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Peter in Rome(part 2)

Aug 31, 1996 11:09 AM


(a) that St. Peter was Bishop of Rome

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 e. g. Lightfoot, "Clement of Rome", II, 501; Harnack, op. cit., I,
703. It is not, however, difficult to show that the fact of his bishopric is so well
attested as to be historically certain. 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. In the middle of the third century St. Cyprian expressly
terms the Roman See the Chair of St. Peter, saying that Cornelius has succeeded to
"the place of Fabian which is the place of Peter" (Ep 55:8; cf. 59:14). Firmilian of
Caesarea notices that Stephen claimed to decide the controversy regarding
rebaptism on the ground that he held the succession from Peter (Cyprian, Ep.
75:17). He does not deny the claim: yet certainly, had he been able, he would have
done so. Thus in 250 the Roman episcopate of Peter was admitted by those best
able to know the truth, not merely at Rome but in the churches of Africa and of
Asia Minor. In the first quarter of the century (about 220) Tertullian (De Pud. 21)
mentions Callistus's claim that Peter's power to forgive sins had descended in a
special manner to him. Had the Roman Church been merely founded by Peter and
not reckoned him as its first bishop, there could have been no ground for such a
contention. Tertullian, like Firmilian, had every motive to deny the claim.
Moreover, he had himself resided at Rome, and would have been well aware if the
idea of a Roman episcopate of Peter had been, as is contended by its opponents, a
novelty dating from the first years of the third century, supplanting the older
tradition according to which Peter and Paul were co-founders, and Linus first
bishop. About the same period, Hippolytus (for Lightfoot is surely right in holding
him to be the author of the first part of the "Liberian Catalogue" -- "Clement of
Rome", 1:259) reckons Peter in the list of Roman bishops.

We have moreover a poem, "Adversus Marcionem", written apparently at the same
period, in which Peter is said to have passed on to Linus "the chair on which he
himself had sat" (P.L., II 1077). These witnesses bring us to the beginning of the
third century. 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. In two
passages (Adv. haer. 1:27:1, and 3:4:3) he speaks of Hyginus as ninth Bishop of
Rome, thus employing an enumeration which involves the inclusion of Peter as first
bishop (Lightfoot was undoubtedly wrong in supposing that there was any doubt as
to the correctness of the reading in the first of these passages. In 3:4:3, the Latin
version, it is true, gives "octavus"; but the Greek text as cited by Eusebius reads
enatos. Irenaeus we know visited Rome in 177. At this date, scarcely more than a
century after the death of St. Peter, he may well have come in contact with men
whose fathers had themselves spoken to the Apostle. The tradition thus supported
must be regarded as beyond all legitimate doubt. Lightfoot's suggestion (Clement
1:64), that it had its origin in the Clementine romance, has proved singularly
unfortunate. For it is now recognized that this work belongs not to the second, but
to the fourth century. Nor is there the slightest ground for the assertion that the
language of Irenaeus, 3:3:3, implies that Peter and Paul enjoyed a divided
episcopate at Rome -- an arrangement utterly unknown to the Church at any
period. He does, it is true, speak of the two Apostles as together handing on the
episcopate to Linus. But this expression is explained by the purpose of his
argument, which is to vindicate against the Gnostics the validity of the doctrine
taught in the Roman Church. Hence he is naturally led to lay stress on the fact that
that Church inherited the teaching of both the great Apostles. Epiphanius ("Haer."
27:6) would indeed seem to suggest the divided episcopate; but he has apparently
merely misunderstood the words of Irenaeus.

Eusebius, Ecclesiastic history ECF24.TXT
BOOK III, CHAPTER II. The First Ruler of the Church of Rome.
After the martyrdom of Paul and of Peter, Linus was the first to
obtain the episcopate of the church at Rome.  Paul mentions him, when
writing to Timothy from Rome, in the salutation at the end of the epistle.
CHAPTER XIII. Anencletus, the Second Bishop of Rome.
After Vespasian (69-79AD)had reigned ten years Titus (79-81AD), his son, succeeded him.
In the second year of his reign (81AD), Linus, who had been bishop of the
church of Rome for twelve years(69-81AD), delivered his office to Anencletus.
But Titus was succeeded by his brother Domitian (81-96AD)after he had reigned
two years and the same number of months.

Iraenaeus Against Heresies BOOK III (ECF01.TXT)
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
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 (2Tm4:21). To him succeeded
Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement
was allotted the bishopric.


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