Monday, June 30, 2014

5 Early Christians on the Papacy

Yesterday was the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. In honor of our first supreme pontiff, here are five early Christians on the unique role of the Bishop of Rome. These are all quotes from Christians living within the first 10 or so generations after the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. These aren't medieval Christians witnessing to some late accretion to the faith. All of these writers are also writing before the birth of the Emperor Constantine (AD 272), thus making clear that the unique role of the Petrine office was not an invention of the emperor. The first entry on this list even shows a pope in the first century acting as supreme head of the Church, writing with authority outside of his own diocese.

1. Pope St. Clement I 
(circa AD 70, less than 40 years from the death of Christ)
Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and calamitous events that have happened to us, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points about which you consulted us; and especailly to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, that a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy that your venerable and illustrious name... has suffered grievous injury....Joy and gladness you will afford us, if you become obedient to the words written by us and through the Holy Spirit root out the lawless wrath of your jealousy according to the intercession we have made for peace and unity in this letter.
(Letter to the Corinthians, I, 14, 63)

2. Hermas of Rome 
(circa AD 80, less than 50 years from the death of Christ)
"You will write two books, and you will send the one to Clemens (the Bishop of Rome) and the other to Grapte. And Clemens will send his to foreign countries, for permission has been granted to him to do so. (The Shepherd 1:2:4)

3. St. Ignatius of Antioch 
(circa AD 110, less than 80 years from the death of Christ)
"Ignatius... to... the Church that is beloved and elightened by the will of him that wills all things according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, that presides in the place of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worth of being deemed holy, and that presides over love, and is named from Christ, and from the Father.
(Letter to the Romans, Greeting)

4. St. Irenaeus of Lyons 
(circa AD 189, less than 160 years from the death of Christ)
Since, however it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the churches, we put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vanity, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings, by indicating that Tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and the universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; also the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the succession of bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every church agree with this church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, in so far as apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those who exist everywhere.
(Against Heresies, 3:3:2)

5. St. Cyprian of Carthage 
(circa AD 251, less than 220 years from the death of Christ)
If anyone considers and examines these things, there is no need for a long discussion and arguments. There is easy proof of faith in a short summary of the truth.... a primacy was given to Peter, by which it is made clear that there is one Church and one chair.... If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he think that he holds the faith? If he deserts the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he be confident that he is in the Church?
(Treatsie 1:4)

San Pietro a Roma
St. Peter, pray for the unity of all Christians

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