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Friday, June 9, 2017

The Historical Development Of Papal Authority

  • Introduction:
         -The most primitive Christian churches were governed by a plurality of bishops, not by an individual head, as is the case with the modern Church of Rome. It is also important to note that the New Testament Scriptures use the terms "presbyter", "elder", and "bishop" interchangeably. Quite simply, the purpose of this article is to reveal that the Papacy has not been established since the first century by our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather was a gradual development in later church history.
  • Testimony From The Didache: 
           -“And so, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons who are worthy of the Lord, gentle men who are not fond of money, who are true and approved” (15.1)
  • Testimony From 1 Clement:
           -“And so, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons who are worthy of the Lord, gentle men who are not fond of money, who are true and approved.” (1 Clement 42:4)
  • Testimony From The Shepherd Of Hermas:
           -“you will read yours in this city, with the presbyters who lead the church” (Vis. 8.3). 
  • Basic Presentation On The Historical Development Of The Roman Catholic Hierarchy As Confirmed By Modern-Day Scholarship:
          +150-250 AD: The distinction was made between the offices of elder and bishop. This is when individual congregations started being ruled by individual bishops, who strove to get the ultimate title of authority in the churches.
          +250-450 AD: During this time period, we see the rise of diocesan bishops, who presided over small groups of churches along with their own local, individualized congregation. We also see the rise of diocesan bishops from the largest and wealthiest cities of this time, who came to be known as the patriarchs.
          +450-590 AD: The five patriarchs during this time frame were Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Constantinople, and Alexandria. Each patriarch governed itself. Though Rome and Constantinople were perceived as having equal authority, the Church of Rome was viewed in highest regard (the patriarch of the west; Constantinople was the leading patriarch of the east). But neither of the two competing patriarchs possessed universal authority over the rest of Christendom.
          +590-610 AD: This was the final struggle between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches for the title of Universal Bishop. In other words, the two most powerful patriarchs fought for jurisdiction over the entire Christian church. Although Constantinople was first to appoint its head as being the Universal Bishop of the church, the Roman Bishop Gregory condemned the usage of the title as being characteristic of an anti-Christ. He declared that no man, not even himself, was worthy of possessing such an arrogant title! In the end, the Church of Rome ended up being victorious in the competition for the title of Universal Bishop when Gregory's successor Boniface III reserved it for himself. The head of the Roman Catholic Church still wields this title of absolute power, wealth, and authority. Thus we see the historic origin of the Papal office in its current organizational structure.

  • The Words Of Church Historian Henry C. Sheldon On The Development Of Papal Authority
           -"GROWTH OF EPISCOPACY.-- Five different stages in the growth of the episcopal system may be noticed: (1) the establishment of the distinction between presbyters and bishops; (2) the emphasizing of the bishop's importance; (3) the rise of metropolitans, or archbishops; (4) the rise of patriarchs, or bishops having jurisdiction over important divisions of the Empire; (5) a striving after a common episcopal center, a bishop of all bishops. These different stages were not successive in the sense that one was fully completed before another was begun: they were in part contemporaneous. Still, the order given expresses the logical succession of developments within the episcopacy." (Henry C. Sheldon, History of the Christian Church, Vol 1, p 143)