with no sense of history or the role of Bishops. In fact, Pope Gregory did not deny his primacy in that letter. The Roman Catholic Church has never asserted that the Pope is the only Bishop in the Church. Pope Gregory rightly showed that he was not the only bishop in the Church, and he corrected this notion in this very letter. Nevertheless, Pope Gregory asserted his Primacy on many occasions. For example, Pope Gregory wrote:
"Yet I exhort thee that, as long as some time of life remains for thee, thy soul may not be found to be divided from the church of the blessed Peter, to whom the keys of the heavenly kingdom were entrusted and the power of binding and loosing was granted, lest if his benefit be despised down here, he may close up the entrance to life up there." (Gregory, The Great Epistles, B IV, Ep. 41), in J.P. Migne. Pope Gregory recognized his own universal authority on many other occasions.

Later bishops of Rome did take that title, but I think I have offered sufficient proof that there was no pope, and thus no Roman Catholic Church, up to and through AD 600.

Correction- Not even close, as this very brief look at history has shown. A good example of the authority of this primacy can be shown most clearly from very early in Church History. St. Irenaeus studied under St. Polycarp, who studied directly under St. John the Apostle. He writes that those who are heretics are those who stray apostolic tradition (He definitely knew nothing of this idea of Bible Alone). And he also elaborates on which is the Church that has the authority:

Refutation of Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 1. 1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in very Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about.

3. 2." Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority(3) that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

3. 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. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spake with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the apostolical tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Sorer having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth."

Notice that St. Ireneaus named each of the successors of Peter, and the Church of Rome had all the authority to preserve this truth. One must be in union with this church to be in union with this true, Apostolic tradition. He also confirmed Pope Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, and he was the authority behind that letter, and that this letter was an example of Rome’s authority. So we see so early in the life of the Church, the fact of the primacy of the Church (and btw, notice that each of the successors were named one by one, and he did not mention that there were a bunch of Bishops in Rome who ruled at the same time, as alleged earlier). Everyone who denies this denies history.

Yes, when the RCC did come along, they did preserve the Bible. However, if they hadn't been killing the people who disagreed with them, then those martyrs would have preserved the Bible instead. I will not thank the RCC for murdering their competition in the art of Bible preservation.

Correction - As Luther said, without the RCC, no one would have had the Bible. This sham view of history has been exposed. The RCC did not murder their competition and which heresy would you like to have lined yourself up with? The Gnostics, who denied that Jesus came in the flesh? How about the Montanists, who said their Montanus was an incarnation of the Holy Spirit, and said if one committed a major sin, that person could never get forgiveness. Or the Arians, or the Monophsyte, Sabellians, or others who had Christological errors. Or the Pelagians? BTW, who in the early church in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, centuries, have your specific beliefs, and name me the Bishops that were in there that represented your church. I saw nowhere St. Irenaeus mention "The Kingdom of Yah in Bethel Springs, Tn."

Jesus established the Church as the Pillar and foundation of Truth. Your sect shows the byproduct of people reading the Bible on their own, and coming to their own conclusions apart from the truth that has been preserved for 2000 years. You are one of thousands of sects that will come and go. But Christ’s Church will last forever.



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