One item from Liccione which does deal with what you have responded is also being discussed in the combox.In fact, most of the Catholic scholars I am aware of actually agree with that judgment. I’m not aware of any who contradict that “judgment”. You might say it is “universal”. In fact, this view is taught in a work entitled “The Rise of the Papacy,” by Robert B. Eno, S.S. That S.S. stands for the Order of the Sulpicians, whose mission it is to teach parish priests. So I can’t account for the course schedule, but there’s a good chance that a parish priest near you is on board with this account.
Specifically: Another of Mathison’s arguments is that there’s no evidence of mono-episcopacy in Rome until the late second century, and that some Catholic scholars agree with that judgment, which indeed they do….
Liccione: That requires arguing, as he does, that St. Irenaeus and one of his sources, Hegisippus, misstated the evidence from the post-apostolic Church of Rome, even though Irenaeus himself had been to Rome and known St. Polycarp of Smyrna personally, who in turn had been to Rome and had himself known the Apostle John personally. Such an argument would have us believe that, roughly 1,900 years after the fact, we can understand the meaning and reliability of the late first-century sources better than people who had lived less than two generations after the fact and had known eyewitnesses to it.There’s no question that Irenaeus was an important witness. It’s funny that Liccione wants to talk about Hegesippus, because Hegesippus is one of those “secondary sources” for which Liccione says “is not a reputable form of argument” down below.
With respect to Irenaeus, Cullmann [who is not by any means a liberal!], in the work I referred to in my previous post, noted this:
Toward the end of the second century, Irenaeus writes, chiefly in connection with a description of gospel origins that goes back to Papias, that Peter and Paul had preached in Rome and founded the church, and he repeats the assertion when he speaks of the Roman church as the “very ancient and universally known church founded and organized by Peter and Paul.” Here, too, occurs at least one [historical] error: the Roman church in any case was not founded by Paul. That is entirely clear from his letter to the Romans. This at once calls in question the historical trustworthiness of the statement (Cullmann, 116).Paul writes to the church at Rome without addressing a leader. He writes in the years 57-58, a date that is very firm in history, in a letter that is not contested. Excuses are made as to why Paul makes no mention of Peter in Rome, even though the church has been attested in Rome perhaps from Acts 2, when visitors for Rome were present at/saved at Pentecost. In Acts 18, Aquila and Priscilla are expelled from Rome by the edict of Claudius, attested in secular history, 49 ad.
So the church at Rome is attested long before Paul writes, and there is no leader there.
Ignatius, who knows and writes about Bishops in the east, writes to Rome without mentioning a Bishop. There is no question the city of Rome is important. It is the capital of the empire. This church “which presides in the place of the district of the Romans…”
Consider the Shepherd of Hermas. According to the Muratorian Canon, the oldest (ca. AD-180-200?) known list of the New Testament and early Christian writings, Hermas was the brother of Pius, who is listed as a bishop of Rome (ca 140-154). So he was writing earlier than Hegesippus, whose “list of bishops” is said to be the first one (c. 166), and earlier than Irenaeus (c.180). Hermas was, in fact, listed in the Muratorian Canon as a book to be read in the churches [i.e., it was liturgical].
Afterwards I saw a vision in my house. The elderly woman came and asked me if I had already given the little book to the elders (presbuteroi, plural). I said that I had not given it. “You have done well,” she said, “for I have words to add. So when I finish all the words they will be made known to all the elect through you. Therefore you will write two little books, and you will send one to Clement and one to Grapte. Then Clement will send it to the cities abroad, because that is his job. But Grapte will instruct the widows and orphans. But you yourself will read it to this city [Rome], along with the elders (presbuteroi) who preside (proistamenoi – plural leadership) over the church." (Vis 2.4)Roger Collins, “Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy,” (New York: Basic Books, 2008), notes “The author of the Epistle of Clement may have been the man of this name later described as the person responsible for drafting communications sent behalf of Christians of Rome to other churches.” If this Clement did compose 1 Clement, then it certainly would be understandable why the Corinthian church would have thought they received a letter from Clement (even though the name of Clement does not appear within that letter. Rather, it is from “the church of God that sojourns in Rome”).
But Hermas could not be clearer. There is a plurality of presbyters who “preside over” the church at Rome. This is no fuzzy mention, as in Ignatius, of a church in “a place of honor”. This is a clear explanation for the “argument from silence” in Paul’s letter to the Romans, in the absence of a clear leader in both 1 Clement and Ignatius.
Hermas reiterates the structure of this leadership, and the fact that they are not leading, but rather that they fight among themselves. He calls them “children”.
Look therefore to the coming judgment. You, therefore, who have more than enough, seek out those who are hungry, until the tower is finished. For after the tower is finished, you may want to do good, but you will not have the chance. Beware, therefore, you who exult in your wealth, lest those in need groan, and their groaning rise up to the Lord, and you together with your good things be shut outside the door of the tower. Now, therefore, I say to you [tois – plural] who lead the church and occupy the seats of honor [multiple “Chairs of Peter”?]: do not be like the sorcerers. For the sorcerers carry their drugs in bottles, but you carry your drug and poison in your heart. You are calloused and do not want to cleanse your hearts and to mix your wisdom together in a clean heart, in order that you may have mercy from the great King. Watch out, therefore, children, lest these divisions of yours [among you elders] deprive you of your life. How is it that you desire to instruct God’s elect, while you yourselves have no instruction? Instruct one another, therefore, and have peace among yourselves, in order that I too may stand joyfully before the Father and give an account on behalf of all of you to your Lord.” (Vis 3.9)Hermas here is chastising the multiple leaders of the church at Rome. This is important to note because Hermas identifies himself as a slave (Vis. 1.1). It will not do to say that this is a group of priests who work for a bishop. The entire group "presides."
Yet here, in the leadership of the church of Rome, there are multiple elders who "preside"; they are acting like sorcerers. They exult in their wealth. They take the seats of honor. They want to teach, but they are guilty themselves of having no instruction.
As for what we can know 1900 years after the fact, I’m convinced there is much that we can learn. Archaeology confirms writings, secular writings confirms New Testament writings. How can forensic scientists reconstruct a murder based on such small and insignificant things as fingerprints, DNA evidence, and striations on bullets?
Liccione: That dubious sort of move is rather common among liberal scripture and patristic scholars; it’s just special pleading when made by a conservative theologian who would often find liberal scholarship dubious on just such grounds.Is it “special pleading”? There is no question that “liberal scholarship” has put the New Testament as a whole, and the life of Christ, through the most strenuous bit of examination over the last 200 years that any person or set of documents has been subjected to. And our historical knowledge of both the life of Christ and the New Testament is on far firmer footing than it has ever been. Even “liberal” scholarship is confirming important facts and details about the life of Christ.
With respect to the life and letters of Paul, for example, there is a body of his work that interacts with secular people and places and histories, that there is no question as to who Paul was, where he traveled to, what he wrote, and on and on. His letters are so well attested, scholars don’t even quibble over dates and places any more.
I’d say rather that what Liccione calls “conservative” and “liberal” scholarship in these fields are doing their jobs so well that many formerly contested things and events are coming into such a sharp focus that many things are agreed upon by both sides.
Consider the life of Christ. Craig Blomberg recently blogged about a conservative and an atheist historian who agreed: the Resurrection probably was being reported the same year it happened. This is a tremendous confluence of agreement on facts, especially when you consider that 100 or so years ago, Bertrand Russell was making a name for himself by mouthing off that Jesus never even existed. Blomberg has published one or two books in the last few years, which I haven’t read, that probably go into far more detail than this.
Gary Habermas has put together a list of 12 historical facts about the resurrection of Christ that huge numbers of scholars, liberal and conservative, agree upon in huge numbers.
Consider the following four items. In his work “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” Habermas says that virtually 100% of scholars believe the first four are “so strongly evidenced historically that nearly every scholar regards them as reliable facts,” and the fifth is believed by more than 75% (pg 48).
1. Jesus died by crucifixion
2. Jesus’s disciples believed he rose and appeared to them
3. The conversion of Paul (from persecutor of the church to leading Apostle).
4. The conversion of James, the brother of the Lord (originally a severe skeptic)
5. The empty tomb.
Habermas surveyed more than 2,400 sources in French, German, and English in which experts have written on the resurrection from 1975 to the present.
So when Liccione and other Roman Catholics from the CTC school of thought want to wave their hands and dismiss “liberal” scholarship, I want to say they simply do not know what they are talking about.
But consider further that this same confluence of scholarship that is bringing the life of Christ and the reliability of the New Testament into such sharper and clearer focus, are decimating Roman Catholic tales of the early papacy.
Liccione: The argument in question, which is fairly common, also trades on an ambiguity in the use of the word ‘presbyteros’ in the early Church. And it has been vigorously contested on that and other grounds by Catholic scholars whom Mathison simply ignores. The selective use of secondary scholarly sources is not a reputable form of argument. So Mathison’s present argument doesn’t merit more attention here either.I’ve given examples from Hermas above of the “trading on ambiguity” in the word “presbuteros” above. What’s Hermas saying? Is he being ambiguous?
Too, I’m sure that Mathison’s trying to summarize here. There is nothing “not reputable” about what Mathison has done, and for Liccione to cast aspersions on his motive or his method is just simply what’s decried at CTC as ad hominem. But when you can’t really address what the writer is saying, then shoot the messenger.