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.
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.]
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