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The Early Church Fathers on Apostolic Succession - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
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Posted on 01/28/2007 2:10:32 PM PST by NYer

The Early Fathers believed that authentic teaching and authority came through apostolic succession.

Clement of Rome

Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry (Letter to the Corinthians 44:1 [A.D. 95]).

Ignatius of Antioch

You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8:1 [A.D. 110]).

Irenaeus

It is possible, then, for everyone in every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times: men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught to the elite secretly and apart from the rest, they would have handed them down especially to those very ones to whom they were committing the self-same Churches. For surely they wished all those and their successors to be perfect and without reproach, to whom they handed on their authority (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 180-199]).

It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion (ibid 4:26:2).

Tertullian

Moreover, if there be any [heresies] bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, so that they might seem to have been handed down by the Apostles because they were from the time of the Apostles, we can say to them: let them show the origin of their Churches, let them unroll the order of their bishops, running down in succession from the beginning, so that their first bishop shall have for author and predecessor some one of the Apostles or of the apostolic men who continued steadfast with the Apostles. For this is the way in which the apostolic Churches transmit their lists: like the Church of the Smyrnaeans, which records that Polycarp was placed there by John; like the Church of the Romans where Clement was ordained by Peter. In just this same way the other Churches display those whom they have as sprouts from the apostolic seed, having been established in the episcopate by the Apostles. Let the heretics invent something like it. After their blasphemies, what could be unlawful for them? But even if they should contrive it, they will accomplish nothing; for their doctrine itself, when compared with that of the Apostles, will show by its own diversity and contrariety that it has for its author neither an Apostle nor an apostolic man. The Apostles would not have differed among themselves in teaching, nor would an apostolic man have taught contrary to the Apostles, unless those who were taught by the Apostles then preached otherwise.

Therefore, they will be challenged to meet this test even by those Churches which are of much later date – for they are being established daily – and whose founder is not from among the Apostles nor from among the apostolic men; for those which agree in the same faith are reckoned as apostolic on account of the blood ties in their doctrine. Then let all heresies prove how they regard themselves as apostolic, when they are challenged by our Churches to meet either test. But in fact they are not apostolic, nor can they prove themselves to be what they are not. Neither are they received in peace and communion by the Churches which are in any way apostolic, since on account of their diverse belief they are in no way apostolic (The Demurrer Against the Heretics 32:1 [A.D. 200]).

Clement of Alexandria

After the death of the tyrant, the [Apostle John] came back again to Ephesus from the Island of Patmos; and, upon being invited, he went even to the neighboring cities of the pagans, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, and there to ordain to the clerical estate such as were designated by the Spirit (Who is the Rich Man that is Saved? 42:2 [inter 190-210 A.D.]).

Firmilion of Caesarea

But what is his error, and how great his blindness, who says that the remission of sins can be given in the synagogues of the heretics, and who does not remain on the foundation of the one Church which was founded upon the rock by Christ can be learned from this, which Christ said to Peter alone: "Whatever things you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed in heaven;" and by this, again in the gospel, when Christ breathed upon the Apostles alone, saying to them; "Receive the Holy Spirit: if you forgive any man his sins, they shall be forgiven; and if you retain any mans sins, they shall be retained." Therefore, the power of forgiving sins was given to the Apostles and to the Churches which these men, sent by Christ, established; and to the bishops who succeeded them by being ordained in their place (Letter to Cyprian 75:16 [A.D. 255-256]).


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Orthodox Christian; Theology
KEYWORDS: apostles; goc; roc; succession

1 posted on 01/28/2007 2:10:35 PM PST by NYer
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To: NYer

Another good article on this:

http://www.catholic.com/library/Apostolic_Succession.asp

Also quotes the Fathers


2 posted on 01/28/2007 2:12:54 PM PST by Knitting A Conundrum (Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God Micah 6:8)
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To: Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

In keeping with guidelines posted by the Religion Moderator, we are posting this thread (and future ones) a series on the Early Church Fathers, as a Catholic/Orthodox Caucus. Protestants are welcome to post comments but restraint from attacks, would be appreciated. This thread is posted to inform, support and defend the historic orgins of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

3 posted on 01/28/2007 2:13:55 PM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: All
Scriptural Basis

I. Ordained Leaders Share in Jesus' Ministry and Authority

Matt. 10:1,40 - Jesus declares to His apostles, "he who receives you, receives Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me and the One who sent Me." Jesus freely gives His authority to the apostles in order for them to effectively convert the world.

Matt. 16:19; 18:18 - the apostles are given Christ's authority to make visible decisions on earth that will be ratified in heaven. God raises up humanity in Christ by exalting his chosen leaders and endowing them with the authority and grace they need to bring about the conversion of all. Without a central authority in the Church, there would be chaos (as there is in Protestantism).

Luke 9:1; 10:19 - Jesus gives the apostles authority over the natural and the supernatural (diseases, demons, serpents, and scorpions).

Luke 10:16 - Jesus tells His apostles, "he who hears you, hears Me." When we hear the bishops' teaching on the faith, we hear Christ Himself.


II. Authority is Transferred by the Sacrament of Ordination

Acts 1:15-26 - the first thing Peter does after Jesus ascends into heaven is implement apostolic succession. Matthias is ordained with full apostolic authority. Only the Catholic Church can demonstrate an unbroken apostolic lineage to the apostles in union with Peter through the sacrament of ordination and thereby claim to teach with Christ's own authority.

Acts 1:20 - a successor of Judas is chosen. The authority of his office (his "bishopric") is respected notwithstanding his egregious sin. The necessity to have apostolic succession in order for the Church to survive was understood by all. God never said, "I'll give you leaders with authority for about 400 years, but after the Bible is compiled, you are all on your own."

Acts 1:22 - literally, "one must be ordained" to be a witness with us of His resurrection. Apostolic ordination is required in order to teach with Christ's authority.

Acts 6:6 - apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). This authority has transferred beyond the original twelve apostles as the Church has grown.

Acts 9:17-19 - even Paul, who was directly chosen by Christ, only becomes a minister after the laying on of hands by a bishop. This is a powerful proof-text for the necessity of sacramental ordination in order to be a legitimate successor of the apostles.

Acts 13:3 - apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). This authority must come from a Catholic bishop.

Acts 14:23 - the apostles and newly-ordained men appointed elders to have authority throughout the Church.


III. Jesus Wants Us to Obey Apostolic Authority

Acts 5:13 - the people acknowledged the apostles' special authority and did not dare take it upon themselves.

Acts 15:6,24; 16:4 - the teaching authority is granted to the apostles and their successors. This teaching authority must be traced to the original apostles, or the authority is not sanctioned by Christ.

Rom. 15:16 – Paul says he is a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable. This refers to the ministerial priesthood of the ordained which is distinguishable from the universal priesthood of the laity. Notice the Gentiles are the “sacrifice” and Paul does the “offering.”

1 Cor. 5:3-5; 16:22; 1 Tim. 1:20; Gal 1:8; Matt 18:17 – these verses show the authority of the elders to excommunicate / anathemize ("deliver to satan").

2 Cor. 2:17 - Paul says the elders are not just random peddlers of God's word. They are actually commissioned by God. It is not self-appointed authority.

2 Cor. 3:6 – Paul says that certain men have been qualified by God to be ministers of a New Covenant. This refers to the ministerial priesthood of Christ handed down the ages through sacramental ordination.

2 Cor. 5:20 - Paul says we are "ambassadors" for Christ. This means that the apostles and their successors share an actual participation in Christ's mission, which includes healing, forgiving sins, and confecting the sacraments.

2 Cor. 10:6 – in reference to the ordained, Paul says that they are ready to punish every disobedience. The Church has the authority excommunicate those who disobey her.

4 posted on 01/28/2007 2:22:58 PM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: Knitting A Conundrum

Thanks for the link! Anything there that you feel would contribute to this thread? Perhaps you can blockquote it.


5 posted on 01/28/2007 2:30:59 PM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: NYer; Knitting A Conundrum; do the dhue; Hydroshock; the lastbestlady; westmichman; ...
+

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic Ping List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to all note-worthy threads on Pro-Life or Catholic threads.

6 posted on 01/28/2007 3:25:57 PM PST by narses (St Thomas says "lex injusta non obligat.")
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To: NYer

here's some:

Hegesippus


"When I had come to Rome, I [visited] Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And after Anicetus [died], Soter succeeded, and after him Eleutherus. In each succession and in each city there is a continuance of that which is proclaimed by the law, the prophets, and the Lord" (Memoirs, cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:22 [A.D. 180]).

Irenaeus


"But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition" (ibid., 3:3:2).

"Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time" (ibid., 3:3:4).

"Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth, so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. . . . For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant conversation, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question?" (ibid., 3:4:1).

"[I]t is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the infallible charism of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth" (ibid., 4:26:2).

"The true knowledge is the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world, and the manifestation of the body of Christ according to the succession of bishops, by which succession the bishops have handed down the Church which is found everywhere" (ibid., 4:33:8).


Cyprian of Carthage


"[T]he Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with [the heretic] Novatian, she was not with [Pope] Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop [of Rome], Fabian, by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way" (Letters 69[75]:3 [A.D. 253]).

Jerome


"Far be it from me to speak adversely of any of these clergy who, in succession from the apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ and through whose efforts also it is that we are Christians" (Letters 14:8 [A.D. 396]).



Augustine


"[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house" (Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 4:5 [A.D. 397]).


7 posted on 01/28/2007 4:00:21 PM PST by Knitting A Conundrum (Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God Micah 6:8)
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To: Knitting A Conundrum
Thank you again! Most powerful statements.

"But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition" (ibid., 3:3:2).

Very powerful statements!

8 posted on 01/28/2007 4:15:06 PM PST by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: Knitting A Conundrum; NYer

Here's a snip from the Letter of Pope Celestine to the Holy Fathers assembled for the Council of Ephesus. Its likely it was originally written in Latin but was translated into Greek and read aloud in that language at the Council. It was later translated back into Latin, but the Latin is terrible so the Greek version is usually considered authoritative as the Latin original is lost.

"Every council is holy on account of a peculiar veneration which is its due; for in every such council the reverence which should be paid to that most famous council of the Apostles of which we read is to be had regard to. Never was the Master, whom they had received to preach, lacking to this, but ever was present as Lord and Master; and never were those who taught deserted by their teacher. For he that had sent them was their teacher; he who had commanded what was to be taught, was their teacher; he who affirms that he himself is heard in his Apostles, was their teacher. This duty of preaching has been entrusted to all the Lord’s priests in common, for by right of inheritance we are bound to undertake this solicitude, whoever of us preach the name of the Lord in divers lands in their stead for he said tothem, “Go, teach all nations.” You, dearbrethren, should observe that we have received a general command: for he wills that all of us should perform that office, which he thus entrusted in common to all the Apostles. We must needs follow our predecessors. Let us all, then, undertake their labours, since we are the successors in their honour. And we shew forth our diligence in preaching the same doctrines that they taught, beside which, according to the admonition of the Apostle, we are forbidden to add aught. For the office of keeping what is committed to our trust is no less dignified than that of handing it down.
They sowed the seed of the faith. This shall be our care that the coming of our great father of the family, to whom alone assuredly this fulness of the Apostles is assigned, may find fruit uncorrupt and many fold. For the vase of election tells us that it is not sufficient to plant and to water unless God gives the increase. We must strive therefore in common to keep the faith which has come down to us to-day, through the Apostolic Succession. For we are expected to walk according to the Apostle."


9 posted on 01/28/2007 4:43:03 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: narses

Thank you for the ping narses.

I was looking forward to this thread.


10 posted on 01/28/2007 4:49:27 PM PST by sneakers
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To: sneakers

You are most welcome.


11 posted on 01/28/2007 4:50:44 PM PST by narses (St Thomas says "lex injusta non obligat.")
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To: NYer

This series is wonderful! Thanks.


12 posted on 01/28/2007 5:04:50 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: NYer
The Early Church Fathers

The Early Church Fathers on The Church (Catholic Caucus)

Early Church Fathers on (Oral) Tradition - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus

The Early Church Fathers on Apostolic Succession - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus

13 posted on 01/28/2007 5:07:07 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: crazykatz; JosephW; lambo; MoJoWork_n; newberger; The_Reader_David; jb6; wildandcrazyrussian; ...

This definitely deserves an Orthodox ping! :)


14 posted on 01/28/2007 5:23:50 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: NYer

bookmark


15 posted on 01/28/2007 5:52:30 PM PST by Ruy Dias de Bivar
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To: Knitting A Conundrum

How is it that Irenaeus wrote in a style that seems so modern compared with other ancient writers? Dose translation alone account for the clarity?


16 posted on 01/28/2007 6:28:44 PM PST by Klondike
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To: Klondike

Nope. I think it's both the translation and the clarity of his thought.


17 posted on 01/28/2007 6:45:56 PM PST by Knitting A Conundrum (Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God Micah 6:8)
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Comment #18 Removed by Moderator

To: NYer

There is established two systems designed to prevent the Apostolic Faith from evolving (the way Hinduism has). One is the written record of the teachings of the prophets, apostles and the Lord Himself (commonly called the Bible). The other is the succession of ministry- the older church leaders instruct the future church leaders as they themselves had been instructed by their predecessors (commonly called Apostolic Succession). Both of these systems work with the aid of the Holy Spirit (through the sacrament of ordination, prayer and meditation upon the Scriptures, etc.).

These two mechanisms are used to combat heresy and heterodoxy by holding the errant church leaders (e.g. Frank Griswold) accountable to the Scripture or by combatting false understandings of the Scriptures (e.g. Jehovas Witnesses) by appealing to the collective wisdom of the last 2000 years of church leaders.


19 posted on 01/29/2007 5:27:58 AM PST by bobjam
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To: NYer

Great idea for a joint caucus thread, NYer! And the perfect pic to go with it!


20 posted on 01/29/2007 6:09:50 AM PST by Claud
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To: Kolokotronis
It was later translated back into Latin, but the Latin is terrible so the Greek version is usually considered authoritative as the Latin original is lost.

My high-school French teacher had an exercise whereby we would all write something in English, hand it off to a second student to translate to French, then to a third student for translation back to English. Then we'd all discuss what happened ... the results were often interesting.

21 posted on 01/29/2007 6:31:31 AM PST by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilisation is aborting, buggering, and contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: sneakers

bttt (again)


22 posted on 01/29/2007 9:55:56 AM PST by sneakers
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To: Knitting A Conundrum; Klondike

"Nope. I think it's both the translation and the clarity of his thought."

Agreed, though I think it may actually be a bit more the modern translation. I can tell you though that his clarity is eveident in the original.

I would point put that as with all the Fathers, one has to be careful "proof texting" them. The Fathers say a lot of things and not all of what they say are within the consensus patrum. Consequently, a given remark might be just plain wrong either factually or theologically. For example, +John Chrysostomos opined that the Theotokos sinned at the Wedding Feast at Canna and here we see +Irenaeos stating that the Church of Rome was the most ancient of the churches when one assumes, perhaps incorrectly, that he knew that many churches in the Middle East, Jerusalem and Antioch spring almost immediately to mind, were older.


23 posted on 01/29/2007 3:43:40 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

Interesting how these little things happen...reminds us that even the greatest and most golden tongued saints and teachers are not perfect...And if they are not, then who are we to think we are so perfect? All these lovely little lessons in "I am God, and you are not," God gives us. The wise pay attention....

Not as wise, myself, as I often wish I were!


24 posted on 01/29/2007 4:20:20 PM PST by Knitting A Conundrum (Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God Micah 6:8)
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