Thursday, August 05, 2010

Ignatius severely contradicts current Roman Catholic teachings

For the next few posts, I'd like to work through Adrian Fortescue's small book, The Early Papacy (to the Synod of Chalcedon in 451). In a previous post, I listed the four "theses to be proved," -- beliefs which the early church held, "as part of her faith," which are essentially supposed to be the same four things that Rome believes about the papacy today.

To do this, he provided a series of "proof texts," texts from early writers suggest that "the plain meaning seems to be that their writer believed what we believe [about the papacy] at some point" (53).

He goes on formally to discuss the methodology, or how these discussions typically have played out over history:
We quote words of which the plain meaning seems to be that their writer believed what we believe, in some point. The opponent then tries to strip his words of this meaning; Catholic writers then have to refute his attempt. (53-54).
Catholics, especially, should have some qualms about what the "plain meaning" of a text is. The Bible can't have "plain meaning"; that would be the Protestant doctrine of perspicuity. We need an "infallible magisterium" to provide the "proper" interpretation." But the church fathers, they can write perspicuously. In Catholic-speak, whenever Rome is mentioned by a church father, that can only be a full proof of a full-fledged papacy.

We won't point out that double standard here; it's been discussed many times.

* * *

Here's the first of Fortescue's four "theses to be proved": The Pope is the chief bishop, primate, and leader of the whole Church of Christ on earth.

From Fortescue's perspective, all of the quotes that he gives to support this thesis "can be understood naturally, supposing that their writers believed in the primacy of the Pope. If you do not admit that, you have to find a different, often a most tortuous, interpretation for each." Invoking a rule of logic, he says that "The rule of good reasoning is that one simple cause that accounts equally for all the phenomena is supposed to be the real one, unless proved false. Now, there is nothing that can be even reasonably suggested to show that the early Fathers did not believe in the [papal] primacy."

He's hedging again. If this is a "thesis to be proved," then beginning with the assumption that what he needs to prove really is just "a vicious circularity." And it's typical of "The Catholic Hermeneutic" that we've written about in the past.

One more qualifier. He says: "There is another general issue here. These early Fathers are witnesses of the belief of their time. Now, the value of evidence increases as it is multiplied. We must take the value, not of one text, but of all put together. Here we have a great number of texts that all make the same point. The fact that all do make for the same point suggests the reasonable interpretation of each. All can be understood naturally, supposing that their writers believed in the primacy of the Pope."

So the value of all these texts together -- whether they are related or not -- increases as more and more of them (supposedly) say the same thing.

At any rate, here is his first proof text for an early papacy:
We have in the first century two expressions of St. Ignatius, the Martyr-bishop of Antioch (d.c. 107). He speaks of "the presiding Church in the place of the land of the Romans," and he calls this Church "the President of the bond of love", meaning the whole body of Christians, if we accept Funk and Harnack's translation. (Fortescue 55).
Keep in mind that Fortescue suggests that "the plain meaning" of these really bare-bones texts that he provides is that "the Pope is the chief bishop, primate, and leader of the whole Church of Christ on earth." Or at least, in the backward Catholic way of reasoning, this statement doesn't explicitly contradict that Ignatius believed in an early papal primacy, so it must not only be true, but it is a firm conviction in support of the papacy.

But that really is beside the point. It is possible to learn a great deal about what Ignatius believed from his letters.

Here is the translation given by Michael W. Holmes, "The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and Translations, Third Edition" Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, © 2007, pg 225, of that same prooftext that Fortescue provided:
Ignatius the Image-bearer to the church that has found mercy in the majesty of the Father Most High and Jesus Christ his only son, the church beloved and enlightened through the will of the one who willed all things that exist, in accordance with faith in and love for Jesus Christ our God, which also presides in the place of the district of Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and presiding over love, observing the law of Christ, bearing the name of the Father, which I also greet in the name of Jesus Christ, son of the Father; to those who are united in flesh and spirit to every commandment of his, who have been filled with the grace of God without wavering and filtered clear of every alien color: heartiest greetings blamelessly in Jesus Christ our God.
It's clear that Ignatius thinks highly of the church that "presides in the place of the district of the Romans." But why? Is it to be assumed (or can it be inferred from the text) that "The Pope is the chief bishop, primate, and leader of the whole Church of Christ on earth"? Or are there other reasons why he may be speaking highly of Rome? I will suggest the latter -- and none of these is "tortuous," and none of these also has anything to do with "papal primacy." These are just good, natural "interpretations" for what these various authors say, that will have nothing to do with "papal primacy."

I should add, this letter was one of seven letters written while Ignatius was under arrest, and being transported by 10 Roman soldiers, for the purpose of standing trial. It was his over-riding goal at this time to become a martyr. And his great fear was, with respect to the church at Rome, that they would somehow exercise their political connections and prevent his martyrdom.

The fact is, for the remainder of this letter of Ignatius to the Romans, for all of the advise that Ignatius is willing to give to other churches about the office of "Bishop," a "bishop" of Rome is not mentioned. But it is possible for a church to be without a bishop: "Remember in your prayers the church in Syria [Ignatius's home church], which has God for its shepherd in my place. Jesus Christ alone will be its bishop--as will your love." (9.1)

But while Rome's "bishop" is not in view at all, the political connections of the church at Rome are repeatedly in view.
1.1 For I am afraid of your love, in that it may do me wrong; for it is easy for you to do what you want, but it is difficult for me to reach God, unless you spare me. [There's that "love" that is, through its political connections, going to either save his life, or, if it holds its tongue, and fails to pull its political strings, along with Christ, going to be "bishop" of Antioch in his absence. So the place of love," which Fortescue considers to be "the whole body of Christians," really has a reference to Rome's political connections.]

2.1 For I will never again have an opportunity such as this to reach God, nor can you, if you remain silent, be credited with a greater accomplishment. For if you remain silent and leave me alone, I will be a word of God, but if you love my flesh [and spare my life], then I will again be a mere voice. [There's that "love" again.]

2.2 Grant me nothing more than to be poured out as an offering to God while there is still an altar ready, so that in love you may form a chorus and sing to the Father in Jesus Christ, because God has judged the bishop from Syria worthy to be found in the west, having summoned from the east.

3.1-2 You have never envied anyone; you taught others. [Many believe this is a reference to 1 Clement.] And my wish is that those instructions that you issue when teaching disciples will remain in force. Just pray that I will have strength both outwardly and inwardly so that I may not just talk about it but want to do it, so that I may not merely be called a Christian but actually prove to be one. [That is, "teach self-sacrifice," and in doing so, "my death will confirm your "teaching" "in force"?]

3.3 Nothing that is visible is good. [Did Ignatius believe in a "visible church"?] For our God Jesus Christ is more visible now that he is in the Father. The work is not a matter of persuasive rhetoric [1 Clement?]; rather, Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world.

4.1 I am writing to all the churches and insisting to everyone that I die for God of my own free will--unless you hinder me [through your political connections]. I implore you; do not be unseasonably kind to me. Let me be food for the wild beasts; through whom I can reach God.

4.3 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. [It is important to note that here, as in other places, Ignatius does not see any kind of "succession" of apostolic authority. He acknowledges himself -- he has repeatedly said he is a bishop -- to be far, far less, in every way, than Peter and Paul.]

6.1 It is better for me to die for Jesus Christ than to rule over the ends of the earth. [Of course, the Roman government currently rules over the ends of the earth.]

6.2 Bear with me brothers and sisters: do not keep me from living; do not desire my death. Do not give to the world one who wants to belong to God or tempt him with material things.

7.1 The ruler of this age wants to take me captive and corrupt my godly intentions. Therefore none of you who are present must help him. [That is, you at Rome are eminently capable of doing the wrong thing.]
In this letter alone, Ignatius contradicts a vast range of current Roman Catholic teachings.

In this letter to the church at Rome, does Ignatius see even a bishop, much less someone who might be "the chief bishop, primate, and leader of the whole Church of Christ on earth? When a bishop is mentioned here, that bishop is Christ [And the "love" of the Romans that could either spare him the martyrdom he so desires, or confirm it, and so make Jesus Christ alone the bishop of Antioch.]

When a "visible church" is in view, "nothing that is visible is good." When "teaching" is in view, he fears the Romans will teach wrongly. When "apostles" are in view, there is no succession, but a great gulf between apostle and bishop.

This is the first, and the earliest "proof" that Fortescue gives of an early papacy. Have I tried to "strip Ignatius's words of their plain meaning"? Or have I rather let him speak about an early Roman primacy?

It is not a "Petrine primacy" that is in view in Rome. It is a political primacy. And this political primacy comes into view over and over again in the early church.

38 comments:

Matthew Bellisario said...

"Catholics, especially, should have some qualms about what the "plain meaning" of a text is. The Bible can't have "plain meaning"; that would be the Protestant doctrine of perspicuity. "

Where does the Catholic Church ever say that none of Scripture has a plain meaning? Again, you are making a fool out of yourself.

John Bugay said...

Sorry Matthew, I am old enough to remember when "the sacred obscurity of the Word of God [was] no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it" (Denzinger 1431).

I keep forgetting that they changed that, what with semper eadem and all.

John Bugay said...

But what about those political connections that the Visible Church at Rome had? Pretty powerful stuff, huh?

Rhology said...

So what, John Bug?

Irenæus was just one private theologian, not infallible. We Romanists can just discount his teachings when they're inconvenient, like we do for any other early Christian writer, even though we quote him for support of our position when he agrees with us and rip Protestants for not believing "What The Early Church Believed". Sheesh, thought you'd've learned this by now.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Matthew Bellisario writes:

Where does the Catholic Church ever say that none of Scripture has a plain meaning?

The problem is that you apologists for the Roman Catholic denomination engage in duplicitous argumentation. On the one hand, you regularly tell us that we need an infallible interpreter to sift through the tens of thousands of denominations and their competing interpretations of Scripture. The implication being, of course, that we can't discern the plain meaning of Scripture on our own. Yet you all regularly appeal to Scripture to prove various tenants of Roman Catholicism, such as the Papacy, Transubstantiation, Apostolic Succession, the Immaculate Conception, etc. And here the implication is, of course, that we Protestants can discern the plain meaning of Scripture, for what would be the point of quoting Scripture to us if we can't understand it?

Again, you are making a fool out of yourself.

Don't blame John Bugay for the ever-changing doctrinal and theological standards and beliefs of your denomination.

Lvka said...

Are you aware of the proverb 'a sharb laughs at a broken pot' ?

Constantine said...

John,

You should really try harder.

When I proved to His Eminence how his use of Aquinas refuted oral tradition, my beatification included "ass" and "fool".

If you should wish to attain to the rarified air of my lofty perch - and not be content to merely be a "fool" - I suggest you redouble your efforts!

Thanks for the good work.

Peace.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"This is the first, and the earliest "proof" that Fortescue gives of an early papacy. Have I tried to "strip Ignatius's words of their plain meaning"? Or have I rather let him speak about an early Roman primacy?"

As far as I can tell, I do not think that you are trying to "strip Ignatius's words of their plain meaning."

FWIW, there seems to be an "argument from silence" aspect in this post.

John Bugay said...

Lvka: Are you aware of the proverb 'a sharb laughs at a broken pot' ?

Yeah, that's a funny one. Keep the one-liners coming!

John Bugay said...

Constantine -- Of course, you are the master, and you drive us to ever higher heights!

John Bugay said...

Truth -- this is a multi-faceted subject, which is why it's taking so long to get through it. But it seems clear to me that Ignatius has a whole different focus from what we've been led to believe he was saying.

If there is an "argument from silence" on such things as this Ignatius document, then there is a whole body of evidence surrounding another historical reconstruction that will fill in that gap.

Dozie said...

"But it is possible for a church to be without a bishop".

What happened to the "hot air" about "multiplicity of elders" being the norm in the early Church?

Andrew said...

"What happened to the "hot air" about "multiplicity of elders" being the norm in the early Church?"

It certainly was for the first century and a half in Rome. Dozie, would you agree that, hypothetically, if Rome had no single bishop, but instead a group of elders who oversaw the church there that there would have been no Pope? If not why not?

Matthew Bellisario said...

"Dozie, would you agree that, hypothetically, if Rome had no single bishop, but instead a group of elders who oversaw the church there that there would have been no Pope?"

Well, lets see. There are several bishops in Rome right now and that does not upset the Papacy in any capacity. So no, your reasoning does not add up Andrew. Try again.

John Bugay said...

Matthew -- "several" does not equal "zero". There were "zero" "bishops" in Rome. Just a presbyterian-style council of elders.

Dozie said...

"It certainly was for the first century and a half in Rome."

What you would have to do is start naming the co-bishops. Who was co-bishop with Linus, Anacletus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, etc, etc. I predict no Protestant will be able to tell us who was co-bishop with who in the first centuries.

John Bugay said...

Dozie -- the notion of "co-bishops" is fairly out of step with what Fortescue outlines above, and that is a "chief bishop, primate, and leader of the whole Church of Christ on earth."

You are the ones who have historically claimed to be able to produce that single line of guys on top. But its very clear, especially in Lampe's work, that there was no such lineage.

http://books.google.com/books?id=s98K8snXyeUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=peter+lampe+christian+church+at+rome&hl=en&ei=DgFcTN2NGsL-8AbSz5GzAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Lampe provides a hugely thorough reconstruction of that network of churches in that city in that era.

Dozie said...

"Lampe provides a hugely thorough reconstruction of that network of churches in that city in that era."

This attempt does not address my challenge. For any number of bishops that you accept, the challenge for you is to also list the co-bishops.

John Bugay said...

If there were no bishops, how could there be "co-bishops"?

In case you are not aware of it, the thing that Lampe says is that the early lists of bishops were merely fictional constructions, made up from names of presbyters who were remembered from that city's collective memory.

In the US, we had a constitution with a well-defined set of responsibilities for that office. And we counted the office-holders, one by one.

It's not like that for ancient Rome. There were house churches there, each of which had an elder or maybe several elders. (See Romans 16). No one of these could be said to have been "bishop of Rome," and hence, there could have been no "pope". None of this was consolidated under a single "monarchical bishop" until probably the second half of the second century.

Matthew Bellisario said...

"Matthew -- "several" does not equal "zero". There were "zero" "bishops" in Rome. Just a presbyterian-style council of elders."

Pure presumption on your part Bugay. The fact is, there were bishops in Rome, and Saint Peter was one of them and it is a historical fact that he was martyred there. Again, history is not your friend.

Lvka said...

Keep the one-liners coming!


OK. Here's another one.

Matthew Bellisario said...

One liners are all you people are worth over here, since you deny any real historical fact when it is given to you. There is so much overwhelming historical evidence that the papacy did exist in the early years of the Church that is laughable to watch you guys try and circumvent this fact with your historical revisionism.

There is a two liner for you.

John Bugay said...

Matthew, your concern is touching, but just to show you, I think I'm going to publish some quotes from some important Catholic people who tend to disagree with you.

Edward Reiss said...

Lvka,

If in fact there was no bishop in roime for a time, doesn't that mean that by Orthodox lights there was no church at Rome?

Matthew Bellisario said...

"I think I'm going to publish some quotes.."

Great, more quotes. I am glad to know that quotes make you feel better about yourself and your man-made religion, but for me it just goes to show that you are very insecure about leaving the Catholic Church. If you were secure about your decision, you would not spend every waking hour of your life trying to defend it.

John Bugay said...

Are you kidding? Finding the Reformation Faith was finding the pearl of great price!

Rhology said...

you would not spend every waking hour of your life trying to defend it.

Said the guy who runs "Catholic Champion".

Edward Reiss said...

"Great, more quotes. I am glad to know that quotes make you feel better about yourself and your man-made religion, but for me it just goes to show that you are very insecure about leaving the Catholic Church. If you were secure about your decision, you would not spend every waking hour of your life trying to defend it."

To be honest, Matthew, your conduct on this blog makes it look like you are insecure, and kicking against the goads. Witness the constant ad-hominems and bald, unsupported assertions we see here from you. Someone supplies quotes from a scholar which undermines your church's claims. A confident, intellectually honest "champion" would be able to at least show that the quotes have some issues, that they were taken out of context etc. Someone out of ideas, or who wants to cling to his ideas when he strongly suspects they are not true (I am not sure which category fits you, but I am quite confident at least one does), will try to change the subject to cover up the fact he doesn't really have an argument. It is a free country, of course. But if this is all a Catholic "champion" can offer, it is likely there is simply no there, there.

Andrew said...

St. Champ:
"Well, lets see. There are several bishops in Rome right now and that does not upset the Papacy in any capacity. So no, your reasoning does not add up Andrew. Try again."

My response:
Re-read my question and see if you can comprehend it this time. Then I will interact with you. Just promise to go easy on me. You are a genius and I am only a dumb, protestant dullard. Just don't post between 5-7 CST. That there's my time for chaw and moonshine.

Dozie said:

"What you would have to do is start naming the co-bishops. Who was co-bishop with Linus, Anacletus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, etc, etc. I predict no Protestant will be able to tell us who was co-bishop with who in the first centuries."

My response: Which of the contradictory lists of early popes should I read as I try to find the names of the "co-bishops"? See, you can't even tell us for sure who the "pope" was. If you could then you might have an argument, but as seems all too common, the RC posters can't live up to the standards to which they hold others.

Matthew Bellisario said...

"Someone supplies quotes from a scholar which undermines your church's claims."

Funny, I haven't seen one yet.

Thats a one liner. Now you are starting to get it.

Andrew said...

St. Middle Man

"Funny, I haven't seen one yet."

You have seen them myriad times on this blog. You normally simply dismiss them out of hand.

Matthew Bellisario said...

The day someone proves that the Catholic faith is not what it claims to be, I will be the first to leave. From what I have witnessed on this blog, I do not think that this group is going to do it. There have been better men throughout time who have tried and failed, and none of you are anywhere near their caliber. Quoting a few "scholars" is not going to cut it.

Thats a four liner.

Andrew said...

Thank you for demonstrating my point, St. Middle Man.

Dozie said...

"There were house churches there, each of which had an elder or maybe several elders."

Ok, I think we are getting somewhere. Can you then name the organizers, leaders, or members of the house churches and what decades they existed? Can you give an account of when exactly these house churches started and who were the principal organizers? Can you also let us know what happened to these house Churches?

Andrew said...

Dozie said:

"What you would have to do is start naming the co-bishops. Who was co-bishop with Linus, Anacletus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, etc, etc. I predict no Protestant will be able to tell us who was co-bishop with who in the first centuries."

My response: Which of the contradictory lists of early popes should I read as I try to find the names of the "co-bishops"? See, you can't even tell us for sure who the "pope" was. If you could then you might have an argument, but as seems all too common, the RC posters can't live up to the standards to which they hold others.

Lvka said...

To sum up the entire article, plus the 35 comments preceding mine in just a few words:

If I can't remember the exact order of American presidents, it means they were all presidents at the same time.

(When you have something serious to post, give me a notice).

Edward Reiss said...

Matthew,

"Funny, I haven't seen one yet.

Thats a one liner. Now you are starting to get it."

Well, the only one-liners I see are from you, Matthew. And by that I mean a general way of argumentation. And because of this your claim "The day someone proves that the Catholic faith is not what it claims to be, I will be the first to leave" rings a little hollow, because I have yet to see you deal with evidence. Instead of dealing with evidence I see "one liners" and the tactic of trying to change the topic to be your opponent, instead of what your opponent says. It really does look like you cannot respond in a reasonable manner, but that you just try and shout down your opponents the best way you can. This makes your position look really, really weak. It would seem that a "champion" would try to use the best arguments, and not make himself, and by extension that which he champions, look weak.

Kim said...

Catholics, especially, should have some qualms about what the "plain meaning" of a text is. The Bible can't have "plain meaning"; that would be the Protestant doctrine of perspicuity. We need an "infallible magisterium" to provide the "proper" interpretation." But the church fathers, they can write perspicuously.

I'm coming in late and haven't read all the comments, but I just had to say that this comment is striking. Different communions have their favorite fathers, and that should say something. I know the OCs love to quote Basil and Chrysostom and Gregory Nazianzen and all, while the RCs love to quote Augustine and Ignatius and Jerome and such. And why do they gravitate toward certain ECFs? Because their favorite ECFs taught what they want to emphasize. Since the ECFs contradict each other on many teachings, what's the big deal when it's Protestants doing the same thing, ya know?

We all have so many blind spots, don't we? I know I have many.