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Particulars of Christianity:
301 Roman Catholicism


Roman Catholicism (Part 6)

Roman Catholicism (Part 1)
Roman Catholicism (Part 2)
Roman Catholicism (Part 3)
Roman Catholicism (Part 4)
Roman Catholicism (Part 5)
Roman Catholicism (Part 6)
Roman Catholicism (Part 7)
Roman Catholicism (Part 8)
Roman Catholicism (Part 9)
Roman Catholicism (Part 10)
Roman Catholicism (Part 11)
Roman Catholicism (Part 12)
Addendum: In Their Own Words



(Continued from previous section.)

It has been argued by Roman Catholics that Irenaeus' appeal to the Roman Church constitutes evidence of the primacy of this Church's bishop. However, that this is not Irenaeus' intention is made clear by the context of his entire argument.

As the Catholic Encyclopedia correctly observes Irenaeus' comments on this matter come as a part of an argument he makes against Gnostic heretics. Here, Irenaeus' intention is to show Gnostic doctrine to be in error and fraudulent because the teachings of the Church can be traced directly back to the Apostles, while that of the Gnostics could not. In doing so, Irenaeus inherently affirms that the beliefs and teaching of any group can be affirmed or rejected by direct comparison to the apostles themselves. For, what good is it to trace one's doctrines back to the apostles while simultaneously contradicting or ignoring the very things taught by the apostles? Rather, since what is significant is whether the teaching of any group did originate with the apostles, it is important that such teaching remain in perfect, uncorrupted agreement with the teachings of the apostles. And to the extent that the RCC itself deviates from the things taught by the apostles, it too would be disproved.

Here is the whole of Irenaeus' comments on this matter. We apologize for the length of the quote, but it is necessary so readers can clearly see for themselves that Irenaeus is in no way arguing for supremacy of authority of the Roman bishops.

"1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every 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. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to "the perfect" apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.      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 pre- eminent authority,(3) that is, the faithful every-416 where, 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.      4. But 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, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom,(1) departed this life, having 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 down to the present time,--a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,--that, namely, which is handed down by the Church.(2) There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me?" "I do know thee, the first-born of Satan." Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, "A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."(3) There is also a very powerful(4) Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles." - Irenaeus, CHAP. III.--A REFUTATION OF THE HERETICS, FROM THE FACT THAT, IN THE VARIOUS CHURCHES, A PERPETUAL SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS WAS KEPT UP.

We begin our analysis of Irenaeus' argument by noting that he starts out with an appeal to the power inherent to every individual Church to contemplate the traditions of the Apostles, which were manifested throughout the whole world. Because of this, he notes, that they were all in a position to reckon those who were appointed by the Apostles to be the bishops of the Churches, not only in Rome, but throughout the world.

"1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every 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;" - Irenaeus, CHAP. III.--A REFUTATION OF THE HERETICS, FROM THE FACT THAT, IN THE VARIOUS CHURCHES, A PERPETUAL SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS WAS KEPT UP.

By these words, Irenaeus indicates that the Roman Church was not alone and that his appeal to the succession of Apostolic teaching was universal rather than localized and limited to the Church at Rome.

Irenaeus continues by speaking further of the appointment of these bishops who succeeded the Apostles.

"For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity." - Irenaeus, CHAP. III.--A REFUTATION OF THE HERETICS, FROM THE FACT THAT, IN THE VARIOUS CHURCHES, A PERPETUAL SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS WAS KEPT UP.

Notice that Irenaeus is here describing his understanding of Apostolic Succession and notice also that it does not include the Roman Catholic notion of a supreme papal succession from Peter to the bishops of Rome. If Irenaeus understood such a convention as Roman Catholics argue that he did, why is any mention of it conspicuously absent from his discussion of Apostolic Succession? Rather than affirming the papal succession of the RCC, Irenaeus denies its existence by instead identifying Apostolic Succession, not solely with a supreme bishop of Rome from Peter, but of the bishops in all the Churches from all of the Apostles.

Also, note that Irenaeus makes the governance appointed by the Apostles to their successors conditional upon their remaining perfect and blameless in regard to the Apostolic Traditions that they passed on to them. Irenaeus also makes it possible for the apostles' successors to fall away by deviating from the apostles' own teaching. Apostolic authority in Irenaeus' mind did not include a blind and unconditional appointment to power as the Roman Catholic Church asserts.

Though Irenaeus opens by clearly expressing his view that ultimately it was the Apostolic Traditions held by all of the Churches, which demonstrated the fraudulent nature of Gnostic teaching, he admits that to document all of these successions of bishops would take too much time. His solution is to limit his discussion only to the bishops of the Church at Rome.

"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." - Irenaeus, CHAP. III.--A REFUTATION OF THE HERETICS, FROM THE FACT THAT, IN THE VARIOUS CHURCHES, A PERPETUAL SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS WAS KEPT UP.

So, Irenaeus is not arguing against the Gnostics by appealing to the supreme and singular authority held by the Roman Church as the successors of Peter. Instead, he appeals to the legitimacy of the Roman Church, not because it is the heir of Peter's papal authority, but because it is substantiated by both Peter and Paul as its founders and because Irenaeus does not have the time to write down the arguments for the reliability of all the Churches.

Before preceding to list the succession of Roman bishops, which we have discussed above, Irenaeus makes the following comment about the Roman Church.

"For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority,(3) that is, the faithful every-416 where, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere." - Irenaeus, CHAP. III.--A REFUTATION OF THE HERETICS, FROM THE FACT THAT, IN THE VARIOUS CHURCHES, A PERPETUAL SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS WAS KEPT UP.

This remark, taken out of context, has been used by Roman Catholics as evidence of a 2nd century witness to papal authority and Roman primacy. However, by placing this comment in its context we see that Irenaeus is doing no such thing.

It is true that the Church of Rome must have been held as having a high degree of reliability with regard to its doctrine. But Irenaeus credits the reason for this to the fact that the Roman church had been founded by Peter and Paul, not merely because it was the heir to Roman primacy as Roman Catholics contend. Notice, the second part of Irenaeus' comment here. After speaking of the pre-eminent authority of the Roman Church, he clearly articulates that it is not Roman Catholic primacy that he has in mind. Instead of letting his comment simply be that every Church should agree with the Church at Rome because of its authority, he clarifies by referring back to his opening remarks. In context Irenaeus is saying: "…every Church should agree with this [Roman] Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority…inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those who exist everywhere."

So, Irenaeus' reason that every Church should agree with the authority of Roman is that the Apostolic Tradition has been preserved everywhere in every Church, just as he stated at the beginning of his arguments. Thus, because all churches founded by the apostles should have the doctrine of the apostles, it is necessary only to trace the doctrine in one particular church. Because they are founded with the same teaching, all other churches of apostolic origin would necessarily have the same doctrine. Therefore, it is not necessary for Irenaeus to take time to trace the apostolic succession in every church, only one. And for this purpose, he chooses Rome because both Peter and Paul were there. In saying this Irenaeus again does not exhibit any support for the Roman Catholic claim of Roman primacy and supreme authority over doctrine, but instead, denies it by distributing the authority to the universal Church, rather to the local Church at Rome, using Rome only as an example of what was widely held in apostolic churches "everywhere."

Irenaeus' closing remarks unequivocally demonstrate the continuity of his arguments as an appeal to the Apostolic Tradition preserved in all of the Churches and not just the Church at Rome while using Rome as one example. Just after concluding his list of the bishops of Rome, he goes on to make the following remarks in finishing his argument.

"4. But 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, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom,(1) departed this life, having 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 down to the present time,--a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,--that, namely, which is handed down by the Church.(2)…There is also a very powerful(4) Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth." - Irenaeus, CHAP. III.--A REFUTATION OF THE HERETICS, FROM THE FACT THAT, IN THE VARIOUS CHURCHES, A PERPETUAL SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS WAS KEPT UP.

So, besides including Paul along with Peter as the founder and father of the Church at Rome and besides making a general appeal to Apostolic Traditions preserved in all of the Churches, Irenaeus concludes by making a specific appeal to the Apostolic Tradition preserved by Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, as handed down from John the Apostle. Besides his mention of Clement's letter to the Corinthians as he discussed the reliability of the Roman Church's teaching, he here mentions Polycarp's letter to the Philippians as an exhibition of the reliability of the Apostolic Tradition Polycarp received from John.

And finally, Irenaeus concludes with an appeal to the Apostolic Tradition preserved in Ephesus from both John and Paul.

"Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles. - Irenaeus, CHAP. III.--A REFUTATION OF THE HERETICS, FROM THE FACT THAT, IN THE VARIOUS CHURCHES, A PERPETUAL SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS WAS KEPT UP.

So, by pointing to Paul, John, Peter, Polycarp, and Clement and the Churches of Smyrna, Ephesus, and Rome we see that Irenaeus argument against the Gnostics is based on his appeal to the Apostolic authority possessed and exhibited in all of the Churches. It is not an appeal to the primacy or supreme authority of the Roman Church as Roman Catholics claim. His emphasis on the Roman Church is simply a matter of convenience. Because he doesn't have to present the Apostolic succession of all churches, he chooses instead to mention only a few whose doctrine is reliable and whose succession can quickly be traced and recognized. Rome is merely one example among a group of sufficient churches used for the sake of conserving space, but any of the others would have worked equally well according to Irenaeus.

There are a few other quotes from Irenaeus that touch on this issue of papal superiority and Peter as the head of the apostles. We will cover these momentarily and explain their relevance. But before we do we should also make note of another odd argument that is expressed in the above quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia involving the reasons they offer for why, as they conclude, the second century does not provide much evidence.

"The Pope - In the second century we cannot look for much evidence. With the exception of Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement of Alexandria, all the writers whose works we possess are apologists against either Jews or pagans. In works of such a character there was no reason to refer to such a matter as Peter's Roman episcopate. Irenaeus, however, supplies us with a cogent argument." - Catholic Encyclopedia

According to this quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which we saw earlier, the reason that the second century does not provide much evidence to support papal authority is chiefly because "all the writers whose works we possess are apologists against either Jews or pagans" and because "in works of such a character there was no reason to refer to such a matter as Peter's Roman episcopate."

But, why, we must ask does would apologetic works made toward Jewish or pagan objections have "no reason to refer to…Peter's Roman episcopate?" Consider this question in light of the primary and first proof that they offer from this period.

Immediately after claiming that 2nd century apologists would have "no reason to refer to…Peter's Roman episcopate" as an explanation for the absence of support from this period, the Catholic Encyclopedia then offers as its main evidence from this time the arguments of the apologist Irenaeus.

While we disagree with the Catholic Encyclopedia that Irenaeus in any way adds support to their views, their appeal to him constitutes a notable contradiction. On the one hand they claim that 2nd century apologists had no reason to refer to Peter's papal authority. Then they immediately turn around and argue for support of "the primacy of Peter's Roman episcopate" from a prominent 2nd century apologist. If nothing else then, by appealing to an apologist after just stating that apologists have no reason to refer to this topic, the Catholic Encyclopedia has undermined their own explanation for why the 2nd century provides no evidence to support Peter's Roman authority.

By offering Irenaeus' apology to Gnosticism as proof of both Peter's Roman episcopate and Roman primacy the Catholic Encyclopedia has, in fact, argued how useful it would have been for 2nd century apologist to refer to papal authority to refute heretics just as they claim that Irenaeus did. In doing so they force us to revisit the question. If 2nd century apologists, such as Irenaeus, did find it useful to appeal to Roman primacy and Peter's Roman episcopate then why doesn't the 2nd century provide much support in favor of this Roman Catholic doctrine? Given the usefulness that an appeal to Roman authority would have been to 2nd century apologists, like Irenaeus, the fact that 2nd century apologists do not appeal to this doctrine, as the Catholic Encyclopedia admits, strongly implies that no such doctrine was known to them otherwise we might have expected them to employ it in their argumentation, just as the Catholic Encyclopedia erroneously suggests Irenaeus is doing. Since, they did not we must assume that papal authority was unavailable to them. Or in other words, they could not and did not appeal to this doctrine because no such doctrine existed in the 2nd century Church.

As we leave Irenaeus' writings we will mention briefly a few other comments he makes that have some bearing on the question of Peter's supposed supremacy and authority.

In the section quoted below Irenaeus is refuting the suggestion, made by some heretics, that Paul was the only apostle who had a complete knowledge of the truth. He argues that Peter must also have had complete knowledge. By quoting Matthew 16:17, Irenaeus establishes that God also revealed truth to Peter.

"2. And again, the Lord replied to Philip, who wished to behold the Father, 'Have I been so long a time with you, and yet thou hast not known Me, Philip? He that sees Me, sees also the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? For I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; and henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him.' (3) To these men, therefore, did the Lord bear witness, that in Himself they had both known and seen the Father (and the Father is truth). To allege, then, that these men did not know the truth, is to act the part of false witnesses, and of those who have been alienated from the doctrine of Christ. For why did the Lord send the twelve apostles to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,(4) if these men did not know the truth? How also did the seventy preach, unless they had themselves previously known the truth of what was preached? Or how could Peter have been in ignorance, to whom the Lord gave testimony, that flesh and blood had not revealed to him, but the Father, who is in heaven?(5) Just, then, as 'Paul [was] an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father,'(6) [so with the rest;] (7) the Son indeed leading them to the Father, but the Father revealing to them the Son." - Irenaeus, CHAP. XIII--REFUTATION OF THE OPINION, THAT PAUL WAS THE ONLY APOSTLE WHO HAD KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.

Noting that the purpose of Irenaeus argument is to show that other Apostles, besides Paul, understood the teachings of Jesus Christ, we see that Irenaeus seeks to make Peter equal with Paul. By referring the reader to Matthew 16:17, Irenaeus establishes that Peter received divine revelation from God the Father. His point is to compare Peter's experience with Paul's, wherein Paul was called by divine command and personally addressed by Jesus Christ while on the road to Damascus (Acts 9, Galatians 1:1). The result is that Irenaeus argues to establish Peter as equal with Paul and at no time discusses Peter's superior authority or papal commission, even when mentioning Matthew 16:17. Or to put it another way, Irenaeus is interpreting Peter receiving revelation in Matthew 16:17 in light of Paul receiving revelation and as being of the same caliber as the revelation received by Paul, making the two men equal as vessels of revelation. Thus, Irenaeus makes Peter's receiving revelation in Matthew 16:17 of no special status above the way that other apostles, such as Paul, received revelation.

If Irenaeus wished to refute those who demoted Peter improperly he surely would have invoked Peter's papal authority on this matter. That he does not strongly implies that no such papal authority was known by Irenaeus. Likewise, Irenaeus' mention of Matthew 16:17 in order to speak of Peter's legitimacy in the teachings of Christ also occurs without any indication of the Roman Catholic interpretation that in this passage Jesus placed Peter in a position of authority over the whole Church and as the head of the Apostles. Again, Irenaeus' failure to mention this critical Roman Catholic interpretation while discussing this very passage and Peter's validity as an Apostle of Christ plainly implies that either the Roman Catholic interpretation was not known to Irenaeus or, even if it was known to him, he did not subscribe to it.

In fact, Irenaeus refers to Jesus' remarks to Peter in Matthew 16:17 at least two other times in his writings. In neither case does Irenaeus indicate anything resembling papal authority.

"4. The Lord Himself, too, makes it evident who it was that suffered; for when He asked the disciples, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?'(16) and when Peter had replied, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;' and when he had been commended by Him [in these words], 'That flesh and blood had not revealed it to him, but the Father who is in heaven,' He made it clear that He, the Son of man, is Christ the Son of the living God. 'For from that time forth,' it is said, 'He began to show to His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, 447 and suffer many things of the priests, and be rejected, and crucified, and rise again the third day.'(1) He who was acknowledged by Peter as Christ, who pronounced him blessed because the Father had revealed the Son of the living God to him, said that He must Himself suffer many things, and be crucified; and then He rebuked Peter, who imagined that He was the Christ as the generality of men supposed(2) [that the Christ should be], and was averse to the idea of His suffering, [and] said to the disciples, 'If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose it for My sake shall save it.'(3) For these things Christ spoke openly, He being Himself the Saviour of those who should be delivered over to death for their confession of Him, and lose their lives." - Irenaeus, CHAP. XVIII.--CONTINUATION OF THE FOREGOING ARGUMENT. PROOFS FROM THE WRITINGS OF ST. PAUL, AND FROM THE WORDS OF OUR LORD, THAT CHRIST AND JESUS CANNOT BE CONSIDERED AS DISTINCT BEINGS; NEITHER CAN IT BE ALLEGED THAT THE SON OF GOD BECAME MAN MERELY IN APPEARANCE, BUT THAT HE DID SO TRULY AND ACTUALLY.

"8. Wherefore also Moses giving a type, cast his rod upon the earth,(6) in order that it, by becoming flesh, might expose and swallow up all the opposition of the Egyptians, which was lifting itself up against the pre-arranged plan of God;(7) that the Egyptians themselves might testify that it is the finger of God which works salvation for the people, and not the son of Joseph. For if He were the son of Joseph, how could He be greater than Solomon, of greater than Jonah,(8) or greater than David,(9) when He was generated from the same seed, and was a descendant of these men? And how was it that He also pronounced Peter blessed, because he acknowledged Him to be the Son of the living God?(10)" - Irenaeus, CHAP. XXI.--A VINDICATION OF THE PROPHECY IN ISAIAH (VII. 14) AGAINST THE MISINTERPRETATIONS OF THEODOTION, AQUILA, THE EBIONITES, AND THE JEWS. AUTHORITY OF THE SEPTUAGINT VERSION. ARGUMENTS IN PROOF THAT CHRIST WAS BORN OF A VIRGIN.

So, its not that early Church writers did not discuss Matthew 16:15-19 or that need did not arise to assert Peter's place as a legitimate Apostle of Christ. And yet, when discussing these matters, the Roman Catholic idea of papal authority being held by Peter is never mentioned. Though Irenaeus does note that Peter was blessed, it does not in any way follow that "blessed" means "given papal authority over the Church." The only way to interpret Irenaeus' comments on these matters in favor of the Roman Catholic position is to employ circular reasoning and biased presumptions. Since, such methods are inappropriate for those who wish to honestly understand history and Church doctrine, we must conclude that Irenaeus' failure to mention papal authority is a strong indication that it did not exist or that he did not accept this doctrine. We will have to revisit this issue as we examine other 1st and 2nd century documents and also find them to be devoid of statements supporting this foundational Roman Catholic teaching.

We should also note that while Irenaeus at no time speaks of Peter as being in a place of superiority over the Church or the other Apostles, he does repeatedly place Peter side by side with Paul as an Apostle in terms of both rank and soundness of doctrine.

"6. Some of his disciples, too, addicting themselves(2) to the same practices, have deceived many silly women, and defiled them. They proclaim themselves as being 'perfect,' so that no one can be compared to them with respect to the immensity of their knowledge, nor even were you to mention Paul or Peter, or any other of the apostles." - Irenaeus, CHAP. XIII.--THE DECEITFUL ARTS AND NEFARIOUS PRACTICES OF MARCUS.

"2. The soul, therefore, which is like that of Christ can despise those rulers who were the creators of the world, and, in like manner, receives power for accomplishing the same results. This idea has raised them to such a pitch of pride, that some of them declare themselves similar to Jesus; while others, still more mighty, maintain that they are superior to his disciples, such as Peter and Paul, and the rest of the apostles, whom they consider to be in no respect inferior to Jesus. For their souls, descending from the same sphere as his, and therefore despising in like manner the creators of the world, are deemed worthy of the same power, and again depart to the same place. But if any one shall have despised the things in this world more than he did, he thus proves himself superior to him." - Irenaeus, CHAP. XXV.--DOCTRINES OF CARPOCRATES.

Additionally, while Irenaeus does not identify Peter with the foundation rock of the Church spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 16:15-19, he does refer to Jesus' teachings in this manner.

"1. WE have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.(2)" - Irenaeus, CHAP. I.--THE APOSTLES DID NOT COMMENCE TO PREACH THE GOSPEL, OR TO PLACE ANYTHING ON RECORD, UNTIL THEY WERE ENDOWED WITH THE GIFTS AND POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. THEY PREACHED ONE GOD ALONE, MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.

With this last quote, we end our examination of Irenaeus having shown that he in no way can be said to demonstrate support for the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal authority. On the other hand, his statements when taken in context of his arguments reveal that he either was unaware of any such teaching or did not accept it as orthodox. Moreover, several arguments of his have been shown to even contradict the position of the RCC where, instead of appealing to papal authority or Roman primacy, Irenaeus attests to and appeals to the fact that Apostolic Tradition had been preserved in the universal Church and that Apostolic Succession was available in all of the Churches, of which Rome was merely one example.

After a fruitless appeal to Irenaeus, the Catholic Encyclopedia next turns to the writings of Clement for support of their papal doctrines. Thus, by appealing to Clement the Catholic Encyclopedia proceeds to offer what they claim is 1st century evidence of papal authority in the Church. This means that their sole claim of evidence from the 2nd century involved the writings of Irenaeus, which we have shown do not lend credibility to the Roman Catholic position.

Therefore, we arrive at the 1st century, non-canonical (not part of the Bible) writings of the early Church. We have now, in reverse order, examined the supposed 3rd and 2nd century evidence offered by the RCC in support of its papal doctrines and found it lacking. Likewise, we examined the New Testament, which comprises not only the majority of 1st century Church writings, but the authoritative writings of Church doctrine, and found that it too did not provide support for the Roman Catholic teaching on papal authority.

(Continued in next section.)