Saturday, May 14, 2016

Brandon Addison’s Complete Response to “Called to Communion” regarding “the Nonexistent Early Papacy”

Anyone who reads this site knows that Called to Communion is one the most difficult Roman apologetics sites to deal with because of the lengths they are willing to go to, in order to maintain their dogmatic sophistry.

In the following, stunningly amazing piece of work, Brandon Addison has done a tremendous service for the entire church, squarely addressing the “Called to Communion” argument in favor of an early papacy in Rome, having tracked down and assembled virtually every scholarly writing on the topic of “Bishops in the earliest church” and the “development” of the office of “bishop”, especially in the city of ancient Rome.

In the process, he thoroughly and patiently analyzes the arguments that Called to Communion makes, he finds their weaknesses, he proposes and argues counter-arguments. The result is that the Called to Communion response to his original piece is seen to be as almost totally devoid of merit.

Here is how the whole piece breaks down:

Part 1, Prolegomena:
The burden of proof for monepiscopacy in Rome at the beginning of the second century rests on the one arguing that case, since all the evidence speaks either of a plural episcopate, or none at all. I Clement 42 mentions bishops (59,3 uses the singular form of the word for God) as does Hermas Vis. 3,5,1 and Sim. 9,27,2. Ignatius’ Romans neither argues for monepiscopacy nor mentions a bishop in that city—(Fredrick W. Norris, “Ignatius, Polycarp, and 1 Clement: Walter Bauer Reconsidered” Vigiliae Christianae, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Mar., 1976): pg 38 fn. 53).

Part 2, Areas of Agreement
At this point, I want to emphasize that we agree on the nature of the question and the definitions that have been set out.

Part 3, Methodology
In [the Called to Communion response to my original article], the claim is repeatedly made that the evidence is inscrutable and therefore not evidence that the church in Rome was originally presbyterial. Examples are enumerated in detail below, but [Called to Communion] merely lists possible interpretations without evaluating probabilities. In almost every place [Called to Communion] proposes possible scenarios in which their theory of a monepiscopate with supreme jurisdictional authority could potentially fit. They then move from invoking a possibility to asserting they have incorporated the data and therefore the data is inscrutable between competing paradigms.

This is inadequate historical methodology and limits the historical process from challenging pre-existing narratives.

Part 4, Brandon’s “Summary Narrative”
The New Testament uses the words “bishop” and “presbyter” interchangeably. The presbyters are said to provide oversight (episkopos) (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Tim 1:5, 7). Even those passages where the singular episkopos is used, it is the expected grammatical form (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:2) and is always accompanied by other mention of multiple presbyters (Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 4:14-16, 5:17). Other passages, such as Hebrews 13:7 indicate that leadership in churches is overseen by multiple leaders and while Phil 1:1 is not discussed explicitly in this section, there we find Paul addressing bishops and deacons. On balance, this data indicates that the early church was led by presbyters overseeing (episkopos) the church together.

Part 5, Evidence in the New Testament
... the best exegetical argument is in favor of an equivalence between presbyters and bishops instead of viewing them as distinct orders.

Without offering exegetical considerations, [Called to Communion] opines that even if my argument about the equivalence were correct, it’s still possible that there could have been multiple bishops with only one operating with jurisdictional authority.

Part 6, Clement of Rome
Jerome is making precisely the point that I’m making about Clement. It’s not only that presbyter=bishop, it is also that bishop=presbyter. And to contextualize this, Dolan is writing at the CUA in 1950 about consensus within the Roman Catholic Church on early ecclesial structure. According to Dolan, Jerome’s comments were a significant reason that the majority of Roman Catholic scholars believed that the episcopate developed from the presbyterate. The response article on the other hand, argues that Jerome undergirds their distinction, but all one needs to do is set the claims of the [Called to Communion] article and the comments of Jerome side by side to see the blatant contradiction ...

Part 7, Ignatius of Antioch
[Called to Communion] begins this section by strangely taking issue with the fact that I’ve conceded that Ignatius is strong support for the episcopal position. I state, “If we are to believe Ignatius, the threefold view of ministry is one that was divinely instituted *and* which had spread throughout the world.”

To that [Called to Communion] states responds that Ignatius does *not* necessarily believe in a threefold view of the ministry. This is a rather curious tact, because I was attempting to grant that Ignatius is the clearest statement of a threefold ministry.

Part 8, Polycarp
[Quoting Allen Brent]: “Polycarp does not write as a bishop, like Ignatius, with his own exclusive authority but as ‘Polycarp and his fellow presbyters.’ He never uses the word ‘bishop’ of himself or of anyone else, including Ignatius…In other respects we appear to be living in the world of the Pastoral Epistles (which he quotes), where there are bishops but not single bishops, as we saw was the case with Clement of Rome…’bishop is used interchangeably with ‘presbyter’ and refers to a plurality of ministers.”

Part 9, Shepherd of Hermas
In examining the text, [Called to Communion] misses the argument. I note that Hermas nowhere talks about a bishop, but always refers to leadership in Rome in the plural.

Part 10, Hegesippus
[Called to Communion] affirms that Hegesippus’s concern was to “discover [Churches] agreement and confirm their apostolicity,” but then immediately claims that this list is not about “doctrinal successions.” That is simply not the case. I cited both Lampe and Quasten as noting that a succession of monarchical bishops is not in mind. Instead, both men agree that Hegesippus set out to prove that there were bearers of tradition (ἐπισκοπεύοντος) in each city. Quasten and Lampe note there is no reason to import the categories of a monarchical bishop into Hegesippus’ statement. I then cited T.C.G. Thornton who provides rationale for why Hegesippus is the first Christian witness to this custom of identifying a succession of true doctrine: he is mimicking a similar Jewish argument.

Part 11, Irenaeus
This is a further example of [Called to Communion]’s creative imagination when describing my position.

Part 12, Peter Lampe on the Church in Second Century Rome
One of the things that I should have perhaps made clear is that scholars are uncertain about when the monarchical episcopate came about. I conservatively estimated c. 150 (after the first half of the second century), but it is truly unclear. It does appear that there were powerful bishops by this time, but Catholic scholars such as Allen Brent postulate that the monarchical episcopate was not well established until the third century. What everyone acknowledges (at least of those who accept fractionation) is the formation of the episcopacy was fluid and was not even yet settled at the time of Irenaeus. Many additional developments would occur and were occurring.

Part 13, Allen Brent on Callistus vs Hippolytus
As noted above, Eusebius’s reliability is suspect at various points, and scholars generally agree that Eusebius is exagerating the scope of the conflict ... Eusebius is guilty in at least two occasions of similar embellishment when he cites the letter of Polycrates of Ephesus to Victor. Instead of presenting it as a personal letter, Eusebius characterizes it is a synodical encyclical (H.E. V. 24:8). Similar problems arise in Eusebius’s reporting of the Beryllus & Origen affair.

Part 14, Fractionation and House Churches
My argument has been there were multiple presbyter-bishops in Rome, each overseeing a house community. These presbyter-bishops were in communion with one another and they may have even elected a president, but this individual does not appear to have “jurisdictional authority” let alone “supreme” jurisdictional authority. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe there is any reason to believe that the earliest Roman Christians would have known what such a term even meant.

[Called to Communion] is arguing, however, that there was a bishop with supreme jurisdictional authority over everyone else in the city. The type of plurality I am advocating rejects that there was one of the many bishops retaining “supreme jurisdictional authority.”

Part 15, Final note on Fractionation
The point being argued by every scholar I cited is that the original model of government was the presbyter-bishops were equals and that the notion of one of them possessing “jurisdictional authority” over another was [a] development of the monarchical episcopate. My argument has been that the title “presbyter” and “bishop” were interchangeable and only later came to distinguish one office from another. There was no such thing in the earliest polity of a “mere” presbyter. And if [Called to Communion] concedes that among these presbyter-bishops none of them had “jurisdictional authority” over another, then this serves to negate the idea that a Petrine office had been handed on to successors, for none of them, in themselves, would have been the “principle of unity” of the Church.

Part 16, The Paradigmatic Bishops of History- Evaluative Summary
In this section, [Called to Communion] seeks to tie everything together. In beginning the section it continues to assert that *all* of the data is equally possible in the Catholic paradigm. Therefore, absolutely nothing in my article is evidence for my position. As I’ve noted earlier, this is not an appropriate methodological approach to historical data.

Part 17, Arguments from Authority
[Called to Communion] claims that I was attempting to answer a previous challenge posted at CtC. This is partially true, but I noted that the “challenge” had faulty assumptions loaded into it.

Part 18, Apostolic Succession
In summarizing Irenaeus, [Called to Communion] goes well beyond what Irenaeus claims for Apostolic succession.

Part 19, Concluding Thoughts
[In the Called to Communion piece] Assertions take the place of arguments.

Here is his Extended Review of Peter Lampe’s “From Paul to Valentinus”.

Here is the original article: “The Quest for the Historical Church: A Protestant Assessment”.

Here is Bryan Cross’s 200-page dogmatic puff piece, “Bishops of History”.


  1. Under Part 1, Prolegomena

    (59,3 uses the singular form of the word for God)

    when I first read this I did not understand. I had to take out my Apostolic Fathers book that has Greek on one side on the opposite page, and figure it out.

    What he means is that 1 Clement 59,3 uses the singular form of the word episkopon - επισκοπον for "Guardian" or "Bishop", but he is talking about God in context - "the Creator and Guardian (επισκοπον) of every spirit"

    I am looking forward to reading all of this slowly with comprehension.
    Thanks for good work, and thanks John for summarizing here. Excellent!

    1. Thanks Ken - I am so grateful to Brandon for having undertaken this interaction.