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Particulars of Christianity:
301 Roman Catholicism


Roman Catholicism (Part 7)

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.)

We are now entering into a very specific part of our survey. With the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians we begin a very small number of works, which themselves will only make a few remarks that may be relevant to our study of the origin of this Roman Catholic doctrine. Having then already looked at the 1st century Scriptural evidence as well as the evidence from the 3rd and 2nd century Traditional (non-Biblical early Church) writings and found them to be without validation for the views of the RCC, it would take a pretty explicit statement in order to now substantiate this doctrine on such a small portion of the available documentation. This is especially true since a very large portion of the potential evidence has already been shown to be at least indifferent to the subject. More likely, for those who are willing to make a reasonable assessment, it has been prohibitive of Roman Catholic teaching.

So, we turn now to Clement, who was, according to Irenaeus, a bishop of Rome. Clement wrote an epistle known as the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, which will be the subject of the Roman Catholic appeal. This epistle was written before the year 100 A.D. (Remember, of course, that the term "pope" was not used as an exclusive reference to the bishop of Rome until the eleventh century.)

"Clement I, Saint - or Clement of Rome, d. A.D. 97?, pope (A.D. 88?-A.D. 97?), martyr; successor of St. Cletus. He may have known the apostles Peter and Paul and was a highly esteemed figure in the church." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"The Pope - The first witness is St. Clement, a disciple of the Apostles, who, after Linus and Anacletus, succeeded St. Peter as the fourth in the list of popes. In his 'Epistle to the Corinthians', written in 95 or 96…" - Catholic Encyclopedia

Here, then, is the argument offered by the Catholic Encyclopedia based upon Clement's letter to the Corinthians.

"The Pope - The first witness is St. Clement, a disciple of the Apostles, who, after Linus and Anacletus, succeeded St. Peter as the fourth in the list of popes. In his "Epistle to the Corinthians", written in 95 or 96, he bids them receive back the bishops whom a turbulent faction among them had expelled. 'If any man', he says, 'should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger' (Ep. 59). Moreover, he bids them 'render obedience unto the things written by us through the Holy Spirit'. The tone of authority which inspires the latter appears so clearly that Lightfoot did not hesitate to speak of it as 'the first step towards papal domination (Clement 1:70).' Thus, at the very commencement of church history, before the last survivor of the Apostles had passed away, we find a Bishop of Rome, himself a disciple of St. Peter, intervening in the affairs of another Church and claiming to settle the matter by a decision spoken under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Such a fact admits of one explanation alone. It is that in the days when the Apostolic teaching was yet fresh in men's minds the universal Church recognized in the Bishop of Rome the office of supreme head." - Catholic Encyclopedia

Several conclusions drawn by the Catholic Encyclopedia must be challenged.

First, the Catholic Encyclopedia claims Clement to be the first witness to supremacy of the Roman bishopric from the earliest times. This is an astonishing acknowledgement especially since Clement's letter was only written in 95 or 96 A.D.

"The Pope - History bears complete testimony that from the very earliest times the Roman See has ever claimed the supreme headship, and that that headship has been freely acknowledged by the universal Church. We shall here confine ourselves to the consideration of the evidence afforded by the first three centuries." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"The Pope - The first witness is St. Clement, a disciple of the Apostles, who, after Linus and Anacletus, succeeded St. Peter as the fourth in the list of popes. In his "Epistle to the Corinthians", written in 95 or 96." - Catholic Encyclopedia

If then this later 1st century document is the first witness to the doctrine of Roman papal supremacy a question must be asked as to whether or not this is sufficient to demonstrate the origin of this Roman Catholic teaching with Jesus Christ over six decades earlier at about 30 A.D. Is a single document written over 60 years after the fact, by a second-hand witness asserting that he alone holds supreme authority in the Church enough to sufficiently establish that the doctrine he is asserting originated with Jesus Christ? (Of course, as we will see, Clement is not really making such a claim.)

Having demonstrated that the New Testament cannot be appealed to as providing support for papal supremacy, we would argue that even if Clement's letter is shown to indicate papal authority it would not be sufficient to demonstrate therefore, that this was the teaching of Jesus Christ or his apostles. It would remain entirely possible that this doctrine was elaborated or exaggerated by some later bishop of Rome such as Linus, Anacletus, or Clement himself in order to strengthen their power, perhaps even for virtuous reasons like preserving sound doctrine. So, even a firm statement of support for papal supremacy from Clement may not rise to the level of sufficiency for substantiating the claim of the RCC that this doctrine originated with the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Second, it must also be noted that while Clement certainly did succeed Linus and Anacletus as bishop of Rome, the evidence that the Catholic Encyclopedia has offered so far does not support that Peter was the first bishop of Rome. And though this conclusion has not be established from the evidence they have offered, the Catholic Encyclopedia is, nevertheless, more than willing to simply assume it to be true.

However, what we have seen is that while the Catholic Encyclopedia insists upon referring to Clement as the fourth bishop of Rome, Irenaeus simply calls him the third from the apostles. By this and other statements from Irenaeus we learned that either Peter and Paul shared the Roman bishopric or, more likely, that neither was denoted with the title of bishop since both held Apostolic title instead, which superceded the lesser title of bishop and, therefore, made the title of "bishop" unnecessary and perhaps inaccurate.

"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.

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

"Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews(3) in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church." - 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.

Third, while the Catholic Encyclopedia is quick to assert that Clement was "himself a disciple of Peter" the New Testament bears witnesses that Clement, like Linus, was a companion of Paul and NOT Peter. Below is Paul's letter to the Philippians indicating that Clement was one of his fellow workers followed by a quote from the Columbia Encyclopedia affirming this fact.

Philippians 4:3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

"Clement, in the Bible - in Philippians, one of Paul's coworkers. He is traditionally identified with St. Clement of Rome, the likely author of a letter written from there to the Corinthian church in c. A.D. 96." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

And again, as we have already seen earlier Irenaeus connects Linus and Clement to Paul and Peter rather than to just Peter as the Catholic Encyclopedia asserts.

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

Given these facts, we must ask why the Catholic Encyclopedia feels comfortable insisting that Clement was "himself a disciple of Peter." Indeed, it is accurate to say that Clement was a disciple of Peter. But it is inappropriate and misleading to refer to Clement as a disciple of Peter alone given that he was also a disciple of Paul, perhaps even more so since Clement was a companion of Paul's during his ministry. No such connection is attested to historically between Clement and Peter. By omitting Clement's relationship to Paul when discussing Clement as a disciple of Peter, the Catholic Encyclopedia gives the mistaken impression that Clement was solely Peter's disciple just as one would expect if Clement later succeeded Peter as pope.

The fact that Clement was either the disciple of both Paul and Peter and perhaps to a greater extent the disciple of Paul detracts from the Catholic Encyclopedia's argument as does their failure to mention this detail. Moreover, given that Irenaeus attests to Linus receiving the bishopric from both Peter and Paul (as we have seen), the fact that Clement was also strongly tied to Paul and not just Peter, further indicates that Paul and Peter together were the predecessors and mentors of the bishops of the Roman church including both Linus and Clement.

Fourth, we must note the meagerness of the quotation, by which the Catholic Encyclopedia expects to prove its doctrine. In arguing that Clement's First Epistle to the Corinthians provides "the first witness" of Roman papal supremacy, the Catholic Encyclopedia, again, is content to offer only two short quotes from the letter itself. Below are the sole quotes offered by the Catholic Encyclopedia, which they feel are sufficient to demonstrate that Clement is providing support for their doctrine.

"If any man should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger."

"…render obedience unto the things written by us through the Holy Spirit."

And what do we see in these quotes that would lead us to the conclusion that Clement is at all indicating Roman papal authority? Does he remind the Corinthians of the primacy of Peter? No. Does he remind the Corinthians that Peter was the first bishop of Rome? No. Does he remind the Corinthians of his authority as the Roman bishop? No.

By what means then does the Catholic Encyclopedia intend to convince us that Clement is by these words supporting Roman papal authority? Well, Clement does speak from a position of authority in telling the Corinthians to be obedient to the words spoken by God "through us." Likewise, he also, tells them to be obedient to the things written "by us" through the Holy Spirit.

While such phrases do certainly indicate that Clement had some authority as a bishop in a church, which just so happened to be at Rome, they do not indicate that Clement had more or less authority than any other bishop in any other church. Given the fact that all bishops exercised authority, showing that Clement was aware of his authority as a bishop is in no way equivalent to proving that Clement thought he had supreme authority above and beyond all other bishops. We have already seen from the example of Cyprian, who was the bishop of Carthage, that church congregations in one area would often appeal to the bishop of another area for instruction and decision in times of trouble.

"Cyprian, Saint - When in 254 two Spanish congregations (Mérida and León) appealed to him against a decision by Stephen to restore bishops who had lapsed during the persecution, he summoned a council to consider the case. The council decided that the congregations not only had a right but a duty to separate themselves from a cleric who had committed a deadly sin such as apostasy. Cyprian wrote (Letter 67) that the Holy Spirit was no longer in such a priest and that his sacraments would lead to perdition and not salvation." -Britannica.com

There is nothing in Clement's comments here that would indicate that something above and beyond what happened with Cyprian is taking place in Clement's letter to the Corinthians.

Furthermore, why does Clement speak using the plural pronoun us? If he was the pope, having all of the authority that Roman Catholics ascribe to that position, wouldn't Clement simply refer to himself as having this authority. Instead, he uses the pronoun "us" indicating that the authority he is referring to is shared by more than one person rather than in the singular person of the pope. So, how then do Roman Catholics use Clement's statements to support their papal doctrines?

Only by interpreting Clement's words in accordance with their own preconceived conclusions can Roman Catholics offer Clement's remarks as support for their doctrine. Only by assuming that by "through us" and "by us" Clement is referring to the Roman popes starting with Peter, then Linus, then Anacletus, and then himself would it be the case that Clement is advocating Roman papal authority. But Clement's remarks on their own do not even vaguely require this interpretation.

Nowhere in his letter does Clement indicate that the succession of Roman bishops is what he has in mind as he repeatedly refers to "us." Therefore in order to understand Clement as supporting the Roman Catholic position of Roman papal authority we first must assume the Roman Catholic understanding that the papal office did exist and was being exercised by Clement. This is circular reasoning pure and simple.

The critical question is whether the rest of Clement's letter indicates a special treatment of Peter and the Roman bishops or, instead, equates Peter and the Roman bishops with other Apostles and bishops.

In regard to this, we can see that Clement's letter does not indicate a special position of Peter, but instead mentions him alongside of Paul as pillars of the Church.

"But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes.(11) Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars[of the Church](3) have been persecuted and put to death.(12) Let us set before our eyes the illustrious(13) apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity,(14) compelled(15) to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west,(16) and suffered martyrdom under the prefects.(17) Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience." - Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, CHAP. V.--NO LESS EVILS HAVE ARISEN FROM THE SAME SOURCE IN THE MOST RECENT TIMES. THE MARTYRDOM OF PETER AND PAUL.

In this quote we see that not only does Clement place Peter and Paul on the same level as pillars of the Church, but that Clement identifies Peter as a pillar of the Church alongside Paul, rather than as the singular rock upon which the Church was to be built as Roman Catholics contend. So, Clement's reference to Peter here shows no sign of Roman Catholicism or of the RCC's doctrine of primacy for the bishop of Rome.

This next quote from Clement's letter speaks even more directly to the hierarchy of Apostles and bishops.

"The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from(4) the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so from(4) God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments,(5) then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established(6) in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit,(7) to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture(8) a certain place, "I will appoint their bishops s in righteousness, and their deacons(9) in faith."(10) - Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, CHAP. XLII.--THE ORDER OF MINISTERS IN THE CHURCH.

When presenting the order of ministers in the Church, Clement does not identify Peter or the Roman bishops as being in a place of pre-eminent authority as one would expect if the papal doctrines of the RCC are indeed valid. Instead of singling out Peter and the Roman bishops, and thereby giving a nod to Roman primacy, Clement only broadly mentions the Apostles together as a group as well as those they appointed as bishops and deacons. We must note that Clement is here discussing how the apostles appointed bishops to succeed them. Yet, there is no indication whatsoever of any papal office or supremacy of Peter or the bishopric of Rome as the RCC believes and teaches. This is strong evidence corroborating the conclusion that no such office was ever taught or exercised in the early Church and certainly that such an office is not indicated or supported by Clement.

Next Clement mentions the church at Rome, which he wrote from and was bishop over.

"THE Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied. Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us." - Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, CHAP CHAP. I.--THE SALUTATION. PRAISE OF THE CORINTHIANS BEFORE THE BREAKING FORTH OF SCHISM AMONG THEM.

Though we see that Clement indicates that the church of Corinth consulted the church of Rome on some matter, we see that Clement notes that this request was directed not to him singularly as the head of the Church and bishop of Rome, but was directed to what Clement again refers to with the plural pronouns "we" and "us." This is similar to his comments, which we discussed earlier, in which Clement also used the plural pronouns to refer to those whose words the Corinthians should obey.

"If any man should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger."

"…render obedience unto the things written by us through the Holy Spirit."

By reading these comments together as the Corinthians would have when they read the letter rather than by isolating some of them from the rest of the letter as the Catholic Encyclopdia does, Clement's intentions become clear. As the bishop of the Roman Church, Clement was writing the Corinthian Church concerning a matter that the Church at Corinth had consulted them (the entire Roman Church) about. In addressing the matter Clement tells the Corinthians to obey "the things written by us." The "us" to whom Clement is referring is the same "us" to whom the Corinthians had addressed their consultation. It is the elders of the Roman Church along with Clement for whom Clement is speaking as the head of their local body, the bishop of Rome, not the head of the universal church, the bishop of bishops. And again, this is very similar to the situation in which two Spanish congregations wrote seeking instruction and decision from Cyprian the bishop of Carthage, which even Roman Catholics will agree did not indicate that the Bishop of Carthage had supreme authority over the Church.

Therefore, it is apparent from Clement's statements that he does not have in mind some past succession of Roman bishops, who preceded him in times past and were now dead. Instead, he has in mind the elders of the Roman Church, who together with Clement as their head, ruled over that local Church. Again, there is nothing explicit or implied by Clement, which requires the conclusion arrived at by the RCC. Only if one first assumes the Roman Catholic position to be accurate can one override the plain intentions of Clement's letter, which by themselves provide no indication of Roman primacy.

In the next statement from his letter we see that Clement rebukes the Corinthians in the same way that Paul did for their tendency to esteem one Apostle above another. This error of the Corinthian church seems to be repeated by the Roman Catholics, who likewise esteem Peter above the other Apostles and early Church leaders. Clement, whom the RCC claims succeeded Peter as pope and who has nowhere even come close to affirming Roman Catholic dogma on these matters here he rebukes the Corinthians for just such behavior as is now exhibited in the RCC's papal doctrines.

"Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached?(2) Truly, under the inspiration(3) of the Spirit, he wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos,(4) because even then parties(5) had been formed among you. But that inclination for one above another entailed less guilt upon you, inasmuch as your partialities were then shown towards apostles, already of high reputation, and towards a man whom they had approved. But now reflect who those are that have perverted you, and lessened the renown of your far-famed brotherly love. It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession,(6) that such a thing should be heard of as that the most stedfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters. And this rumour has reached not only us, but those also who are unconnected(7) with us; so that, through your infatuation, the name of the Lord is blasphemed, while danger is also brought upon yourselves." - Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, CHAP. XLVII.--YOUR RECENT DISCORD IS WORSE THAN THE FORMER WHICH TOOK PLACE IN THE TIMES OF PAUL.

And finally, we should remember that Irenaeus mentions this letter of Clement to the Corinthians in his own writing. Irenaeus places no special emphasis on Clement's letter as an exercise of papal authority or Roman supremacy, but instead follows it by mentioning a similar letter, issued by Polycarp the bishop of Smyrna to the Philippians. He offers both letters side by side as evidence of the succession of Apostolic teaching in the universal Church without bestowing some hierarchical authority to Clement as the bishop of Rome. Note that Irenaeus reckons Clement's epistle to the Corinthians as being a work of the Church at Rome and not just of Clement. This supports our interpretation of Clement's use of plural pronouns throughout the letter as a reference to the entire Roman Church including its elders and himself rather than as a reference to the succession of Roman bishops.

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

"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…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.

Clement's epistle to the Corinthians provides no objective evidence in support of the papal doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Instead of supporting some special prominence to the bishops of Rome or to Peter, Clement's letter, instead, only provides evidence that Peter and the bishops of Rome and their writings carried the same authority as those of the Apostles Paul and John and as the other bishops, like Polycarp of Smyrna.

At the beginning of their argument the Catholic Encyclopedia informed their reader that they would begin proving the historical authenticity of the papal doctrines beginning in the 3rd century A.D. and then working their way back to the earlier periods of Christian history. However, after moving from the 2nd century apologist Irenaeus to the 1st century epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, which the Catholic Encyclopedia refers to as the first witness of Roman papal supremacy, the Catholic Encyclopedia again reverses order with two final appeals. The first of these final appeals is to an early 2nd century letter to Rome of Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch in 107 A.D. A second appeal is then made to events involving bishop Victor of Rome in the late 2nd century at around 189-198 A.D.

It is hard to understand these reversals in the course of a historical investigation. Since the Catholic Encyclopedia identifies Clement as the first witness to their doctrine of papal authority, why not start with him and work forward as they do after covering Clement's writing? What they do instead is to start with 3rd century writers, mention a single 2nd century writer (Irenaeus), then proceed to the sole 1st century witness (Clement), and then follow with two more 2nd century evidences (from Ignatius and Victor).

This is a very strange approach and so we again point out its oddity. The most readily identifiable reason for why a scholarly organization like the Catholic Encyclopedia would employ such an unnatural methodology is that the RCC is aware of the inadequacy of their argument. Thus, they approach the topic in this manner in hopes of confusing the readers with this questionable presentation and perhaps manage to use information from later periods in order to color the earlier-dating evidence, which on its own would not seem to support their teaching. Given that the principal dispute is whether or not the doctrine of papal supremacy originated in the earliest period of Church history this circuitous approach to a historical investigation is highly suspicious and at least implies that some less than honest scholarship is attempting to take advantage of the ignorance and biases of their audience.

Nevertheless, we will proceed with an examination of the writings of Ignatius. Ignatius was a disciple of John the Apostle who lived and wrote between 30 and 107 A.D.

"Ignatius of Antioch, Saint - d. c.107, bishop of Antioch and Christian martyr, called Theophorus [Gr.,= God-bearer]. He was probably a convert and a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. On his way to Rome to be martyred by the wild beasts of the amphitheater, he wrote the important letters to the churches in Rome and in Asia Minor, and to St. Polycarp. The seven epistles are an invaluable testimony to the beliefs and internal organization of the early Christians." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

In reference to a letter of Ignatius to the Church of Rome, the Catholic Encyclopedia makes the following claim.

"The Pope - A few years later (about 107) St. Ignatius of Antioch, in the opening of his letter to the Roman Church, refers to its presiding over all other Churches. He addresses it as 'presiding over the brotherhood of love [prokathemene tes agapes]' The expression, as Funk rightly notes, is grammatically incompatible with the translation advocated by some non-Catholic writers, 'pre-eminent in works of love.'" - Catholic Encyclopedia

Again, it is interesting to note that at this late stage of the investigation the Catholic Encyclopedia maintains its preference to state their own conclusions rather than to quote the actual statements of the authors in context, which they claim support those conclusions. Anyone who has spent any time reading the Catholic Encyclopedia online will realize that this lack of quotations is not a result of attempting to keep their articles brief. Many articles, while excessively long on words, are decisively short on quotes from original sources, that is when the original sources are ancient historians. Quotes from modern scholars often abound.

First, let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. If the bishop of Rome is supreme, why is the bishop of Antioch writing to instruct and administrate oversight to the church of Rome? This indicates what we've seen already in the case of Cyprian: that bishops of different regions at times would lend a hand to the oversight of churches in other areas. In the case of Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage gave oversight and instruction for churches in Spain during a time of need. Here with Ignatius, we see the bishop of Antioch giving oversight to the church of Rome. And in the case of Clement, we saw the bishop of Rome giving oversight to the church of Corinth.

The obvious fact that Ignatius even writes an instructive pastoral letter to Christians under the bishop of Rome does two important things. Ignatius' letter further corroborates this pattern of shared authority by bishops to help oversee areas in need. And Ignatius' letter demonstrates that the church of Rome was not under a supreme bishop because if it were, then it would not be in need of pastoral instruction from a bishop of a lesser authority, such as Antioch.

Momentarily we will look at several other writings from Ignatius by which we will demonstrate that he offers no support for Roman or papal primacy. However, because we have established a pattern, whereby the quotes of the Catholic Encyclopedia, when placed in context, do not support their claims, we will now do for ourselves what the Catholic Encyclopedia would not do for us. Let's take a look at Ignatius' words directly and see for ourselves if he's saying what the Catholic Encyclopedia would have us believe.

"Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High Father, and Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that willeth all things which are according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, which also presides in the place of the report of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worthy of being deemed holy,(2) and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father, which I also salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the San of the Father: to those who are united, both according to the flesh and spirit, to every one of His commandments; who are filled inseparably with the grace of God, and are purified from every strange taint, [I wish] abundance of happiness unblameably, in Jesus Christ our God. - The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans

Now, admittedly, Ignatius is writing a very long introductory sentence with a great deal of modifying phrases. So, let's break down what he is saying. Of course, Ignatius is writing this epistle to the church of Rome. He begins with the phrase "to the Church which has obtained mercy." We ask the question, "is the Roman church the only church which has obtained mercy?" By stating that the Roman church to whom he is writing had obtained mercy, did Ignatius intend to convey that it was unique in this regard? Did Ignatius intend to exclude the other churches as not having obtained mercy? Of course not. The Roman church is only one of many local churches who had obtained mercy.

Ignatius continues by calling the Roman church, "the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that willeth all things." Here again, we must ask if Ignatius meant hold out the church of Rome as unique in this regard to the exclusion of all the other churches so that only the church of Rome was beloved by God? Again, the answer is of course not. Ignatius is neither excluding other churches from this trait nor making the Roman church unique in this regard.

Since the previous traits that Ignatius ascribes to the Roman church are not unique to Rome and excluding of the other churches, why would we think that Ignatius' description of Rome as "presiding over love" or even "presiding over the brotherhood of love" is meant to be unique of Rome to the exclusion of the other churches? We shouldn't.

Furthermore, we would also note that Ignatius specifies that it is "the Church" which presides and not the bishop. This further explains Clement's use of the plural pronouns "us" and "we" when writing from Rome.

"THE Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied. Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us." - Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, CHAP CHAP. I.--THE SALUTATION. PRAISE OF THE CORINTHIANS BEFORE THE BREAKING FORTH OF SCHISM AMONG THEM.

Both Clement and Ignatius were referring to the collective authority invested in EACH local church including its elders rather than singularly in a unique successor of Peter in Rome.

Lastly, we should note that Ignatius specifies the particular place that is presided over. In his remarks here, Ignatius does not say that the presiding extends over the whole world. Instead, he writes plainly that the presiding is "in the place of the report of the Romans worthy of God." Ignatius' use of the word "also" is meant as "in addition" to the other 2 "which's." If we look at Ignatius' words in context he describes the church in Rome as the church "which has obtained mercy," "which is beloved," and "which also presides in Rome." In short, Ignatius is simply affirming that the Roman church has authority and presides over the Christians in the region of Rome. But, of course, this is no different than any other church, since the church of Corinth would preside over the region of Corinth and the church of Antioch, which Ignatius is bishop over, would preside over the region of Antioch.

Second, the idea of Rome presiding over the Church in no way indicates that it held a position of supreme authority over the Church. Consider that at the Council of Nicaea it was the Roman Emperor Constantine who presided over the affairs of the meeting. The bishop of Rome was not even present and is merely said to have sent to representatives in his place.

"Nicaea, Council of - (325), the first ecumenical council of the Christian church, meeting in ancient Nicaea (now Iznik, Tur.). It was called by the emperor Constantine I, an unbaptized catechumen, or neophyte, who presided over the opening session and took part in the discussions. He hoped a general council of the church would solve the problem created in the Eastern church by Arianism, a heresy first proposed by Arius of Alexandria that affirmed that Christ is not divine but a created being. Pope Sylvester I did not attend the council but was represented by legates." - Britannica.com

"Constantine I, Roman emperor - In 314 he convened a synod at Arles to regulate the Church in the West, and in 325 he convened and presided over a council at Nicaea to deal with the troubles over Arianism (see Nicaea, First Council of). Thus Constantine evolved the idea of the ecumenical council." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Nicaea, First Council of - 325, 1st ecumenical council, convened by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great to solve the problems raised by Arianism." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"First Council of Nicaea - The business of the Council having been finished Constantine celebrated the twentieth anniversary of his accession to the empire, and invited the bishops to a splendid repast, at the end of which each of them received rich presents. Several days later the emperor commanded that a final session should be held, at which he assisted in order to exhort the bishops to work for the maintenance of peace; he commended himself to their prayers, and authorized the fathers to return to their dioceses. The greater number hastened to take advantage of this and to bring the resolutions of the council to the knowledge of their provinces." - Catholic Encyclopedia

Does the fact that Constantine presided over this all-important early Church council mean that Constantine held authority over the Church and its doctrines? This may perhaps be the case, however, Roman Catholics must deny that Constantine's presiding over the council at all indicates that he held supreme authority over the Church and its doctrinal decisions. For if "presiding" indicates that one holds supreme authority then it was Constantine, and not the bishop of Rome, who held power over the Church and its doctrine in the early third century and thus, the Roman Catholic idea of papal authority is further shown to be undermined by the authority exercised by Constantine.

So, Ignatius' statement in his letter to Rome, in no way can be taken as evidence of papal supremacy as the Catholic Encyclopedia claims. Yet in his other letters, Ignatius makes several comments, which relate to the topic under discussion, which deserve quotation. Early on in his letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius indicates that both Peter and Paul laid the foundations for the Church.

"This was first fulfilled in Syria; for "the disciples were called Christians at Antioch,"[9] when Paul and Peter were laying the foundations of the Church." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. X.--BEWARE OF JUDAIZING.

By placing Paul first and by not mentioning Peter alone in this task, Ignatius, from the onset of his letter exhibits an understanding of these Apostles, which contradicts that asserted by the RCC, which holds that Peter alone is the foundation stone of the Church. Throughout this work, Ignatius continues to mention Peter side by side with Paul, whom he repeatedly places first, as acting to build and lead the Church. Each time the idea of a pre-immanent position of Peter is conspicuously missing from the text.

"…though I am acquainted with these things, yet am I not therefore by any means perfect; nor am I such a disciple as Paul or Peter." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. V.--I WILL NOT TEACH YOU PROFOUND DOCTRINES.

"I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. IV.--ALLOW ME TO FALL A PREY TO THE WILD BEASTS.

"I do not, like Peter and Paul, issue orders unto you. They are(6) apostles, but I am one condemned; they indeed are free, but I am a slave, even until now. But if I suffer, I shall be the freed-man of Jesus Christ, and I shall rise in Him from the dead, free. And now being in bonds, I learn to desire nothing." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. IV.

"Ye have been the disciples of Paul and Peter; do not lose what was committed to your trust. Keep in remembrance Euodias,(10) your deservedly-blessed pastor, into whose hands the government over you was first entrusted by the apostles. Let us not bring disgrace upon our Father. Let us prove ourselves His true-born children, and not bastards. Ye know after what manner I have acted among you. The things which, when present, I spoke to you, these same, when absent, I now write to you. "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema."(11) - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. VII.--EXHORTATION TO CONSISTENCY OF CONDUCT.

Later on in his epistle, Ignatius, even mentions Paul along with Peter in the context of the succession of the bishops of Rome. Again, we must note that no place of supremacy is attributed to Peter. And while the successors of the Roman bishopric are presented, Ignatius does not denote them as successor of Peter, but rather mentions first Paul and then Peter along with him. It is hard to accommodate the Roman Catholic papal doctrine with these statements of Ignatius.

"Now it occurs to me to mention, that the report is true which I heard of thee whilst thou wast at Rome with the blessed father(8) Linus, whom the deservedly-blessed Clement, a hearer of Peter and Paul, has now succeeded." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. IV.--COMMENDATION AND EXHORTATION.

Now, when the Catholic Encyclopedia came across this repeated joint affirmation of Paul and Peter side by side in the writings of Irenaeus, they attempted to sidestep the problem by suggesting that Paul was mentioned only because Irenaeus was specifically refuting the Gnostics. However, Ignatius is not writing against Gnostics and he makes the very same side-by-side, joint mention of Peter and Paul as the foundations of the Roman church and as together handing on its governance to a successor, which we also saw in Irenaeus' writings. Thus, while Ignatius does not help the Roman Catholic claim that Peter held a position of supreme authority, he does provide corroboration for Irenaeus' comments, which we viewed earlier that both Peter and Paul founded and ruled the Church at Rome as well as together appointed Linus to succeed them as bishop. Ignatius' mention of Peter and Paul side by side jointly founding the Roman church and joint passing on its governance severely undermines the RCC papal doctrine, just as was the case when Irenaeus made the very same statements in his writings later on.

Elsewhere Ignatius speaks of the office and authority of the bishop in several passages.

"And do ye also reverence your bishop as Christ Himself, according as the blessed apostles have enjoined you. He that is within the altar is pure, wherefore also he is obedient to the bishop and presbyters: but he that is without is one that does anything apart from the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons. Such a person is defiled in his conscience, and is worse than an infidel. For what is the bishop but one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority, so far as it is possible for a man to possess it, who according to his ability has been made an imitator of the Christ Of God?(6) And what is the presbytery but a sacred assembly, the counsellors and assessors of the bishop?" - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. VII.--THE SAME CONTINUED.

"Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth(1)] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God. I have confidence of you m the Lord, that ye will be of no other mind. Wherefore I write boldly to your love, which is worthy of God, and exhort you to have but one faith, and one [kind of] preaching, and one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ; and His blood which was shed for us is one; one loaf also is broken to all [the communicants], and one cup is distributed among them all: there is but one altar for the whole Church, and one bishop, with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants. Since, also, there is but one unbegotten Being, God, even the Father; and one only-begotten Son, God, the Word and man; and one Comforter, the Spirit of truth; and also one preaching, and one faith, and one baptism;(2) and one Church which the holy apostles established from one end of the earth to the other by the blood of Christ, and by their own sweat and toil; it behoves you also, therefore, as "a peculiar people, and a holy nation,"(3) to perform all things with harmony in Christ." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. IV.--HAVE BUT ONE EUCHARIST, ETC.

"Let governors be obedient to Caesar; soldiers to those that command them; deacons to the presbyters, as 82 to high-priests; the presbyters, and deacons, and the rest of the clergy, together with all the people, and the soldiers, and the governors, and Caesar [himself], to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as Christ to the Father. And thus unity is preserved throughout." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. IV.--HAVE BUT ONE EUCHARIST, ETC.

However, though Roman Catholics may be quick to interpret these statements as support for the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, it is clear from reading Ignatius letter in its entirety that to do so would be to take these remarks out of context. Like Clement, Irenaeus, and Cyprian, Ignatius holds that the authority of the bishop was not limited to the bishop of Rome, but was held by each bishop in his own diocese. And we have already seen from Ignatius' opening remarks that he specifically states that the Roman church presided in the region of Rome, which also indicates this same universal pattern that each local bishop along with the local elders held authority over their own local region.

The following quote clearly establishes that this is the case as Ignatius nowhere mentions the bishop of Rome in this letter, but in closing mentions two bishops, Polycarp and Vitalius. This follows Irenaeus's remarks wherein Polycarp is also appealed to along with the Roman bishops as evidence for authenticity of the Apostolic Tradition of the Churches against the heretical doctrines of the Gnostics.

"Let your prayers be extended to the Church of Antioch, whence also I as a prisoner am being led to Rome. I salute the holy bishop Polycarp; I salute the holy bishop Vitalius, and the sacred presbytery, and my fellow-servants the deacons; in whose stead may my soul be found. Once more I bid farewell to the bishop, and to the presbyters in the Lord." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. XIV.--FAREWELLS AND CAUTIONS.

But, we should also note that in mentioning those who succeeded the apostles as the bishops of Rome, Ignatius (see quotes below) places the first among them, Linus, not as a successor or disciple of Peter, as Roman Catholic teaching would demand, but of Paul. To be sure, Ignatius denotes that Anencletus, whom Roman Catholics regard as the second pope, is the successor to Peter. And he also elsewhere affirms that Clement succeeded Linus as bishop of Rome.

Therefore, in placing Linus under Paul (see quotes below) when speaking of the succession of bishops of Rome after the Apostles, Ignatius further undermines the papal doctrine of the RCC. Below is a quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia establishing their understanding of the succession of the bishops of Rome (popes) followed by Ignatius comments, which contradict the Roman Catholic teaching that Linus succeeded Peter as bishop of Rome.

"The Church - 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…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. (See POPE.)." - Catholic Encyclopedias

"And what are the deacons but imitators of the angelic powers,(7) fulfilling a pure and blameless ministry unto him, as the holy Stephen did to the blessed James, Timothy and Linus to Paul, Anencletus and Clement to Peter? He, therefore, that will not yield obedience to such, must needs be one utterly without God, an impious man who despises Christ, and depreciates His appointments." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. VII.--THE SAME CONTINUED.

"Now it occurs to me to mention, that the report is true which I heard of thee whilst thou wast at Rome with the blessed father(8) Linus, whom the deservedly-blessed Clement, a hearer of Peter and Paul, has now succeeded." - The Epistle of Ignatius, CHAP. IV.--COMMENDATION AND EXHORTATION.

Ignatius' association of Linus, whom Roman Catholics regard as the second pope with Paul rather than Peter is affirmed by the New Testament, where in his second epistle to Timothy we see Paul mention Linus as one of those with him who sent greetings to Timothy.

2 Timothy 4:21 Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.

(Continued in next section.)