Doctrine of Papal Succession and Traditionby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Describe the doctrine of Apostolic succession (from Peter) which led to the office of Pope. Is this process based more on Tradition or Scripture?
How is a new Pope selected from so many qualified candidates? How did the office of the Bishop in Rome grow to become the leader of millions around the globe? The doctrine of apostolic succession has developed from a few Bible verses and centuries of tradition.
In the New Testament, Christ taught and sent out his followers to "make disciples of all nations". Other than the four gospels, the New Testament is largely a record of the letters written from the Apostles to the first churches founded in the Roman world. Paul instructed Timothy to appoint elders or bishops over the local body of Christians. As Christians met in various homes around a city, an overseer was selected for all the Christians. This bishop became known as a Patriarch of that particular city. Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome were some of the main centers of Christianity under a Patriarch. Over the course of three centuries, the patriarch of Rome built up a claim to have authority over the other bishops. Although this was a natural consequence of having Rome as a political center, the stated basis of the claim was on the tradition that Peter had founded the church in Rome.
Did Peter start the church in Rome?
If Peter was the head bishop as is claimed by Roman Catholicism, then why does the Bible say Peter reported to James (Acts 12:17), obeyed James (Acts 15: 13-22), deferred to James (Acts 21:18), and even feared James (Galatians 2:12)?1 Although the Bible does not record that Peter ever visited Rome, let alone served as the first Bishop of Rome, the Vatican trusts that their power has descended directly from St. Peter. Because the Apostle Paul was a Roman citizen he appealed his arrest and spent his time under house arrest in Rome according to Acts, where he was ministered to by the church in Rome. However, Peter may have eventually traveled to Rome as early church fathers (Clement and Eusebius) report that both Paul and Peter were martyred under the persecution of Nero around 67 AD.
Why was is so important for the Pope to claim he was a successor from
Christ told Peter in Matthew 16:18, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on the rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." The Bishop of Rome believed that he was a successor of that rock, and consequently should be the leader of all the other Bishops. After all, it was to Peter who was given the keys to Heaven and Hell.
At first the Pope proclaimed he was merely the voice of Peter, but over time the tradition gained much more authority. Pope Innocent III said, "The successor of Peter is the Vicar of Christ; he has been established as a mediator between God and man, below God but beyond man; less than god but more than man; who shall judge all and be judged by no one."
Doesn't this papal claim contradict 1 Timothy 2:5? "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." The Papal claim to possess power over people's eternal homes also goes against what Jesus said in Matthew 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." The threat of excommunication even held the power of kings under submission. An "interdict" could in effect excommunicate an entire population by not allowing them to take communion. The popes embraced the idea that Peter's "keys to the kingdom" gave them the right to dictate God's will for the people and decide who receives passage to heaven.
Decrees which outlawed the reading of scripture by the layiety gave rise to ignorance and continued abuse from church officiers. By the time of the Protestant Reformation, church offices were being sold to the highest bidder. Politics, greed and power characterized Roman Catholic hierarchy. As the popes grew in power, they started to see their own desires and traditions as equal to Scripture. Through illiteracy and the fact that the Bible existed in only Latin, an already dying language, only the clergy could read the Bible. Without people knowing the Living Word, the Popes read into it their own interpretations and traditions without the people's questioning. They edited in ideas that helped them to gain power and influence. Because people generally possessed no Bible to compare scriptures to the popes and "test the spirits to see whether they [were] from God" (1 John 4:1).
The popes took advantage of the ignorance of their flock and established themselves as the extreme power on earth. Their influence extended beyond spiritual matters to political, financial and even scientific matters. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 20:25-26, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you." Jesus told them that in order to become great, they needed to become servants. By twisting Scripture into human traditions, most popes served themselves rather than God and His people.
Jesus spoke of the Pharisees who held to the traditions of men rather than the commandments of God (Mark 7:8). Do the popes hold to traditions of men? Through their quest for power, many popes lost sight of God's desires. They created new, false ideas and traditions that lead many people astray. Although they gained power on earth, they lost touch with God.
The popes' search for power presented many rationalizations, inconsistencies, and the placing of human traditions as equal to or over scripture. Many worked under the disguise of the church to create false theology to support their evolving traditions. By claiming to be God's mediators, they walk against His Scripture; the Word made flesh, the only mediator, Jesus Christ.
April, 2005, A reader asked the author to comment on the following four statements:
-Peter was the primary speaker of the apostles.
For better or worse, Peter did appear in the gospels to be bold with his tongue; however, once the church age was established, it seems that James had the last word in the Jerusalem Church (Acts 15:19), and Paul in most the others.
-Paul sought the approval of “them who were of repute”
in Jerusalem for his gospel.
True, but that would be ALL the apostles (and elders) in Jerusalem. Remember Paul had no problem confronting Peter to his face about his hypocrisy (Gal. 2). It was James, Peter, and John who gave Paul and Barnabas the go ahead to the Gentiles. Of those three “pillars” it was Peter that Paul had to later correct.
-The Jerusalem church leaders saw themselves as authoritative over
matters relating to the salvation of converts in other churches.
True, they took that stand regarding the entrance of Gentiles into their Jewish sect of Christianity (Acts 15). However, once Elders had been appointed in the churches (as Paul had instructed Timothy to do), then it was Paul who seemed take authority over the churches in Asia Minor without regard to Peter.
-Jesus told Peter, in particular, to feed His sheep.
This reinstatement of Peter after his denial seems to be a special case of making sure Peter was encouraged to demonstrate his love for Jesus by taking care of the numerous followers of Christ.
With all this elevation of the Papacy as the successor of Peter I wonder if he would say again, “Get up, I am but a man” Yet his self proclaimed successor allows subordinates to kiss his feet. I wonder if Peter would also urge Paul to repeat, “For I am not at all inferior to these superlative apostles, even though I am nothing.”
It Was Not Always Thus <http://www.sxws.com/charis/pope-11.htm>
Origins of the Papacy <http://jmgainor.homestead.com/files/PU/OP/OP.htm>
APPENDIX on the authority of James:
-- Jack Kilmon, History and the New Testament
Clement, the bishop of Alexandria (150 - 215 CE), who confirms
in Outlines, Bk. VI: "Peter, James (bar Zebedee) and John, after the ascension
of the Saviour, did not claim pre-eminence because the Saviour had especially
honored them, but chose James the Righteous as Bishop of Jerusalem."
Eusebius (263 - 339 CE), Historia Ecclesia ii,23.4: ".....turned their attention to James, the Lord's brother, who had been elected by the apostles to the episcopal throne at Jerusalem."
Hegesippus (c. 100 - 160 CE), Bk 5: "Control of the Church passed to the Apostles, together with the Lord's brother James...."
Origen (185 - 254 CE), quoting early Josephus: "These things happened to the Jews in requital for James the Righteous, who was a brother of Jesus, known as Christ."
Josephus (37 - c. 100 CE), Antiquities xx: "So he assembled a counsel of judges and brought before it James, the brother of Jesus, known as Christ."
Clement: "When James the Righteous had suffered martyrdom like the Lord and for the same reason, Symeon, the son of his Uncle Clopas, was appointed bishop. He being a cousin of the Lord."
Eusebius: "A group of heretics accused the descendants of Jude...the brother, humanly speaking, of the Savior...on the ground that they were of David's line and related to Christ himself."
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