Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Papacy built on pious fiction and forgery 5

Here are some earlier links in this series:

Papacy built on Pious Fiction and Forgery 1

Papacy built on Pious Fiction and Forgery 2

The Integrity of the New Testament Canon

How the Fictional Early Papacy Became Real

Sorry if there's a bit of "mission creep" in the original naming of these posts. No doubt I am missing a few things, and getting a few things out of order. But there is a tremendous amount of information to cover on this topic, and my hope is more to "put it out there" for everyone to see, rather than to try and organize it at this time. Lord willing, that will come later.

Catholics will try to minimize the importance of this material by saying such things as "we knew the papacy developed" or "of course the early church wasn't the same as it is today," except that, the things are presented here are of such a totally different nature from what the Catholic Church believes today, that it is just incredible even to think of the notion that what we have here is a "seed" for what later developed. What we have here is not a seed of any kind. What "developed" into the "papacy" started off as a grotesque caricature of what really happened in the earliest church, and it got worse from there.

Much, though not all, of what follows is largely from Daniel Wm. O'Connor, "Peter in Rome, the Literary, Liturgical, and Archeological Evidence" Columbia University Press 1969.
In summary, it appears more plausible than not that: 1) Peter did reside in Rome at some time during his lifetime, most probably near the end of his life. 2) He was martyred there as a member of the Christian religion. 3) He was remembered in the erection of a simple monument near the place where he died. 4) his body was never recovered for burial by the Christian group which later, when relics became of great importance for apologetic reasons, came to believe that what originally had marked the general area of his death also indicated the precise placement of his grave. (209)

With the study of history, in putting together the reconstructions of "what actually happened," it's important to trace "what they knew, and when they knew it." That said, having made the claim that "the most sober minds in church history passed along pious fiction as if were sober history," I wanted to give a kind of overview of what was actually known. In an earlier posting, I provided New Testament evidence for what we knew about Peter's later life. Here, I want to provide what was known, what was "sort of known," and what was made up.

1 Clement
Significantly, O'Connor, whose investigation follows closely with the title of the work, does not cite 1 Clement. After all, 1 Clement knows very little of Peter. But here's what he says. After a very brief overview of "jealousy" in the Old Testament -- probably a paragraph -- Clement then shifts to "our time":
"But to pass from the examples of ancient times, let us come to those champions who lived nearest to our time. Let us consider the noble examples that belong to our own generation. Because of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars were persecuted and fought to the death. Let us set before our eyes the good apostles. There was Peter, who because of unrighteous jealousy endured not one or two but many trials, and thus having given his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. Because of jealousy and strife Paul showed the way to the prize for patient endurance. After he had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the east and in the west, he won the genuine glory for his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the west. Finally, when he had given his testimony before the rulers, he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place, having become an outstanding example of patient endurance." (Cited from Michael Holmes, "The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations, Third Edition," (pgs 51-53).

What I've provided here is the sum total of what Clement reports about Peter. Some will say that Peter was so widely known that there was no need to mention him further. That may be the case. But Paul also suffered "many trials," and Clement saw fit to explicate those to a far greater degree, and with far greater precision. Now, were Peter's works so much greater known than Paul's, that there was no need to mention them? For a doctrine that is so foundational as the papacy, and one upon which so much weight is resting, (and especially given the absolute silence about Peter's later life in the NT), one has to question, what was known about Peter. We don't have an answer.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans:
It is said that Ignatius wrote seven letters on his way to his martyrdom. In each of these, he stressed "the bishop," but without having described what that meant. It is most likely that "the bishop and presbyters" were on par with a senior pastor and associate pastors at a church of moderate size.
I do not give you orders like Peter and Paul: they were apostles, I am a convict; they were free, but I am even now still a slave. But if I suffer, I will be a freedman of Jesus Christ and will rise up free in him. In the meantime, as a prisoner I am learning to desire nothing. (Cited from Michael Holmes, "The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations, Third Edition," (pgs 229-231)

This is the only mention of Peter (and Paul) in Ignatius's letters. Other writers look to the early history of the early church to try to decide on what was happening there. One writer puts it this way:

"Ignatius and Hermas provide evidence that even in the first decades of the second century Rome was not centrally organized under the administrative authority of a single bishop. In six of his seven letters, Ignatius insists on the importance of the office of bishop. His silence in regard to this pastoral concern in the
Letter to the Romans (ca. 110 c.e.) is best explained by the absence of a monarchical bishop in Rome. Hermas refers only to "the elders who preside over the church" (Herm. Vis. 2.43; 3.9.7). The existence of several house churches only loosely connected with one another throughout Rome suggests why diversity, disunity, and a tendency toward independence were persistent problems in the early history of the CHristian communities in Rome. (William L. Lane, "Social Perspectives on Roman Christianity during the Formative Years from Nero to Nerva: Romans, Hebrews, 1 Clement," cited in "Judaism and Christianity in First-Century Rome," Ed. Karl Donfried etc., 1998, pg 213).

[Consider further, the two separate data, that Ignatius, writing to Romans and mentioning Peter and Paul, does not mention the name either of a bishop, or a "successor".]

Eusebius on the topic of Peter in Rome
Eusebius, "Ecclesiastical History" (A.D. 326) 3:2 -- "After the martyrdoms of Paul and Peter [note that Paul is first], the first to be appointed Bishop of Rome was Linus. Paul mentions him when writing to Timothy from Rome in the salutation at the end of the epistle."

[2 Tim 4:21: "Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers." -- if Paul had recognized some kind of clear succession, why is Linus in the middle of the pack?]

Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, to the Romans
Important information is contributed by the fragments of the lost letters of Dionysius. In them we find the oldest witness to the book of Acts, the persecution in Athens, the theory that Dionysius the Areopagite was converted by Paul, [he "traveled" with Paul, but Acts 17:34 does not specifically say he was converted] and finally that 1 Clement was read during this period (A.D. 170) during this period in the services of worship at Corinth. Eusebius later describes Dionysius the Areopagite as a shepherd at Corinth and a bishop at Athens. (All derived from Eusebius 4:22-4:23).

Dionysius also passed along a significant historical error: That "Peter as well as Paul founded the Church at Corinth" (23).

[Speaking of forgery, the name "Dionysius the Areopagite", from Acts 17:34, appears later in history. Beginning in the fifth and sixth centuries, there are pseudepigraphical documents circulated under the name "Dionysius the Areopagite," but during the renaissance era, when other forgeries were uncovered, these documents too were discovered to have been written by an anonymous fifth-century neoplatonist. Today he is known as "Pseudo-Dionysius". Significantly, Thomas Aquinas thought this individual was genuine, and cited his work as such.]

Justin Martyr
One naturally would look in the works of Justin Martyr [who died in Rome in 165 A.D.] for the first of the later testimonies. A search in the Apologies and in the Dialogue with Trypho, however, is rewarded only by a surprising silence on the subject of Peter's stay in Rome. The absence of any reference is particularly strange when it is remembered that Justin refers to Simon Magus on three separate occasions. (26)

[Simon Magus was the anti-hero who contended with Peter in Acts 8. And Justin mentions the "original tradition of Simon Magus' activity in Rome." In much of the pseudepigraphical material that follows, Peter's "white whale," so to speak, is Simon Magus. Peter follows and tracks down the villain Simon Magus and contends with him in various ways.]

Victor in the Easter Controversy
Victor (A.D. 189-98) followed Eleutherus (A.D. 174-89 as bishop of Rome in the tenth year of Commodus (A.D. 189). At this time, and perhaps related to the election of Victor, there arose a controversy (A.D. c. 190) with Polycrates of Ephesus over the Easter celebration. It is not necessary to rehearse the debate here, for what is important in this study is not what was said but what was not said. In an argument of this type, in which it would seem natural for both sides to appeal to all available authorities for support of their position, Victor makes no mention of the practice of Peter and Paul concerning Easter. Polycrates, on the other hand, recalls that both Philip and John as well as Polycarp observed the season in such a way as to support his position. (25)

[It's noteworthy, too, here, that in addition to the imbalance in mentions of "apostolic tradition," that it was a bishop of Rome who intended to squash what was known to be a genuine Apostolic tradition: the practice of Easter by John and Philip. (Eusebius 5.23)

Aside from the "papal lists," which I hope to treat more fully in a later posting, this is the end of O'Connor's "literary evidence" for Peter's stay in Rome. He now moves on to "the Apocryphal literature," which, he says, is "without exception, too untrustworthy and too late to offer any information which might be considered as reliable and independent. Interest in the apocryphal details is justified only to the extent that they indicate a trend in the development of the tradition. The following documents are the earliest of those which take into consideration the Roman residence and activity of Peter." (35)

I'll take this up in a later post.

Just as an aside, I'm going to a school picnic with my kids today, and so I won't be able to respond to any comments. But I'll try to respond to as many comments as I can overnight tonight and into tomorrow. - JB

19 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Eusebius, "Ecclesiastical History" (A.D. 326) 3:2 -- "After the martyrdoms of Paul and Peter [note that Paul is first], the first to be appointed Bishop of Rome was Linus."

Linus was the first bishop of Rome?

Whoa. I always thought it was Peter.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I always thought it was Peter because I always deferred to the Catholic Church.

Well actually, now that I think about it, I never really thought about Peter and his place in the Catholic Church because in Protestant churches we never talk about Peter being the first bishop in Rome. It was just a total non-issue.

It's only when I delved into the history of Christianity of my own accord did I start to learn that Peter's status as first bishop of Rome is critical for some Faith-Traditions.

Tim Enloe said...

Again, on the "pious fraud" idea, Ancient people didn't have a neat way to tell when something was a "fact" and when it was a "fraud." "Truth" for them transcended the "plain meaning" of texts - as may be seen in the "fourfold" hermeneutic used on Scripture. The interpretation of history was done the same way. It wasn't that the "literal" truth wasn't important; it's that it was not everything. Sometimes for Ancient men and women, texts pointed "beyond" themselves to a higher moral or teleological meaning. Anyone who has studied Ancient historians will see this point and take it into account as a factor in our evaluations of the past.

That said, one thing the Reformation did that we cannot give up is that it restored the primacy of the "literal" meaning of texts. The "literal" meaning had never been "lost," but it had over time come to be subsumed under the search for higher moral / teleological meanings. The Reformation restored the foundation of the "literal" meaning, and it's only the foolishness of American Fundamentalism that has caused so many Protestants - and following them, so many Catholics - to think that the Reformation is stuck in mere texts.

Christianity is a paradoxical religion in that it simultaneously embraces both this world and the next. History matters in Christianity. Matter matters in Christianity. It profits a man nothing to gain the whole world but lose his soul, but until we are called home to the city whose maker and builder is God, we have to live in this space and time "city," which is both real and meaningful on its own terms.

This is where Catholicism goes astray in its reactions to Modernity. For 250 years "Reason" has been trying to prove that Christianity is a historical and scientific fraud, and from this quest have come a variety of destructive doctrines, one of which is positivism (only empirically-verifiable things can be known).

[cont]

Tim Enloe said...

[cont]

Catholicism properly reacts against this (as all Christians must), but in what seems to be its most prominent intellectual school these days, it goes too far in the opposite direction, into a severely distorted "mystical" view of truth where only the Magisterium can ever really "know" anything via the "fullness" of its connection to Christ, and the rest of us can only "know" if we first put our trust in the Magisterium. Catholicism is stuck between the fact that Christianity is a "historical" religion and the fact that serious historical investigation does not support many of its dogmatic claims. The massive wad of texts that we possess do not, upon close analysis, yield a firm historical basis for the Catholic to have a confidence that, while (properly) pointing beyond this world, is still rooted in this world.

Ex-Evangelicals who have become Catholics don't appreciate this point because they operate on the basis of a naively literal understanding of "evidence" and how it is put together to offer warrant for beliefs. To them, you just pick up the Fathers and read 20 pages and Catholicism - meaning what they think of as "Catholicism" - just jumps right off the pages. No one who is "honest" with the texts can come to any other conclusion. That's these guys bluster that Protestant historical inquiries are exercises in positivism: that is, believing only what is "verifiable" based on the "literal" meaning of an empirical text. Catholicism has been forced into this position because some of its key dogmatic declarations about the papacy spent centuries claiming to be based in history, but the Renaissance and Reformation blew those claims out of the water. The only recourse for Catholicism is to assume a superior mystical connection to Christ, who transcends all the messiness of history and still guarantees the truth of Catholicism as "historic" Christianity despite ten thousand glaring, screaming factual indicators of error.

It's a nifty solution, but an extreme and unnecessary one.

Lvka said...

Bugay, let me get a couple of things straight with you:


1) evidence from silence is no evidence at all. (remember yours & Mat's reaction when I said to him that "[his] silence says it all")


2) all positive evidence THAT THERE IS is clear on Peter's martyrdom taking place in Rome.


(word-verif.="lablight" -- no, I'm not kiddin')

John Bugay said...

Lvka -- I'm not saying Peter didn't die in Rome. I'm not interested in taking anything away from his tremendous service to the Lord. I'm just reporting "what they knew, when they knew it." If you have something of substance to add to this, please feel free.

Nothing I've said denigrates Peter the disciple of the Lord, the martyr, in any way. But what Rome does makes a mockery of him and of his memory. It's like the Matrix. Have you seen that movie? They've seemingly got the bones of Peter (which they haven't really got) hooked up to some kind of machine, and this machine powers the papacy.

But really, it doesn't work that way. And in our age, it shouldn't work that way.

100 years ago, Bertrand Russell was saying that Jesus didn't even exist. Now, I've cited leading skeptics and atheists attesting major details of his life:

http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/a-positive-view-of-christian-foundations/

“Despite widespread discrepancies among the researchers, some things were not contested. All agreed that Jesus really had existed, and that he was a first-century Palestinian Jew living under the heel of a Roman occupation that – like many such occupations before and since – had split its captive people into feuding sects and warring factions. They also agreed that he was a rabbi who taught the imminent coming of the kingdom of God, and gained a following as a teacher and a healer in Galilee, especially among the landless and destitute, but that he aroused the ire of the nervous ruling religious circles and the tense Roman authorities. When he and some of his followers arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover holidays he caused a stir in the Temple, was arrested, interrogated, and executed by crucifixion, a form of death by torture reserved by the Romans for those suspected of subverting their imperial rule. But after his death, his followers insisted that he had appeared to them alive, and they continued to spread his message even in the face of harsh persecution.” (Harvey Cox, “When Jesus Came to Harvard,” ©2004, pgs 18-19).

All of this on the strength and accuracy and veracity of the New Testament documents, and documents from the succeeding years.

We know all about Paul. His life, writings, and travels, a mere 20-30 years after the life of Christ, is significantly attested -- names, places, all cross-checked with real dates, places, people.

But nothing we know about Jesus and Paul is based on forgeries, or myths.

And it's true, that I am presenting "evidence from silence" in this post. But there is other evidence. There is exegetical evidence from Scripture about who Peter genuinely was, what he genuinely did. And as the title of this series hints, there are myths and legends, which were propagated, and which gained strength (one commenter here mentioned Peter's alleged 25-year stay in Rome.)

Let's get this straight: I have the best interest of the church at heart. I believe that we need to know the Truth about Christianity, and I don't believe that any form of Christianity that is based on myths and untruths can possibly serve that Truth.

If I'm saying something that's not true, you have every right to set me straight. But Jesus also talked about building on a foundation of sand. If there's something more substantial about the foundation of the papacy, you've got a blog. Dig it up and publish it.

John Bugay said...

Tim: Again, on the "pious fraud" idea, Ancient people didn't have a neat way to tell when something was a "fact" and when it was a "fraud."

We are dealing with information that is far earlier and more foundational than "modernity".

But I remember saying years ago, in response to Jonathan Prejean, (at the old Greg's Discussion Board) exactly what you've said here: that the Roman church has somehow "disengaged" itself from history, that it free-floats "out there" somewhere, with no accountability whatsoever.

This is why, if the papacy is built on fraudulent foundations, it is precisely the job of the "infallible magisterium" to admit this. If it is aware of this information, and if it has any decency at all, if it is in any way a servant of Christ, it owes Christianity and all history a true explanation.

For too long, both sides have been going back and forth over "authority". Prior to that, the Orthodox.

Back in the late 90's Reardon argued that, even if it were possible to "go back" that we shouldn't, because it would be too hurtful to Catholics. But I'd say, it's more hurtful to continue to believe a lie. Christianity would be much better served at a council at which the bishop of Rome only has one vote, one voice, like everyone else. (Such a thing would be a mess, but what a signal to send to the world.)

In "Called to Communion," Ratzinger makes a point to note "the interconnection of person and word" as a way of guaranteeing the correct message, in "the Pastoral Letters and Acts of the Apostles." The problem is, he's got completely the wrong kind of "interconnection" that's mentioned in those sources.

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those researchers and historians who have, over the years, put this puzzle together. I wouldn't be surprised if Rome is still buying up Oscar Cullman books and burning them. But this is a message that needs to get out.

(You may be happy to know that I've got my copy of Anthony Lane's work "John Calvin: Student of the Church Fathers" out. I'm hoping to go through there some time soon, and report some of the massive reliance Calvin had on councils and church fathers. It's really an eye opener).

John Bugay said...

Linus was the first bishop of Rome? Whoa. I always thought it was Peter. I always thought it was Peter because I always deferred to the Catholic Church.

I'm working on a post that compares the various "lists" of the early popes. There was some confusion about how it all worked together.

During the rise of the popes (45h &5th centuries), the notion that "Peter and Paul founded Rome" was lost, in favor of a "totally Peter" view.

Ben M said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Rome is still buying up Oscar Cullman books and burning them. But this is a message that needs to get out.

Well, Cullman is something of a mixed bag! ;)

From Wikipedia:

Quote:

Partial support for the Catholic position comes from one of Protestantism's most distinguished Church historians, Oscar Cullmann , a Lutheran theologian. He disagrees with Luther and the Protestant reformers who held that by "rock" Christ did not mean Peter, but meant either himself or the faith of His followers. He believes the meaning of the original Aramaic is very clear: that "Kepha" was the Aramaic word for "rock", and that it was also the name by which Christ called Peter.[66]

Yet, Cullmann sharply rejects the Catholic claim that Peter began the papal succession. He writes: "In the life of Peter there is no starting point for a chain of succession to the leadership of the church at large." While he believes the Matthew text is entirely valid and is in no way spurious, he says it cannot be used as "warrant of the papal succession."[66]

Cullmann concludes that while Peter was the original head of the apostles, Peter was not the founder of any visible church succession.[66]

Partial Protestant support

Close quote.

But aside from this silly and futile attempt to discredit the Papacy, anyone around here ever notice that unity with the Roman Church is clearly one of the Scriptural marks of all true Churches of Christ?

Romans 16:16: “ALL the churches of Christ salute you”.

Evidently, "all the churches of Christ" were in communion with Rome. That’s the Biblical teaching, the Biblical reality, the Biblical pattern.

And no where does Scripture indicate this pattern is ever to change.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Bugay said...

Ben, regarding Cullmann -- The "partial support" you speak of has to do with his meaning of the "rock" in Matt 16:18. And I know other commentators have followed him in this. I do not happen to agree totally with this, but I don't know enough Aramaic yet to make the case.

Still, it is possible to disagree with that, without disagreeing at all with his total rejection of the idea that there was a papal succession. The two are separate arguments.

As a Catholic, however, you realize you are bound to believe a whole bunch of ahistorical things as "dogma".

So I don't see where your comment has any impact at all.

Regarding Romans 16:16, where does that verse say it was "a scriptural mark of all true churches"? You are reading something into it that is just not there.

Paul had just greeted "perhaps every individual believer and house church that [he] knew about in Rome" (Douglas Moo, 926). Have you noted that Rome has a kind of importance, without Peter? That's what I'm writing about. It is extremely improbable that Peter ever set foot in Rome until the very end of his life. Nevertheless, there was an active and thriving church there without him.

So Paul "passes on greetings from other churches." This is a standard line, and he frequently sends greetings from where he is, to where he's writing to.

Who are "all the churches"? Moo says, "the designation is probably not universal" ... Moo cites other commentators, notably a Catholic one, to the effect that Paul refers here to those churches in his orbit -- only those for which he can speak, "those churches he has been instrumental in planting" -- from "all the nations" (meaning the Gentile ministry -- see Rom 1:5-6 and also 15:18-24). "By conveying greetings from so many of the churches, Paul again hints at his strategy to bring the Roman church into the sphere of churches that know and support him" (927). He wants to ask them for money. (15:24-25).

If you want to take the line that this means "it's a scriptural mark of all true churches" that they "send their greetings to Rome," you had better come up with a good exegetical explanation for it, not the kind of spooky/mystical "Catholic-feel-good" reason that you've presented here -- "Rome gets a mention so that's a solid proof for the papacy"

Tim Enloe said...

John, I don't have Lane's book, alas. But I have just received several very important books on Calvin's use of classical philosophy and Renaissance methods in his biblical theology.

In a friendly spirit, I would advise you to take care with what you post on these subjects, though. I "got in trouble" with certain people some years back precisely for highlighting aspects of the Reformation heritage that don't fit the story that "everybody" knows about what the Reformation was and how it was related to the previous catholic tradition. Post too many things that don't fit the "accepted story" and you might not find your welcome so warm in these circles anymore.

John Bugay said...

Tim, I appreciate the advice. Given my current strong thoughts about all of this, I doubt that I will be tempted to go too far in that direction. But as I mentioned in another thread, I'm listening to Carl Trueman's lectures on Medieval Theology, and I think he's just amazing.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben M said...

As a Catholic, however, you realize you are bound to believe a whole bunch of ahistorical things as "dogma".

??

Regarding Romans 16:16, where does that verse say it was "a scriptural mark of all true churches"? You are reading something into it that is just not there.

Well, how would you characterize the apostle’s INSPIRED words?

Paul "passes on greetings from other churches." This is a standard line, and he frequently sends greetings from where he is, to where he's writing to.

But this occasion is different!

Here, we see that the Holy Spirit has inspired the apostle to use the phrase “all the churches of Christ” only once, and only in connection with the Church at Rome. It appears nowhere else in the entire New Testament. This inspired greeting is absolutely unique!

Have you noted that Rome has a kind of importance, without Peter?

Have you noted that Rome has a kind of importance, without either Peter or Paul?!

Consider: Long before Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, God had already elevated the Roman Church to a position of universal fame and preeminence - something for which the apostle thanks God!

“First I give thanks to my God, through Jesus Christ, for you all, because your faith is spoken of in the whole world.” Rom. 1:8

If you want to take the line that this means "it's a scriptural mark of all true churches" that they "send their greetings to Rome," you had better come up with a good exegetical explanation for it, not the kind of spooky/mystical "Catholic-feel-good" reason that you've presented here -- "Rome gets a mention so that's a solid proof for the papacy.

Who said anything about the papacy? I’m not trying to argue for the papacy here; I’m only trying to point out:

1. The universal preeminence which the Scripture assigns to the Roman Church.

2. The unity which the Scripture clearly teaches existed between “all the churches of Christ” and the Roman Church - thus the Scriptural model of ALL CHRISTENDOM being in communion with Rome!

3. That this Biblical pattern for the Catholic Church founded by Christ is to last til the end of time.

Now the papacy is, of course, another (though related) question. But the papacy aside, one simple fact is, I think, clear and indisputable viz, that God, in his written word, has made the Roman Church the locus of unity and the repository of doctrinal purity for all time.

Who are "all the churches"? Moo says, "the designation is probably not universal" ... Moo cites other commentators, notably a Catholic one, to the effect that Paul refers here to those churches in his orbit.

Well, it's hardly a deep exegetical insight to recognize that "all the churches" would have certainly included those within Paul's "orbit". But on the basis of what should "all the churches" be restricted to only those churches, especially given that Paul himself, at the beginning of this same letter, says, "Your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world"?

How could he have known that without having received information and reports from many more churches than just those within his immediate jurisdiction?

John Bugay said...

Ben: [ahistorical]??

For example, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary.


But this occasion is different! Here, we see that the Holy Spirit has inspired the apostle to use the phrase “all the churches of Christ” only once, and only in connection with the Church at Rome. It appears nowhere else in the entire New Testament. This inspired greeting is absolutely unique!

It is a historical impossibility to think that Paul had in mind any kind of "universal fame and preeminence" other than that this church at Rome was located in the capital city. At this time, and for most of the next century, the Roman church was a network of house churches -- a missionary outreach community -- its importance was that it was a novelty in the capital, in one of the most sinful cities in the world -- akin to an evangelical church located on the Las Vegas Strip.

Eastern churches were much larger than Rome at the time and far more significant.

You have produced all of two verses, into which you are reading the whole of Roman Catholic ecclesiology.

But let me give you this regarding Romans 1:8:

Hellenistic letters of antiquity often contained a thanksgiving and a prayer. Pauline letters usually conformed to this model, with a thanksgiving following the salutation and a prayer often succeeding the thanksgiving. The thanksgiving-prayer pattern is evident in Romans 1:8-10, but it should be noted that the thanksgiving is is abbreviated to one verse [shorter than the thanksgiving in other of Paul's letters], and that the content of the prayer is shaped by Paul's particular concerns in writing to the Romans. (Schreiner, "Romans," 47-48)

So, according to your method of exegesis, the Holy Spirit is really less thankful for Rome, because Paul thanks God for them less than he thanks God for the other churches. And the prayer -- he wants to visit, by why? So that they might be strengthened. They are weak.

But here's a question for you. There are 431 other verses in Romans. What do you think Paul really thought (and the Holy Spirit thought) was more important to say to the church in Rome?

The things you are talking about -- unity, patterns for the church -- are all attested in other places, in language that is much more clear, and in ways that don't have anything to do with Rome.

The single important fact about Rome that gives this place any hint of a difference with his other letters is that it's the capital of the empire.

Ben M said...

John, simple question.

Based strictly on the Scriptural data, is the following true or false?

All the New Testament churches were in communion with the Roman Church.

John Bugay said...

Ben, I don't have time to get into this today. But you must define what you mean by "communion" -- the Greek for "all the churches of Christ" do suggest that "the churches are 'related to' Christ but in no particular way" (Moo 927). That should not be in question.

Schreiner goes further: "By sending greetings from all these churches [again, those for whom he felt he could speak -- as mentioned earlier in the letter] Paul conveys to the Romans the universality of his gospel. His gospel has taken root over the whole world, and he invites the Romans to be part of his mission." (798)

This is far, far removed from your attempt to read current Roman doctrine back into this verse.

What's more, you still fail to answer my questions: What's more important, the 2 verses you cited, or the 432 other verses in the rest of the book? What was Paul really trying to say to the Christians at Rome?

Ben M said...

But you must define what you mean by "communion" -- the Greek for "all the churches of Christ" do suggest that "the churches are 'related to' Christ but in no particular way" (Moo 927). That should not be in question.

By "communion" I mean that all the churches (including Rome) were bound together in mutual love and concern for one another, and shared the same faith - doctrine, sacraments, form of worship - and, of course, were of apostolic origin.

The Apostles Creed has "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church."

This is far, far removed from your attempt to read current Roman doctrine back into this verse.

John, I’m not trying to read anything - back, forward, or sideways - into Scripture. I’m simply saying what the Scripture itself says flat-out in plain simple Greek ;), viz, that the Roman Church's faith was universally proclaimed, and that “all the churches of Christ” esteemed that Church. Again, Scripture gives us the basic form which the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, is to have.

What's more, you still fail to answer my questions: What's more important, the 2 verses you cited, or the 432 other verses in the rest of the book? What was Paul really trying to say to the Christians at Rome?

But what is your point, that the other 432 verses somehow trump the fact of Rome’s preeminence? Surely you don’t mean to imply that, do you?