Home Church Community

Statement of Beliefs

Contact Us

Search Our Site

Bible Study Resource



Printer Friendly Version

Particulars of Christianity:
301 Roman Catholicism


Roman Catholicism (Part 8)

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.)

Lastly, we arrive at the final Roman Catholic appeal, which involves bishop Victor of Rome. Below is the Catholic Encyclopedia's arguments on the significance of this matter to Roman papal authority.

"The Pope - During the pontificate of St. Victor (189-98) we have the most explicit assertion of the supremacy of the Roman See in regard to other Churches. A difference of practice between the Churches of Asia Minor and the rest of the Christian world in regard to the day of the Paschal festival led the pope to take action. There is some ground for supposing that the Montanist heretics maintained the Asiatic (or Quartodeciman) practice to be the true one: in this case it would be undesirable that any body of Catholic Christians should appear to support them. But, under any circumstances, such a diversity in the ecclesiastical life of different countries may well have constituted a regrettable feature in the Church, whose very purpose it was to bear witness by her unity to the oneness of God (John 17:21). Victor bade the Asiatic Churches conform to the custom of the remainder of the Church, but was met with determined resistance by Polycrates of Ephesus, who claimed that their custom derived from St. John himself. Victor replied by an excommunication. St. Irenaeus, however, intervened, exhorting Victor not to cut off whole Churches on account of a point which was not a matter of faith. He assumes that the pope can exercise the power, but urges him not to do so. Similarly the resistance of the Asiatic bishops involved no denial of the supremacy of Rome. It indicates solely that the bishops believed St. Victor to be abusing his power in bidding them renounce a custom for which they had Apostolic authority. It was indeed inevitable that, as the Church spread and developed, new problems should present themselves, and that questions should arise as to whether the supreme authority could be legitimately exercised in this or that case. St. Victor, seeing that more harm than good would come from insistence, withdrew the imposed penalty." - Catholic Encyclopedia

First, note that the word "pontificate" is derived from the word "pontifex," which was the word for the ancient priests of the Roman paganism. This word was not applied to the bishops of Rome until sometime after the Roman Empire melded with Christianity under Constantine during the early 4th century A.D.

"Pontifex - The immense authority of the collegium centred in the pontifex maximus, the other pontifices forming his consilium, or advising body. His functions were partly sacrificial or ritualistic, but the real power lay in the administration of the jus divinum." - Britannica.com

"Pontifex - The title pontifex was used of Roman Catholic bishops and pontifex maximus of the pope by the end of the 4th century. In modern usage, both terms generally refer to the pope." - Britannica.com

"pontifex maximus - highest priest of Roman religion and official head of the college of pontifices. As the chief administrator of religious affairs he regulated the conduct of religious ceremonies, consecrated temples and other holy places, and controlled the calendar. During the time of the empire, and until Christianity became firmly established, the emperor was designated pontifex maximus. After the supremacy of Christianity, the popes assumed the title." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

By referring to Victor's time as the bishop of Rome with a term that we in modern times associate with the office of the pope (pontificate) the Catholic Encyclopedia irresponsibly implies that at the time of his being bishop, Victor was understood to be the pontiff, or pope. Because these terms only came into use a century or more later, it is inappropriate for the Catholic Encyclopedia to apply them in this way without informing the reader of these details. Thus, by using the word "pontificate" to indicate the papal office the Catholic Encyclopedia assumes the very thing that they are attempting to demonstrate - that such a papal office existence in the 2nd century Church.

Also, note that the Catholic Encyclopedia unequivocally states that in their estimation this incident with bishop Victor exhibits "the most explicit assertion of the supremacy of the Roman See in regard to the other Churches." This means that what we are about to read is, in their own words, the best proof that they have available. Admittedly, the standard isn't that high given the low quality of the previous evidence.

Nevertheless, why does the Catholic Encyclopedia believe that Victor provides such an explicit assertion of Roman primacy? Two reasons are provided.

First, the Catholic Encyclopedia states that "Victor bade the Asiatic Churches conform to the custom of the remainder of the Church." But it is difficult to see how this fact favors papal supremacy. If papal authority was understood at this point in the Church, as the RCC claims, then we would expect Victor to demand that the Asiatic Churches conform to his authority as pope. Instead, what we find is that Victor appeals, not to papal authority, but to the custom of the universal Church. By appealing on the authority of the custom of the Churches, Victor does not exhibit an "explicit assertion of the supremacy of the Roman See" at all, but rather exhibits an assertion of the authority of that which is held by the universal Church.

Likewise, the Catholic Encyclopedia affirms that Victor's demand, whatever its authoritative basis, was resisted by Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus as well as the Churches of Asia Minor. Again, all this demonstrates is that papal authority was not recognized in the Church at that time.

Second, the Catholic Encyclopedia attempts to convince us that Victor exercised Roman papal supremacy, by excommunicating Polycrates. In support of this they claim that Irenaeus, in writing to ask Victor to reconsider does not deny that Victor had this power to excommunicate Polycrates. But, how, one must ask does an acknowledgement that one bishop could excommunicate another bishop amount to Roman primacy?

In 323, bishop Alexander of Alexandria, excommunicated Arius, the author of the Arian heresy.

"Eusebius Of Nicomedia - When Arius was condemned in a synod at Alexandria (September 323), Eusebius sheltered him and sponsored a synod (October 323) at Bithynia, which nullified Arius' excommunication." - Britannica.com

"Arius - c.256-336, Libyan theologian, founder of the Arian heresy. A parish priest in Alexandria, he advanced the doctrine famous as Arianism and was excommunicated locally (321)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, excommunicated Arius about the year 320." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Eusebius of Nicomedia - He now summoned a larger council, from around the world of which his victorious arms had made him master. It met at Nicæa in 325. The bishops were nearly all Easterns; but a Western bishop, Hosius of Cordova, who was in the emperor's confidence, took a leading part, and the pope was represented. Constantine ostentatiously declared at the council went no further than the guardianship of the bishops, but Eusebius of Cæsarea makes it clear that he spoke on the theological question. The bishop of Nicomedia and his friends put forward an Arian confession of faith, but it had only about seventeen supporters from among three hundred members of the council, and it was hooted by the majority. The formula which was eventually adopted was resisted for some time by the Arian contingent, but eventually all the bishops signed, with the exception of the two Egyptians who had been excommunicated by Alexander." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Eusebius of Nicomedia - The see of Alexandria had remained vacant during the absence of Athanasius. Eusebius now claimed to put the Synod of Tyre in force, and a rival bishop was set up in the person of Pistus, one of the Arian priests whom Alexander had long ago excommunicated." - Catholic Encyclopedia

Likewise, Ambrose, bishop of Milan excommunicated Theodusius I in 390 A.D.

"Ambrose, Saint - 340?-397, bishop of Milan, Doctor of the Church, b. Trier, of Christian parents. Educated at Rome, he became (c.372) governor of Liguria and Aemilia-with the capital at Milan. He was highly regarded as governor and popular pressure resulted in his appointment (374) as bishop, although he was reluctant and lacked religious training…He excommunicated Theodosius I for the massacre at Salonica (390) and imposed a heavy public penance on him before reinstating him." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

It is apparent from these accounts that bishops had the power of excommunication in the early Church. This being the case Irenaeus' acknowledgement that Victor could excommunicate Polycrates does not demonstrate papal authority, it only demonstrates that bishops had the right of excommunication.

And again, we see that the Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges that the Asiatic bishops resisted Victor's demands. Though the Catholic Encyclopedia contends that this does not deny the supremacy of Rome, it is hard to see how it would in any way affirm it.

With all of this in mind, it must be concluded that these incidents involving bishop Victor of Rome do NOT in any way provide evidence that papal authority or Roman primacy was recognized or known to the early Church much less exhibit "explicit assertion of the supremacy of the Roman See in regard to the other Churches" as the Catholic Encyclopedia claims. All these events can demonstrate is a lack of recognition of papal authority in the early Church. And if this is "the most explicit assertion" of this doctrine in the early Church, then the teaching of papal supremacy is, indeed in deep trouble. Of course, we have already evaluated the rest of the evidence in the previous pages of this study and so we can confidently say that none of the evidence substantiates the claims of the RCC on these matters.

With this we conclude our section on the writings of Ignatius and Victor having again demonstrated that 2nd century Church writers do not provide support for the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal authority or succession.

At this point in our study we have finished examining the arguments put forth by the Catholic Encyclopedia, by which they intended to demonstrate the Scriptural and Traditional evidence for their doctrines of papal authority and Roman primacy. In each case we have gone beyond the minimal information provided by the Catholic Encyclopedia (when any was provided at all) and have shown in the context of these early Church documents (whether Scriptural or non-canonical) that no solid, objective, reasonable, explicit support for these Roman Catholic teaching can be found in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, centuries A.D.

However, even though we have finished with the few appeals made by Roman Catholics, we can still look at a few other historic details, which also contribute to our conclusion that the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal authority and Roman primacy did not originate with Jesus Christ or His Apostles, but at the earliest, was a late 3rd century development. First, we will look at a comment made by another 1st century Church writer and disciple of John the Apostle, the aforementioned Polycarp.

Polycarp, the disciple of the Apostle John, lived between approximately 70 and 156 A.D. He was a friend of Ignatius and, as Ignatius mentioned, was the bishop of Smyrna.

"Polycarp, Saint - c.A.D. 70-A.D. 156?, Greek bishop of Smyrna, Father of the Church. He was a disciple of St. John, who appointed him bishop. Thus he linked the apostles and such 2d-century Christian expositors as St. Irenaeus. St. Polycarp was a close friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch. As a very old man, Polycarp went to Rome to discuss the problem of dating Easter. He died a martyr in Smyrna. His one surviving work, the Epistle to the Philippians, has been the subject of controversy. Some scholars have maintained that the letter is really two-one written c.115, enclosing St. Ignatius' epistles, and the other written c.135 to warn the Philippians against the teachings of Marcion. He was in his time the mainstay of Christianity in Asia Minor. Feast: Jan. 26." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

In his writings Polycarp does not offer much information on any supposed papal office or authority. All that can be said from Polycarp is that he commands the Church to be obedient to the word of righteousness rather than to any supreme bishop of Rome.

"I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles." - Polycarp, CHAP. IX.--PATIENCE INCULCATED.

Polycarp's silence on Roman supremacy while mentioning obedience to the doctrines of Christ does not, in and of itself, contradict the Roman Catholic teaching with absolute certainty. However, when viewed in the context of the other early Church authors that we have looked at so far, including Ignatius, Clement, and Irenaeus we can see a consensus emerging, which does as a whole deny that this Roman Catholic teaching was known or accepted at any time prior to the late 3rd century.

Likewise, the epistle of Barnabas was written at about 100 A.D. Though the work is considered orthodox, it is not known whether or not this work was written by the Apostle Barnabas spoken of in the New Testament.

"Barnabas, Saint - Christian apostle. He was a Cypriot and a relative of St. Mark; his forename was Joseph. Several passages in the New Testament relate that Barnabas was a teacher and prophet in the church at Antioch and the companion of St. Paul on his first missionary journey. He is said to have been martyred in Cyprus. One of the oldest noncanonical Christian writings (about 2d cent. A.D.) is a letter attributed to Barnabas. Feast: June 11." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

The epistle of Barnabas comments briefly on Jesus giving authority to the apostles. In the commentary of this letter it is clearly indicated that Jesus granted authority to all twelve of the Apostles. NO mention is made of a singular primary position existing among them or of such a position being filled by Peter. Instead, all of the apostles are said to have been given same level of authority by Jesus.

"To these He gave authority to preach the Gospel, being twelve in number, corresponding to the twelve tribes(7) of Israel." - The Epistle of Barnabas, 100 A.D., CHAP. VIII.--THE RED HEIFER A TYPE OF CHRIST.

In concert with the similar remarks made by these other early witnesses of Christian doctrine, we see that the Epistle of Barnabas does nothing to support the Roman Catholic doctrine of the papal authority of Peter and only provides information, which contradicts this claim of the RCC by asserting shared and equal authority among all 12 apostles.

Other early church writers whose works are included in the Sacred Tradition of the RCC include Papias and Justin Martyr. Papias, another disciple of John the Apostle and bishop of Hierapolis lived between 60-130 A.D.

"Papias - fl. A.D. 130, early Christian theologian said to have been bishop of Hieropolis and a friend of St. Polycarp. Papias' five-volume work, Oracles; or, Explanations of the Sayings of the Lord, survives only in fragments quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea and St. Irenaeus. These are valuable sources for the history of the church." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Justin Martyr, who wrote two important works, Apology and Dialogue, lived between 100-165 A.D.

"Justin Martyr, Saint - c.A.D. 100-c.A.D. 165, Christian apologist, called also Justin the Philosopher. Born in Samaria of pagan parents, he studied philosophy, and after his conversion in Ephesus to Christianity at about the age of 38, he went from place to place trying to convert men of learning by philosophical argument. He opened a school of Christian philosophy at Rome, where he and some disciples were finally martyred under Marcus Aurelius. Of his writings (in Greek), only two undisputed works remain, the Apology (with an appendix called the Second Apology) and the Dialogue. The Apology is a learned defense of Christians against charges of atheism and sedition in the Roman state; it contains an exposition of Christian ethics and invaluable records of the customs and practices of 2d-century Christianity. The Dialogue sets forth in the form of an argument with Trypho (or Tryphon) the Jew a philosophic defense of Christian beliefs, particularly with reference to Jewish writings; it has references to the Gospels that have been of much interest to students of the Bible. Feast: Apr. 14." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Though these authors are considered significant contributors to our understanding of 1st and 2nd century Christianity, a search of their works finds no mention of Peter, Paul, Rome, or bishop. The absence of any mention by these authors of such an important Church doctrine as papal supremacy in conjunction with the comments we have studied from the other writers of this time seriously undermines that any such doctrine ever did exist in the early Church and is impossible to explain without forfeiting the teaching of the RCC.

This conclusion that the Church of the first three centuries did not hold to a Roman Catholic understanding of Peter as the authoritative rock upon which the Church is built, is shared by Britannica.com.

"Roman Catholicism - Of the Petrine texts, Matthew 16:18 f. is clearly central and has the distinction of being the first scriptural text invoked to support the primatial claims of the Roman bishops. Before the mid-3rd century, however, and even after that date, some Western, as well as Eastern, patristic exegetes (early Church Fathers who in their interpretation of the Bible used critical techniques) understood that by the "rock" Christ meant to refer not to Peter but to himself or to the faith that Peter professed." - Britannica.com


Analysis of Evidence from the Historical Record

One final piece of historical evidence that should be considered when investigating the supposed authority of the Roman bishopric is the schism that occurred between Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

While we have seen that papal authority of Rome is anything but established or recognized as Church doctrine in the first thee centuries of Church history, something begins to happen at the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century A.D. - the doctrine of Roman primacy begins to be asserted.

"Christianity - Historians differ greatly on how far back the 4th-century picture of the church (which is quite clear) can be projected, especially respecting organization by bishops (each bishop a monarch in the church of his city), celebration of a liturgy entailing a sacrament and a sacrifice, and claims by the bishop of Rome to be head of all the churches (see papacy)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"The Pope - It is no longer denied by any writer of weight that St. Peter visited Rome and suffered martyrdom there (Harnack, "Chronol.", I, 244, n. 2). Some, however, of those who admit that he taught and suffered in Rome, deny that he was ever bishop of the city…In considering this point, it will be well to begin with the third century, when references to it become frequent, and work backwards from this point." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"The Pope - The limits of the present article prevent us from carrying the historical argument further than the year 300. Nor is it in fact necessary to do so. From the beginning of the fourth century the supremacy of Rome is writ large upon the page of history. It is only in regard to the first age of the Church that any question can arise." - Catholic Encyclopedia

As the assertions of Roman papal authority at last become frequent and explicit in historical writing a struggle emerged between the bishops of Rome and their counterparts elsewhere especially in the eastern part of the empire. As the Roman bishops attempted to assert themselves as the supreme authority over the Church they were resisted in both the east and in Northern Africa as the bishops of the other Churches did not recognize this newly emerging doctrine.

Earlier we saw this trend was already occurring in the late 3rd century, where Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, denied the jurisdictional authority and supremacy of bishop Stephen of Rome in the mid 200's A.D.

"Cyprian, Saint - Cyprian returned to Carthage (early 251) and at a council of bishops in May 251 was able to regain his authority. The decision of the council was that, though no one should be totally excluded from penance, those who truly had sacrificed (the sacrificati) should be readmitted only on their deathbeds, and those who had merely accepted certificates (the libellatici) were to be readmitted after varying periods of penance. Three important principles of church discipline were thus established. First, the right and power to remit deadly sins, even that of apostasy, lay in the hands of the church; second, the final authority in disciplinary matters rested with the bishops in council as repositories of the Holy Spirit; and, third, unworthy members among the laity must be accepted in the New Israel of Christianity just as in the Old Israel of Judaism." -Britannica.com

"Cyprian, Saint - Though Cyprian may have written two drafts of an important passage concerning the primacy of the chair of Peter, he implied no acceptance of Roman jurisdictional prerogatives. 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. The church as the "pure Bride of Christ" might be obliged to absorb a sinful laity, but a sinful priest making offerings on behalf of the people was unthinkable." -Britannica.com

"Cyprian, Saint - Unity was expressed through the consensus of bishops, all equally possessing the Holy Spirit and sovereign in their own sees. There was no 'bishop of bishops.' The church consisted of the people united to their bishop. Schism and rebellion against the priesthood were viewed as the worst of sins. These views-associated with an uncompromising insistence on the integrity and exclusive character of the church, which are believed to have been derived from the North African theologian Tertullian -received divine sanction for most North African Christians through his martyrdom." -Britannica.com

But, Cyprian's rejection of Roman primacy was not alone. The Eastern Churches, too, did not recognize this novel doctrine as a legitimate teaching of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. Their rejection would later lead to outright schism between the bishops of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In modern times, we in the west use the name Greek or Eastern Orthodox Church instead of the official title for this branch of the Church, which is the Orthodox Catholic Church. The term Eastern or Greek Orthodox Church is used in the west to distinguish between this organization of Christianity and Roman Catholicism. In effect, these two organizations could be called Greek Catholicism and Roman Catholicism or Eastern and Western Orthodox Churches.

The development of the schism between the Eastern Catholicism (the Greek Orthodox Church) and Roman Catholicism is chronicled in the Britannica.com quote below.

"Eastern Orthodox - The schism between the churches of the East and the West (1054) was the culmination of a gradual process of estrangement that began in the first centuries of the Christian Era and continued through the Middle Ages. Linguistic and cultural differences, as well as political events, contributed to the estrangement. From the 4th to the 11th century, Constantinople, the centre of Eastern Christianity, was also the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire, while Rome, after the barbarian invasions, fell under the influence of the Holy Roman Empire of the West, a political rival. In the West theology remained under the influence of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), while in the East doctrinal thought was shaped by the Greek Fathers. Theological differences could have been settled if the two areas had not simultaneously developed different concepts of church authority. The growth of Roman primacy, based on the concept of the apostolic origin of the Church of Rome, was incompatible with the Eastern idea that the importance of certain local churches-Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and later, Constantinople-could be determined only by their numerical and political significance. For the East, the highest authority in settling doctrinal disputes was the ecumenical council." - Britannica.com

"Greek Church - The relations that grew up between Rome and the Greek Churches during the long period from the death of Constantine the Great to the end of the Iconoclast persecutions (337-843) were far from cordial. In principle East and West were united; in fact they were separated during most of that time. During those 506 years the Greek Church was in open schism with Rome during seven periods aggregating at least 248 years." - the Catholic Encyclopedia

The defining difference between the Eastern Catholicism and Roman Catholicism then, is that the Eastern Catholic Church does not recognize the proclaimed supremacy of the bishop of Rome. While Roman Catholicism is alone in teaching that the bishop of Rome holds supreme authority in the Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches hold that supreme authority resides in and is distributed among all of the local Churches.

"Eastern Orthodox - The Orthodox Church is a fellowship of "autocephalous" churches (governed by their own head bishops), with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople holding titular or honorary primacy. The number of autocephalous churches has varied in history. Today there are many: the Church of Constantinople (Istanbul), the Church of Alexandria (Egypt), the Church of Antioch (with headquarters in Damascus, Syria), and the churches of Jerusalem, Russia , Ukraine, Georgia , Serbia , Romania , Bulgaria , Cyprus, Greece , Albania, Poland, the Czech and Slovak republics, and America" - Britannica.com

"Autocephalous Churches - in the modern usage of Eastern Orthodox canon law, church that enjoys total canonical and administrative independence and elects its own primates and bishops. The term autocephalous was used in medieval Byzantine law in its literal sense of 'self-headed' (Greek: autokephalos), or independent, and was applied in church law to individual dioceses that did not depend upon the authority of a provincial metropolitan. Today the Orthodox archbishopric of Mount Sinai, with the historic monastery of St. Catherine, still enjoys this privilege." - Britannica.com

"Eastern Orthodox - The bishop is primarily the guardian of the faith and, as such, the centre of the sacramental life of the community. The Orthodox Church maintains the doctrine of apostolic succession -i.e., the idea that the ministry of the bishop must be in direct continuity with that of the Apostles of Jesus. Orthodox tradition-as expressed especially in its medieval opposition to the Roman papacy-distinguishes the office of the "Apostle" from that of the bishop, however, in that the first is viewed as a universal witness to the historic Jesus and his Resurrection, while the latter is understood in terms of the pastoral and sacramental responsibility for a local community, or church. The continuity between the two is, therefore, a continuity in faith rather than in function." - Britannica.com

"Orthodox Eastern Church - community of Christian churches whose chief strength is in the Middle East and E Europe. Their members number over 250 million worldwide. The Orthodox agree doctrinally in accepting as ecumenical the first seven councils (see council, ecumenical) and in rejecting the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome (the pope). This repudiation of the papal claims is the principal point dividing the Orthodox from Roman Catholics." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Greek Church - The term Orthodox Greek Church, or even simply the Orthodox Church, designates, without distinction of speech, or race, or nationality, all the existing Churches of the Byzantine Rite, separated from Rome. They claim to be a unit and to have the same body of doctrine, which they say was that of the primitive Church. As a matter of fact, the orthodoxy of these Churches is what we call heterodoxy, since it rejects the Papal Infallibility, and the Papal Supremacy, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, that of Purgatory, etc. However, by a polite fiction, educated Catholics give them the name of Orthodox which they have usurped. The term Schismatic Greek Church is synonymous with the above; nearly everybody uses it, but it is at times inexpedient to do so, if one would avoid wounding the feelings of those whose conversion is aimed at." - the Catholic Encyclopedia

Without needing to go into further detail we can confidently identify a historical trend that identifiably appear until after the year 300 A.D. The idea of Roman primacy, which has no reasonable representation prior to the 4th century, did during the 4th century begin to be asserted by the Roman bishops. (We will examine more what contributed to the rise of this doctrine at this point in history later on in our study.)

Since this doctrine had not been known or accepted prior to this time the bishops of other regions reacted with objections to it. This historic rejection of Roman papal supremacy is chiefly exemplified through bishop Cyprian of Carthage and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. What we see recorded in history then is not surprising, but is completely consistent with our conclusions so far.

If the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal authority had been present in the Church since its inception we would expect two things. We would expect to see that doctrine explicitly and consistently reflected in at least some of the writings of the first three centuries of the Church. And we would also expect to see a uniform acceptance and adherence to this doctrine whenever it was exercised as Church history continued.

We instead find the opposite. The first three centuries of Christian writing contain absolutely no statements confirming the presence of this doctrine in the Church, but instead undermine even the consideration of Roman papal supremacy. Then in the early 4th century just as this doctrine begins to be stated with frequency and in clear terms, we find a large scale, widespread reaction against its claims within the Church worldwide.

Additionally, while literature beginning in the 4th century attests to the emergence and acceptance of papal authority and Roman primacy at that time, official expression of this doctrine occurs in the centuries afterward. Official Roman Catholic certification of papal authority and Roman primacy as it is understood today in all of its elaborate complexity comes from the following sources, all of which occurred many, long centuries after Jesus Christ and His Apostles lived and taught the original doctrines of Christianity.

For example, as we have already seen, the term pope was widely applied until the 9th or 10th centuries, after which it was reserved exclusively for the bishop of Rome.

"Pope - (Latin papa, from Greek pappas, "father"), an ecclesiastical title expressing affectionate respect, formerly given, especially from the 3rd to the 5th century, to any bishop and sometimes to simple priests. The title is still used in the East for the Orthodox patriarch of Alexandria and for Orthodox priests, but, since about the 9th century, it has been reserved in the West exclusively for the bishop of Rome. (See also papacy. The article contains a list of popes and antipopes.)" - Britannica.com

"Pope - The teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) on the role of bishops the office and jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome, or the pope (Latin: papa, from the Greek pappas, "father"), who presides over the central government of the Roman Catholic church, the largest of the three major branches of Christianity. The term pope was originally applied to all the bishops in the West and also used to describe the patriarch of Alexandria, who still retains the title. In 1073, however, Gregory VII restricted its use to the bishop of Rome. According to the Annuario Pontificio, the papal annual, there have been more than 260 popes since St. Peter , traditionally considered the first pope." - Britannica.com

"Roman Catholicism - The word papacy (Latin papatia, derived from papa, "pope"; i.e., father) is of medieval origin. In its primary usage it denotes the office of the pope (of Rome) and, hence, the system of ecclesiastical and temporal government over which he directly presides." - Britannica.com

The infallibility of the pope was officially declared in the First Vatican Council in 1870.

"Infallibility - Roman Catholics hold that the infallibility of the church is vested in the pope, when he speaks ex cathedra (i.e., from the chair of Peter, as the visible head of the church) on matters of faith and morals. Definitive pronouncements resulting from an ecumenical council, when ratified by the pope, are also held to be infallible. The pope speaks ex cathedra only rarely and after long deliberation. The dogma of papal infallibility was enunciated by the First Vatican Council (1870)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

And most importantly, the Roman Catholic doctrine of the papal authority of Peter and the Roman bishops owes its acceptance primarily to three Roman Catholic popes of the 4th and 5th centuries.

"Roman Catholicism - Nevertheless, in the late 4th and 5th centuries there was an increasing tendency on the part of the Roman bishops to justify scripturally and to formulate in theoretical terms the ill-defined preeminence in the universal church that had long been attached to the Roman Church and to its bishop. Thus, Damasus I, despite the existence of other churches of apostolic foundation, began to call the Roman Church 'the apostolic see.' About the same time the categories of the Roman law were borrowed to explicate and formulate the prerogatives of the Roman bishop. The process of theoretical elaboration reached a culmination in the views of Leo I and Gelasius I, the former understanding himself not simply as Peter's successor but also as his representative, or vicar. He was Peter's "unworthy heir," possessing by analogy with the Roman law of inheritance the full powers Peter himself had wielded, which he interpreted as monarchical, since Peter had been endowed with the principatus over the church." - Britannica.com

"Damasus I, Saint - born c. 304 , Rome died Dec. 11, 384 , Rome; feast day December 11 pope from Oct. 1, 366, to Dec. 11, 384. During his rule the primacy of the Roman see was asserted." - Britannica.com

"Leo I, Saint - born 4th century , Tuscany? died November 10, 461, Rome; Western feast day November 10 ([formerly April 11]), Eastern feast day February 18 byname Leo The Great pope from 440 to 461, master exponent of papal supremacy. His pontificate-which saw the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the West and the formation in the East of theological differences that were to split Christendom-was devoted to safeguarding orthodoxy and to securing the unity of the Western church under papal supremacy." - Britannica.com

"Gelasius I, Saint - born , probably Africa died Nov. 19, 496 , Rome; feast day November 21 pope from 492 to 496." - Britannica.com

All of the above historical facts overwhelmingly point to one, undeniable conclusion:

The foundational and defining claim of the Roman Catholic Church to possess supreme authority over the Church in matters of faith and doctrine as ascribed to the office of the pope as the successor of Peter, the first bishop of Rome DID NOT ORIGINATE with the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. Now we will consider some of the historical reasons for why this RCC's doctrine became prominently asserted at this particular point in time, the middle of the fourth century AD.