|In this definitive work on Irenaeus|
the city of Rome is not even mentioned.
The great early Father, St. Irenaeus in the mid-100’s felt a little differently (Against Heresies III, 2-4):
[T]hat tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles....
Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.”
Jerry referred them to Peter Lampe; someone else commented that “if you don’t have a succinct answer, you probably don’t have an answer”. Here is a succinct response that I posted:
Couple of things about the Irenaeus quote (for those who wanted a succinct answer). Jerry mentioned Peter Lampe, “From Paul to Valentinus”. Lampe studied every scrap of paper (including Romans 16, 1 Clement, Justin, Shepherd of Hermas, etc.), every inscription, every archaeological find, every cemetery in ancient Rome, and determined that there was a network of small churches led by groups of elders. There was no one “successor of Peter” for 150 years or more. So it’s a broken, fabricated “succession”.
Bottom line on Irenaeus: he was a bad historian, relying on anachronism. He says “the church was founded by Peter and Paul”, but there were more likely churches in Rome immediately following Pentecost, many years before Peter and Paul ever got there. Paul arrived to existing churches there maybe 25-28 years later, and there was no mention of Peter.
Fables that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and ruled there for 25 years have also been found to be contradictory to accounts in Acts. That story first made its appearance in the third century, but it sounded good to later bishops of Rome, and so therefore it was repeated ad nauseam.
Irenaeus also spread the fable the “Simon Magus (a believer as of Acts 8) was the father of all heresies”. FYI, this fable about Simon Magus was introduced in “the Gospel of Peter”, which featured a smoked tuna that comes back to life and hops in the lake, a talking dog, and a walking, talking 60-foot cross.
In Irenaeus’s day, anachronism was common. People looked at the world around them, and they concluded “the world has always been this way”. Even though the church had been changing. Lampe cites the origins of Irenaeus’s list as being “drawn up” by Hegesippius (whom we know only from reporting in Eusebius, 150 years later).
Irenaeus may have had good theology, but that’s because he also was among the first to have an almost totally compiled New Testament. It wasn’t “the Catholic Church” that put it together. Paul’s works were most likely collected in his own lifetime. The Gospels and other letters were also collected in a group -- but there was no doubt they were regarded as Scripture from the moment the ink was dry.
I should also add, regarding this sentence: “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”
I recently had an opportunity to respond to someone else on this passage. There are a number of specific criticisms:
1. The place to begin is in the textual history. Eric Osborn begins his work “Irenaeus of Lyon” (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001): “The original Greek text of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies is found only in fragmentary form, while a complete Latin translation prepared about the year 380 has survived”. It was “Pope Damasus” who was overseeing the re-writing of the history of Rome to incorporate many church things. The dearth of manuscripts (“Greek fragments”), only three early Latin MSS; one dated 380; the other two dated 1,000 --- this was a lost work, certainly not “authoritative”, for the first 1000 years of the church.
2. Cullmann notes that when Irenaeus “speaks of the Roman church as the ‘very ancient and universally known church founded and organized by Peter and Paul’” there is at least one error: we know from Romans that the Roman church was not founded by Paul. “This at once calls in question the historical trustworthiness of the statement (“Peter”, pg 116).”
3. Aside from that, J.N.D. Kelly analyzes this passage in “Early Christian Doctrines” – see pg 193; Also, Norman Geisler (“Is Rome the True Church?” Crossway, pgs 154 ff) borrows heavily from Cleveland Coxe’s discussion in ANF 1. The discussion centers on (a) it is a Latin translation of a Greek text that we don’t have, and (b) whether the word “convenire” in the Latin is “should agree” or “does agree” – the suggestion was that Rome is a source of Christian doctrine, but rather, a reflection of it, as faithful Christians from all over the world would visit that cosmopolitan city.
Here is more from J.N.D. Kelly:
...the gist of the sentence may be taken to be that Christians of every other church are required, in view of its special position of leadership, to fall in line with the Roman church, inasmuch as the authentic apostolic tradition is always preserved by the faithful who are everywhere. This interpretation, or some variant of it, has been accepted by many, but it is awkward to refer "in qua" to hank...ecclesiam," and anachronistic to attribute such thinking to Irenaeus. Hence it seems more plausible to take "in qua" with "omnem...ecclesiam," and to understand Irenaeus as suggesting that the Roman church supplies an ideal illustration because, 'in view of its preeminent authority' based on its foundation by both Peter and Paul, its antiquity, and so on, every church--or perhaps the whole church--in which the apostolic tradition has been preserved must as a matter of course agree with it. There is therefore no allusion to the later Petrine claims of the Roman see (Kelly 193).
Of course, even the Latin translation is questioned (Irenaeus wrote originally in Greek, which is lost), and so any doctrines that consider this to be a foundational text ought to be questioned, especially something that Roman Catholics consider as important as the papacy.
Second, regarding the concept of “Apostolic Succession”:
1. Note that this was not a concept that the earliest church talked about. John Behr (“St Irenaeus of Lyons”) notes that Ignatius did not have a concept of “Apostolic Succession”. See this link. In contrast to the Roman concepts of bishops (who are the “successors of the apostles” for Ignatius, the authority of “bishops” is far diminished from the authority of “apostles”. He notes: “Ignatius repeatedly states that as a bishop he, unlike the apostles, is not in a position to give orders or to lay down the precepts or the teachings (δόγματα), which come from the Lord and the apostles alone (cf. Magnesians 13; Romans 4:3; Ephesians 3:1).”
2. Hans Von Campenhausen (“Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power” – in a work certified by Ratzinger, see the “God’s Word” work, pg 22-23 – cited here) points out : “The first and only usage of the concept of “a succession (διαδοχἡ) of teachers and instructors” [within the context of Christianity] prior to Irenaeus is found in the Gnostic Letter to Flora of the Gnostic teacher Ptolemaeus (c. AD 90 – c. AD 168). Von Campenhausen notes in a footnote, “this is the only pre-Irenaean attestation of that conception of παράδοσεις [tradition being handed on] which from now on is the determinative one” (von Campenhausen, 158).
3. Daniel William O’Connor (“Peter in Rome”, New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1969, pg 27), notes that the Hegesippus in 166 “claims to have compiled himself”, or “drew up” or “made up his own list at this time” – not that it was an already-existing list.
4. Working with these and other data, Peter Lampe puts forward a thesis as to how this list from Irenaeus (borrowed from Hegesippus) is a “historical construction” (pg 406) – probably made with the best of intentions, and comprised from actual names of presbyters from the various churches at Rome. But as far as “succession” and dates (most of which were supplied again at the time of Damasus), it is not a historical list.
And finally, it should be noted that “history” in that time is different from “history” as we understand it. Timothy Barnes, writing about Eusebius’s history, relates that Eusebius looked around at the existing church of his day, and anachronistically projected his own view of the church back to the time of the apostles. There was no concept that the historical make-up of the church was different in the Apostles’ day as it was in his day (see Barnes, “Constantine and Eusebius”, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pgs 131-132).