The Primitive Church and the See of Peter
Period I A.D. 96-300


In the very first document belonging to Christian history, outside the pages of Holy Scripture, the Church of Rome steps to the front in a manner that is suggestive of supreme authority, and that tallies with her whole future attitude towards the rest of the Church. The occupant of the See of Rome comes before us, speaking in the name of his Church, within the lifetime of the Apostle St. John, and settles a disturbance in a region naturally more nearly related to that Apostle than to the Church of Rome. And he comes before us both as in possession of a tradition of divine truth, and as its authoritative exponent to a distant Church. He lays down the law of worship and government for the whole Church as of Divine institution.

The circumstances were as follows: The Church in Corinth had for some time been torn by dissensions, and had caused the utmost scandal on all sides (sect 47). [20] A few fiery spirits, with a considerable following, had succeeded in extruding probably their bishop and some of his presbyters, if not, indeed, one or more bishops in the neighbourhood, from their sacred office (Greek, sect 44). [21] The Church of Rome came to the rescue. The persecutions under Nero and Domitian had alone prevented her from intervening earlier (sect 1). But as soon as possible St. Clement wrote a letter entitled, 'The Church in Rome to the Church in Corinth,' which Dr. Lightfoot characterizes as 'almost imperious' [22] in tone, and which St. Irenaeus spoke of as 'most powerful,' or 'most adequate.' [23] In this letter St. Clement speaks of the tradition which the Church of Rome had received from the Apostles themselves (sect 44), as to a succession of rulers in the Church, to prevent strife 'about the name [i.e. dignity] of the office of bishop (Greek).' Speaking of this government of the Church, he finds its type in the Old Covenant, in the High Priest, Priests, and Levites. He says that the Apostles, in order to obviate strife, ordained as successors in the ministry (Greek) bishops and deacons. He magisterially reproves the ringleaders of the disturbances in Corinth for attempting to extrude such successors of the Apostles, [24] and says that 'it will be a sin in us' to depose them from their 'sacred office (Greek).' Further on, in a passage only discovered of late, he claims their 'obedience unto the things written by us through the Holy Spirit' (sect 63), as he had said a little previously:

'If any disobey the things spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and no small peril' (sect 59).

The letter concludes with saying that they hope soon to receive back again the legates whom they have sent, with a report from Corinth that the peace, which they desire has been restored. Such was the first recorded act of the Church of Rome. And it is spoken of in terms of enthusiasm by St. Irenaeus, from whom we gather that the Corinthians amended their ways, and the desired result was achieved. It is also alluded to with commendation by St. Ignatius on his way to his martyrdom.

Dr. Lightfoot lays great stress on the fact that the name of St. Clement does not appear in this letter, but only that of the Church of Rome. [25] He admits, however, that the letter was written by St. Clement, and calls it an 'incident in his administration' of the Church. [26] But he thinks that St. Clement 'studiously suppressed' [27] his name, as not being in such a position of authority as is involved in the monarchical idea of the episcopate. He thinks that, in consequence, 'his personality is absorbed' [28] in the Church of Rome, and that in this we may discern a vital difference between the first century and the fifth. He says that 'the language of this letter is inconsistent with the possession of Papal authority in the person of the writer'; that 'it does not proceed from the Bishop of Rome, but from the Church of Rome.' It is spoken of, he says, in the second century as 'from the community, not from the individual.'

It will be well at once to warn our readers of a general misconception involved in the use of the word 'monarchical' as applied by certain writers (such as Dr. Lightfoot and Dr. Salmon and others) to the episcopate, and above all, to the Bishop of Rome.

When we speak of the Bishop of Rome as the infallible guardian of the faith, we do not mean that he is placed in a position in which he can act in isolation from the rest of the episcopal body. The very doctrine of Papal Infallibility implies that he never can act apart from the general teaching of the Church. We can always be sure that his utterances, when attended with those conditions which are implied in the exercise of his infallibility, are the exposition of the Church's mind as a whole. If we were to suppose the case of the Pope on the one side, and the whole of the episcopate arrayed against him on the other, we should be obliged to hold that the Pope would be in the right and the rest of the episcopate in the wrong. But such a case never has occurred, and never can. It is involved in our Lord's promise of His presence with the Church in her teaching 'all days unto the consummation of the world,' (Matt 28:20) that the body will never be separated from the head. The Holy Father speaks in the name of his children; and his children will never, as a whole, protest against his teaching.

But not only so. The Bishop of Rome, throughout the ages, has adopted the principle on which St. Cyprian, who especially expounded the monarchical idea of the episcopate, says that he ever proposed to govern his diocese -- viz. with consultation. So nothing is more characteristic of the government of the Church by those great Popes, like St. Damasus and St. Leo, in the fourth and fifth centuries, than their use of episcopal assessors. As St. Ignatius speaks of the bishop of the diocese having his corona -- his circlet -- of presbyters, so the Bishops of Rome ever had their circlet of bishops, and made use of their advice in all great matters concerning the general welfare of the Church. When, then, the Popes used the plural 'we,' they were not only using the majestic plural, but they had gathered into their utterances with a special closeness a portion of that great whole in whose name they were justified in speaking. They had held their synod. They were not acting in lone majesty, but in concert with others whom they had gathered into a special closeness of contact with themselves.

Again, the supremacy which belongs strictly to the Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter, is often attributed, not to the Bishop of Rome, but to the Church of Rome. In the later history of the Church we constantly meet with the supremacy of the bishop spoken of as though it belonged to the Church of Rome. To this day we constantly speak of 'Rome' doing this or saying that, while of course we believe that the informing power of the whole is the bishop himself, as successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ. Martin V., in the Council of Constance, condemned the proposition of Wycliffe, that 'it is not of necessity to believe that the Roman Church is supreme amongst the other Churches'; and in the Creed of Pope Pius IV, a similar expression is used by converts on their reception into the Church, viz. : 'I acknowledge the holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church to be the mother and mistress of all Churches,' just as in the profession of faith prescribed by Clement IV and Gregory X, and made by the Greeks after the second Council of Lyons, the words are: 'The holy Roman Church has the supreme and full primacy and sovereignty over the whole Catholic Church.' And, lastly, the Vatican decree runs thus (Constit. 'Pastor Aeternus,' cap 3): 'We teach and declare that the Roman Church, by the ordinance of Christ (disponente Domino), has the sovereignty of ordinary power over all other [Churches].'

Consequently, if primitive Christian history presents us with the spectacle of the Church of Rome calling herself by this name, and stepping to the front to act with authority in guarding the faith of the Church as to the Apostolic succession of her rulers, and restoring unity to a divided Christian community at a distance, this does not constitute anything like a vital difference between this early expression of authority and the most recent instance of Papal rule. It is at most a difference of terminology. It would not allow that, because an act of authority was done in the name of the Church of Rome, it was not done by the authority of the Bishop of Rome. [29] Unless, then, Dr. Lightfoot had been able to show that there was no other possible reason for St. Clement suppressing his name in the letter to Corinth, that fact that he did suppress it would not prove that he did not occupy the position in the minds of the early Christians that he occupies now in the Roman Catholic Church. And yet the argument from silence is the main point urged by Dr. Lightfoot in this matter. 'The language of this letter,' to which he appeals as showing a difference between earlier and later Popes, means its silence as to the name of its author.

But there is more than one possible solution of this silence. If the tradition which St. Epiphanius [Haer xxvii, 6] gives is based on facts, to the effect that after the death of the Apostles Peter and Paul, St. Clement refused to occupy the position of bishop in the Roman community out of modesty, the same deep humility might well operate in this, perhaps, first great act of discipline exercised by him towards a distant Church. On the Papal teaching concerning Church government it would be enough for St. Clement to mention the Church of Rome; she held 'the principality,' as St. Irenaeus says, which, says St. Augustine, 'was always in force.' St. Clement was successor of St. Peter because he was Bishop of Rome. He owed his relationship to the Divine Head of the Church, viz. that of His Vicar, to his position in the Church of Rome; and it would not be unnatural, in writing a letter of some severity to the Church at Corinth, that he should simply speak of the Church of Rome, and not mention his own unworthy name. This will only seem far-fetched and fanciful to those who do not reflect that our Lord's description of the vital difference between the head of His kingdom and those of the kingdoms of this world was that 'the principal one' in His kingdom would not 'lord it' over others, after the example of this world's rulers, but would be amongst the rest as He Himself was -- their Ruler, their Lord and Infallible Teacher, and yet lowly and meek in heart. [30]

But there is yet another possible, and indeed probable, solution of this suppression of his name, on which Dr. Lightfoot has rested his argument as to the difference between St. Clement and the Papacy in subsequent times. The Church had only just emerged from the most fiery persecutions, and might at any moment be exposed to another. All societies, organised without leave from the civil authorities, were illegal, and consequently the last thing that the head of the Christian community would do under such circumstances would be to flaunt their condition as an organised body before the world. A letter, of such authoritative tone as St. Clement's, with his own name at its head, might easily fall into the hands of strangers; and if St. Peter himself thought it advisable to call Rome 'Babylon,' [31] when writing of the Church of Rome, it might very well seem the part of prudence in the bishop to suppress his name when writing from Rome.

And yet neither of these suppositions is necessary to account for the fact of St. Clement's silence as to his name. Writing as the head of the Christian community, he could write officially in its name. A successor of his did the same, St. Soter. And Eusebius expressly says that Clement wrote in the name of his Church (H.E. iii, 37), and St. Jerome, that he wrote in the person of the Church (De Viris Illustr 15).

And this is the explanation of a passage in Eusebius in which he speaks of this letter of St. Clement. St. Dionysius of Corinth, writing to the Church of Rome, describes the letter as 'your Epistle written to us by Clement'; whereas Eusebius says that Dionysius made 'some remarks relating to the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,' on which Dr. Lightfoot convicts Eusebius of making an assumption not warranted by the words of Dionysius. [32] But the Greek historian, like all the world after him, considered it was all one, to call it, as Dionysius did, the letter of the Romans 'by Clement,' or the letter of Clement: just as St. Clement of Alexandria speaks [Strom v. 12,81] of it in both ways, as the Epistle of the Romans, and the Epistle of Clement [Strom iv. 17,19]. All is explained by the principle which St. Cyprian laid down when he said, 'You ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop.'

It would not have been necessary to enter at such length into Dr. Lightfoot's interpretation of this omission of the name in St. Clement's letter, were it no that Dr. Lightfoot's name gives weight to everything that he says, and that many who heartily repudiate his views as to the Christian ministry [33] yet follow him in this particular point.

The letter, then, of St. Clement was written in the name of the Church of Rome, and was, as Dr. Lightfoot says,

'the only recorded incident in his administration of the Church.'

It was, according to the same writer,

'undoubtedly the first step towards Papal domination.'

It would seem impossible to mistake its tone of authority, 'almost imperious,' says the same writer. [34] Dr. Salmon, in his book on 'Infallibility,' [35] maintains that the tone 'is only that of the loving remonstrance which any Christian is justified in offering to an erring brother.' But in his article on St. Clement in the 'Dictionary of Christian Biography' (Smith and Wace), he says,

'Very noticeable in the new part of the letter is the tone of authority used by the Roman Church in making an unsolicited interference with the affairs of another Church.' [36]

'Already in St. Clement's letter an assumption, so natural as to be almost unconscious, of the right to advice and interpose underlies his pacificatory argument.' [37]

It is certainly singular that only a few years after the dogma of Papal Infallibility, always the general belief of Christians, had, in view of emerging denials, been made obligatory, a manuscript, in a Greek monastery, containing strong assertions of the divine authority with which the Church of Rome conceived herself to be speaking, should be suddenly unearthed. Dr. Lightfoot had substituted a long fragment from another writer, as possibly the substance of the long-lost portion of this invaluable letter, and most scholars admired his ingenuity. But a comparison with this suggested complement of the letter, and the actual fragment now recovered, will show how the imagination of a brilliant scholar differs from the actual thoughts of the great Bishop of Rome himself. [38]

There is one passage which suggests an answer to the question, whether this letter from Rome was in answer to an appeal or was an unsolicited intervention. The writer says (sect 44) that

'we do not think that such as these' (i.e. men left there by Apostles and of good repute) 'are being justly cast out from the sacred ministry; for it will be no small sin in us, if we should extrude [or depose] from the episcopate those who have offered the gifts blamelessly and holily.'

It certainly seems as though the case of these bishops (I use the exact equivalent without meaning thereby to settle the question what exactly their office was) had been laid before the Church of Rome. The Corinthians had removed them from the exercise of their office, as is stated in the next sentence; but in this sentence the writer of the Epistle treats their deposition as not concluded; it is the present tense, as though their act awaited its completion at the hands of Rome. Whether this were so or not, the matter must have been brought before them in some way, for Rom passes most definite judgment as to whether these rulers deserved such treatment, instead of asking for further particulars. The passage in which St. Clement speaks of the 'report' having reached Rome [sect 47], which seems at first sight to suggest that the Romans had not been directly consulted on the matter, refers only to the statement that the disturbance, of which the main facts seem to have been brought very circumstantially before the Church of Rome, was due to only 'one or two ringleaders.'

The expression in the beginning of the letter, 'the matters in dispute among you,' does not compel us to suppose that the matters of dispute among them had not been also referred to Rome. For if there had been no appeal, why should St. Clement excuse himself for not having attended to the matter sooner? On the whole, then, it seems most likely, though not certain, that the letter was written in answer to an appeal from Corinth.

Such, then, was 'the first steps towards Papal domination' (Lightfoot), or, as we should prefer to call it, the first recorded exercise of authority towards a distant Church. There was no protest; on the contrary, St. Irenaeus and St. Ignatius praised it, and Corinth treasured the letter and read it at Divine service on the Lord's Day for years to come.

Such is the dawn of uninspired Christian history. In that first century of the Christian era unity was restored at Corinth by the action of Rome writing a most powerful letter and sending legates (Clem, Ep ad Cor, sect 45) to the scene of disturbance; and, according to St. Ignatius, Rome was the teacher of others, with special allusion, it is thought, to this letter: 'Ye taught others' (Ignatius, Ep ad Rom, 3) are words which, as Dr. Lightfoot remarks [39], 'the newly discovered ending of St. Clement's letter enables us to appreciate more fully' -- a letter in which the writer claims to speak with the authority of God.

The least that can be said of this first disclosure of Rome's position in the church is that it fits in with her present position in Roman Catholic Christendom.


I. 'It is very remarkable,' says a Protestant historian, 'that a person of such vast influence in truth and fiction, whose words were law, who preached the duty of obedience and submission to an independent and distracted Church, who vision reached even to unknown lands beyond the Western Sea, should inaugurate, at the threshold of the second century, that long line of pontiffs who have outlasted every dynasty in Europe, and now claim an infallible authority over the consciences of 200,000,000 of Christians.' [40]

Dr. Schaff here speaks of St. Clement, who, as Dr. Salmon says, 'speaks in a tone of authority to a sister Church of Apostolic foundation, and thus reveals the easy and innocent beginning of the Papacy,' [41] in a letter which, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, forms 'undoubtedly' 'the first step towards Papal domination.' [42]

The reasonable explanation is that he spoke as successor of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. The first recorded utterance of a Christian bishop in uninspired literature speaks in the name of his Church with the voice of infallibility, and that Church is the Church of Rome. His letter was bound up with Holy Scripture, and is to be seen this day in the British Museum amongst the contents of the great Alexandrian Codex of the Bible. According to Origen, Eusebius, and St. Jerome, he was that Clement whose name St. Paul mentions as 'in the book of life.' According to some modern authorities he was a Jewish freedman, or the son of a freedman belonging to the household of Flavius Clements (Lightfoot). There can be little doubt that his letter, read as it was in public worship in numerous Churches, as, for instance, in Corinth itself, for many years, made the name of Clement sufficiently well known for a large amount of spurious literature to gather round it in the second and third centuries -- a literature which has played an extraordinarily prominent part in modern controversy. It furnishes, according to Dr. Lightfoot, Dr. Salmon, the Bishop of Lincoln, and Mr. Puller, the key to the assertions made by the Christian writers of the third century to the effect that the See of Rome is the See of Peter. The same literature had already been seized upon with avidity by the Rationalist school of Tubingen, and still forms the basis of similar theories concerning the origin of Christianity.

II. This literature contains a romantic narrative in which St. Clement in his travels meets with relative after relative whom he had lost -- hence called the 'Recognitions' -- and a set of Homilies, containing a great deal of Ebionitish doctrine, and a letter of St. Clement to St. James, which forms a sort of preface to the version which obtained currency in Rome. In this letter St. Clement says incidentally that he was ordained by Peter, a fact which by no means forms a prominent feature of the narrative, and is accompanied in the same breath with the statement that he was commissioned by Peter to send certain sermons to St. James, as the head of the Christian Church. The position of St. James as the bishop of bishops is an important feature of the letter. 'Taken as a whole, the Clementine Romance is,' as Mr. Puller admits, 'entirely un-Petrine and un-Roman.' [43] Its whole tendency is also anti-Pauline -- depreciatory, that is, of St. Paul as compared with St. James, in accordance with the Ebionitish doctrine which placed St. James before either St. Peter or St. Paul. It is supposed to have appeared in Rome either in the middle or the end of the second, or in the beginning of the third century, or later still. It was never quoted as an authority by early Christian writers, but nevertheless obtained after a while an extensive circulation. It is written with skill and popular effect. To this day most of its readers will admit that there is a certain fascination about it, viewed merely as a romance.

III. Its anti-Pauline tendency was seized upon by Baur and the Tubingen school in general, and vastly exaggerated; and having been thus interpreted, was made to do service in connection with a passage in Holy Scripture which has, from the earliest days of Christianity, been pressed into the service of unbelief. The state of things supposed to be described in the Clementine Romance was held to a survival of the state of matters which obtained in the early Church, as shown, according to this theory, by the conflict between St. Peter and St. Paul in Antioch. The difference between these two Apostles was held to be vital, instead of concerning only a matter of practical expediency; and so, according to this theory, the early Church began with a conflict as to the truth to be taught, of which we have the remnants in the Clementine literature. Every effort was therefore made to throw back the Clementine Romance into the second century, and as far back in that century as possible.

It would be outside the subject of this book to enter upon the complete and decisive answers which have been given by Christian writers to the Rationalist school of Tubingen on this head.

IV. But this spurious Clementine literature is, as I have said, now pressed into the service of anti-Papal writers. Dr. Salmon, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, one of the most vigorous opponents of the Papal claims, whilst he exposes the weakness of the Rationalists' deductions from the Clementine literature, nevertheless rounds off one of his paragraphs with the assertion that it

'has had a marvellous share in shaping the history of Christendom, by inventing the story that Peter was Bishop of Rome, and that he named Clement to succeed him in the see.' [44]

He expressed the same theory elsewhere, saying that as regards the story of Peter's Roman episcopate,

'the real inventor of the story was an editor of the Clementine Romance....Though the doctrinal teaching of the Clementines was rejected as heretical, the narrative part of the book was readily believed.'

He gives no proof of this, but continues, 'and in particular this story of Clement's ordination by Peter was felt to be so honourable to the Church of Rome that it was at once adopted there, and has been the traditional Roman account ever since.' [45] Dr. Lightfoot adopted the same theory, stating that

'its glorification of Rome and the Roman Bishop obtained for it an early and wide circulation in the West. Accordingly, even Tertullian speaks of Clement as the immediate successor of St. Peter.' [46]

I would gladly give this author's proof, but I have been unable to find anything but assertion on this whole subject. The present Bishop of Lincoln had recently adopted the same position in his preface [47] to Mr. Puller's book on 'The Primitive Saints and the See of Rome.' Dr. King is speaking, indeed, of a theory which no one, that I have been able to discover, ever held, viz. that St. Peter was the 'sole founder of the Roman See.' But it is evident that he alludes to the theory of St. Peter being held to have been the first Bishop of Rome, and he proceeds to say, referring to Mr. Puller's book (p. 48,49), that 'the anti-Pauline Clementine Romance may explain the source from which this invention was derived.' Mr. Puller himself has made it the pivot of his argument against Rome.

'If the author of the Clementine Romance had not been an Ebionitish heretic, with an inherited hatred of the memory of St. Paul, the world would never have heard of the chair of Peter. It is strange how, from the very first, the Roman claims have been based upon forgeries.' [48]

And when he comes to the crucial passage in St. Cyprian's writings, where that saint speaks of the See of Rome as 'the Chair of Peter and the principal Church whence sacerdotal unity took its rise,' he dismissed St. Cyprian from his array of witnesses on this point, as under a prevailing delusion. 'I need say nothing about the expression, "Chair of Peter," as spplied to the See of Rome. By the time of St. Cyprian Western Christians had learnt from the Clementine Romance to apply the title to the Roman See.' [49] Mr. Puller goes farther (if his words are to be taken seriously) than his predecessors, for he says, 'No one had any suspicion that the Clementine Romance was a lie invented by a heretic,' for which there is no proof given; and, further, 'the story was accepted on all sides.' In other words, the whole Church believed that St. James was its visible head!

'Some,' he continues, 'like St. Cyprian, accepted it, but without allowing it to modify to any appreciable degree the traditional teaching of the Church. Others, more closely connected with the Church of Rome [50], fastened on the notion of the chair of Peter, and used that notion to provide an apostolic basis for the growing claims of the Roman See.'

It is difficult to see how they would secure 'an apostolic basis' by extruding St. Paul. For the twin Apostles include St. Peter. It was not, therefore, a substitution of St. Peter for St. Paul, but of St. Peter for St. Peter and St. Paul.

V. But the Clementine literature is a subject which deserves a somewhat fuller treatment. I shall accordingly endeavour to show that, supposing 'the corporate pride of the Roman Christians' could be reasonably imagined to be so 'flattered' by the 'unique position which it [this romance] assigned to Clement,' which is Dr. Lightfoot's explanation, it has not been conclusively proved that this romance was the first to call St. Clement the successor of Peter in the bishopric of Rome. It may be shown that there was something else before it -- namely, the lists of the Bishops of Rome.

But before entering on this proof I feel that it is necessary to enter a protest against the assumption virtually made by some that the local Church of Rome was in that early age filled with the spirit of the devil. How could this be, if, with Dr. Lightfoot and others, we explain the position of superiority accorded to the Church of Rome by her moral majesty? She presided 'in love,' in his interpretation of [the Greek]. The possibility of such a translation of St. Ignatius' words is not now the question; but so Dr. Lightfoot explains her position. This 'practical goodness,' as he chooses to translate the supernatural gift of [Greek] [51], enabled her, according to these writers, to take, and justified her in taking the lead, and led others to acquiesce in a kind of primacy. This (they tell us), together with her position as the Imperial city, went to form her unique position. Was, then, the Church of Rome, the leading Church according to all these writers, so filled with the spirit of lying that she could take the suggestion of a romance in place of her own lists, which we know from Hegesippus she then possessed, whether by oral tradition or in writing? [52] Had she the heart to alter her tale, to drop the Apostle in whom she had gloried, and in whom, conjointly with St. Peter, she glories today, sending our her bulls in their twin name? -- had she, I say, the heart suddenly to change her attitude towards her known and beloved founders? Did Tertullian, when he came to Rome, instead of examining the lists, instead of listening to what older men could tell him, take up with an incidental expression in a romance, which no single writer of that time ever quoted, so far as our records go, as an authority, and of which they rejected the heretical teaching, according to Dr Salmon? Could all classes in the Church of Rome agree suddenly on a new platform, and no whisper of the fundamental change find its way outside, or produce the slightest protest against this change in the Church's idea of her own constitution? Is it reason, is it common sense, to suppose that in twenty years, which is the utmost space of time that is given [53], a change so vital was effected, as that the episcopal chair was no longer what it is assumed by these writers to have been, that of the two Apostles, but of one only?

But further, why should the 'corporate pride of the Roman Christians' be so flattered by the story of St. Clement being so prominent, and having been ordained by St. Peter, that it henceforth adopted the idea of the see being that of Peter and not that of Peter and Paul? Was, then, St. Peter so far above St. Paul that it would flatter their corporate pride to call it the see of Peter instead of the see of both? Was the glorification of St. Clement sufficient to balance the depreciation of St. Peter, in the same narrative, below St. James? And could Rome ever bear any approach to an Ebionitish view of the Apostle of the Gentiles? Again, who are the writers who were thus, on Mr. Puller's theory, deluded? Men like Tertullian, who belonged to the Church of Carthage! But is it conceivable that Tertullian, with his forensic ability, the first Christian writer of the day, who had been at Rome before the year 200, had never heard of what these writers suppose to have been the earlier teaching, viz. that the See of Rome was not the See of Peter, but merely founded by the two Apostles, and that neither of these Apostles held to it any relationship different from the other? Or if they knew of this supposed earlier teaching, can we conceive of their deliberately falsifying or ignoring it without a word of explanation? Is this the way in which the phrase, which was henceforth common to all ages, sprang into existence? If so, the expression 'the chair of Peter' must be considered the symbol of the Church's utter inability to extrude a seriously erroneous doctrine.

Such are the insuperable philosophical difficulties in the theory that the Clementine Romance gave birth to the doctrine that the See of Rome is the See of Peter. There are, however, critical obstacles besides.

VI. We know that Rome possessed at least two lists of her bishops before the Clementine Romance appeared on the scene. In the right of Eleutherius (A.D. 175-189), a converted Jew, named Hegesippus, came from Syria to Rome for the purpose of inquiring particularly into the lists of bishops from the Apostles' time. He desired, above all things, to establish the connection between the series of bishops and the Apostles in each case, in the East and in the West. Eusebius (not a Roman writer) wrote with the list as made out by Hegesippus under his eye. What, then, is the evidence supplied in this matter by Eusebius?

But first we must be clear as to what it is that we are engaged in proving. Catholic theology, then, has always spoken of the See of Rome as, in some sense, the See of the two Apostles, Peter and Paul. We join these two Apostles together in all our thoughts concerning Rome, when we wish to be precise and explanatory. Rome has inherited from St. Paul the merits of his martyrdom and a peculiar inheritance of watchful care, as her patron conjointly with St. Peter. But from St. Peter she has inherited his character of foundation in a unique sense, as compared with the other Apostles (who are also foundations, cf. Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14), and that possession of the keys which was bestowed on Peter (cf. Matt 16:19; Isa 22:22; Rev 3:7). This possession of the keys is something beyond their mere use and exercise, such as the rest of the Apostles received (cf. Matt 18:18; John 20:23) for the purposes of their temporary mission, as founders of Churches throughout the world. Those who do not belong to us are not generally aware that we never commemorate St. Peter in the Holy Mass, or the other sacred offices of the Church, without immediately also commemorating St. Paul, nor St. Paul without at once adding a memorial of St. Peter.

The Feast of June 29 is not with us the Feast of St. Peter, as it is in the calendar of the English Church, it is the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. And every Pope sends forth his bulls in the name of the two Apostles. As, then, a person could not argue from the latter fact that the See of Rome is not held by us to be in a special sense the See of Peter, so neither could one argue from a mention in any early writer of a relationship of the See of Rome to the two Apostles that such a writer did not also believe in a special relationship to the Apostle Peter on the part of the same see. To prove similarity of teaching between primitive and modern Rome, we should look for the use of both expressions. This is exactly what we do find in Tertullian, who speaks of Rome as the see into which the Apostles Peter and Paul 'poured all doctrine (totam doctrinam),' and says at the same time that St. Clement was ordained to it by St. Peter (De Praescr Haer 32, A.D. 200). Tertullian, I notice in passing, does not say that St. Clement was the immediate successor of St. Peter, but simply that St. Clement, Bishop of Rome (whom all the world knew, and who was the teacher of others), was ordained by St. Peter himself. This is all that his argument requires, since it is to establish that apostolicity of the Church of Rome. It was necessary for this purpose to show not only that it was founded by two Apostles, but that they both, or (which was at the least the same thing) one of them, had instituted a successor, as in the case of the other Churches which he mentions.

And now we return to Eusebius. Dr. Lightfoot [54] has furnished us with a most exhaustive critical investigation of the relationship between the list made out by Hegesippus and the History and Chronicle of Eusebius, and has gone far to prove that the latter had the very list of Hegesippus in his hand, through th medium of a Syrian writer in the time of Elagabalus, named Julius Africanus. But that he had, somehow, the list of Hegesippus may be deduced from his own words.

When, then, does Eusebius, resting on the list made by Hegesippus in the middle of the second century, say concerning the relationship of St. Clement to St. Peter? There is now no question as to his making him the next but one to Linus. When, then, was the relationship of Linus to Peter?

There are two sources from which we gather the witness of Eusebius -- his History and his Chronicle. In his History he says (H.E. iii, 2) that Linus was the first appointed to the bishopric of the Church of the Romans after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter. This is an expression which decides nothing; for we should say that Henry III was the first king of England after John, meaning to include John amongst the kings. The word 'after' may be used of a successor in the same chair, the first successor being called the first bishop after the original occupant.

But immediately afterwards Eusebius uses an expression which suggests a difference of relationship between St. Peter and St. Paul to the bishopric of Rome. For he says (H.E. iii, 4) that Linus obtained the bishopric of the Church of the Romans 'first after Peter.' Here we have Peter alone connected with the bishopric. But further on there is another expression, when he speaks of Clement as 'holding the third place of those who acted as bishop after both Paul and Peter' (iii, 21). Here the series of bishops obviously begins with Linus, but the exact relationship to the two Apostles is not defined. In another passage (iv, 5) he speaks of Telesphorus as receiving the bishopric 'seventh from the Apostles,' which may mean after their death, or in succession to them.

So far, then, Eusebius is found to speak ordinarily of Linus, coming after the Apostles, as the first bishop, but on one occasion he speaks of him as the successor of Peter alone. Both are true, according to the teaching of theology.

But besides his History, Eusebius drew up a Chronicle, which appears to have contained the list from which he took that which he gives in his History. This is a matter of general agreement. But that Chronicle is not extant. We have only a few extracts in Syncellus, a Greek writer of the ninth century, and three versions in other languages -- viz. Armenian, Latin, and Syriac. The first of these, the Armenian, was, according to Petermann, who has translated it into Latin [55] , from two sources -- the original Greek and a Syriac translation. The first part, according to Petermann, with whom Lightfoot agrees so far [56] is from the original Greek. In this, whilst Clement is counted as third from the Apostles, there is a passage of supreme importance, in which the writer says: 'The Apostle Peter, when he had first founded the Church of Antioch, sets out for the city of Rome, and there preaches the gospel, and stays there as prelate of the Church for twenty years' (H.E. ii, 150). It also so happens that we have this very passage in the original preserved by Syncellus: 'but he [i.e. Peter], besides the Church in Antioch, also first presided over that in Rome until his death.' (original Greek provided in note).

And the Latin version by St. Jerome confirms this, for St. Jerome, who made the translation, says of Peter, 'He is sent to Rome, where, preaching the gospel for twenty-five years, he perseveres as bishop of the same city.' And yet St. Jerome calls Linus 'the first bishop after Peter.' Thus the Chronicle of Eusebius coincides with the History. St. Peter was Bishop of Rome, but being an Apostle also, the bishops are sometimes counted from Linus and not from the Apostle, sometimes from one Apostle, sometimes from both. (This must not be understood as though Linus, Bishop of Rome, did not succeed to the pontificate of the Universal Church; but the apostolate was something besides that).

The Syriac version again confirms the Armenian and Latin on this particular subject. It has an excerpt from the Chronicon, which says that 'Peter, after he had established the Church at Antioch, presided over the Church at Rome for twenty years.'

The later Greek and Oriental chronographies establish the same point. Cardinal Mai published one which was drawn up professedly 'from the labours of Eusebius,' in which the lists of bishops open with the statement, 'Peter first acted as bishop (Greek) in Rome' whilst in the same century Nicephorus, the Patriarch of Constantinople, gives a list of 'those who acted as bishops in Rome from Christ and the Apostles -- I. Peter the Apostle.'

Dr. Lightfoot has (it seems to the present writer) proved that both the History and the Chronicon of Eusebius derived their lists from Hegesippus. But not only so. He seems to have established another point of great importance for our present purpose, and that is the connection between a passage in Epiphanius and the original list of Hegesippus. He thinks that this list really appears in Epiphanius (Haer xxvii, 6). Now St. Epiphanius speaks of both Peter and Paul as at once Apostles and Bishops in Rome, and gives the name of Linus next. He then goes on to explain how it was that although St. Clement was a contemporary of the two Apostles, yet the others succeeded 'to the episcopate before him', viz. Linus and Cletus. Here, then, according to some very satisfactory reasons given by Dr. Lightfoot, we are in closest contact with Hegesippus, who wrote, be it remembered, in the middle of the second century. And the writer who is considered to give us most directly and unquestionably the results of Hegesippus' work in Rome is also the writer who enters most largely into the question of St. Clement's relationship to St. Peter. He was, according to St. Epiphanius, ordained by that Apostle, but could not be prevailed upon to take upon himself the responsibility of the sole episcopate on their death, until, Linus and Cletus having both died, he was at last 'forced' into it. It is, of course, only conjecture that the subject of Clement filled a special place in the 'memorials' of Hegesippus, as it did in St. Epiphanius' work; but, supposing this to be the case, we have another side-light thrown on the prominence which the name of St. Clement obtained in the East, whence came the Clementine Romance. Hegesippus was himself a Syrian Christian, who visited Corinth and Rome. Julius Africanus, through whom Eusebius derived his knowledge of Hegesippus' work, was a native of Emmaus. And the Clementine Romance hailed, in its original dress, also from the East.

The result of all that has been said is, that what we can glean from Eusebius and St. Epiphanius concerning Hegesippus' work, which was written in the middle of the second century, points to a belief already established, that St. Clement, at whatever interval, occupied 'the chair of Peter' -- a belief, therefore, which was in existence before the Clementine Romance could, on any theory, have made its appearance in Rome or the West.

VII. But there is one more witness, and that of the first importance, viz. St. Irenaeus himself. In his list of the Bishops of Rome we have again, according to Dr. Lightfoot, the same work of Hegesippus, though this is denied by many scholars. However, the witness of St. Irenaeus is of importance in itself, because it is often supposed to contradict that of Tertullian. [57] But that is an idea which arises simply from a misinterpretation. In his first mention of the succession of the Bishops of Rome (Haer i, 27, 1), St. Irenaeus speaks of Hyginus as the ninth, which makes St. Peter the first, as Hyginus was the eighth after the Apostle. He repeats this on another occasion (Haer iii, 4, 3). Dr. Lightfoot here conjectures that the reading may be wrong; but admits that 'all the authorities are agreed' as to the correctness of the reading. His only reason for supposing that the reading may be wrong seems to be that it does not fit in with his theory that St. Peter ought not to be counted as a Bishop. The reading appears in St. Cyprian, Eusebius, and St. Epiphanius. But St. Irenaeus also says in another passage (Haer iii, 4, 3) that the Apostles Peter and Paul entrusted the ministry of the episcopate to Linus, and that Clement came 'third.'

This seeming contradiction is explained by the consideration above, viz. that Linus might be called first after Peter, or second, according as the writer meant to speak of those who were only Bishops as one body by themselves, by reason of the apostolate of St. Peter, or of the bishops as actually commencing with him who was Apostle and Bishop all in one. The episcopate of Linus, although inheriting the peculiar powers of St. Peter's episcopate, i.e. of his universal pontificate (though not of his apostolate considered in its fullest sense), would naturally be due to the joint action of the two Apostles.

Thus the see was founded by the two Apostles; the first person who was bishop without being one of the Twelve was appointed by their common action. This bishop inherited those features of St. Peter's apostolate which were special to him, and accordingly he might be spoken of either as

The former because of the relationship of St. Peter to Rome as the originator of its universal pontificate, the latter because of the connection of St. Paul with Rome as fellow-labourer with the Prince of the Apostles, and its joint patron in the courts of Heaven. No one of these terms excludes the other. St. Irenaeus does not contradict Tertullian, nor Tertullian, St. Irenaeus.

A see founded by two Apostles is not necessarily the see of both or either. The expression settles nothing. St. Gregory founded the See of London, but was not its bishop. If it seemed good to one Apostle to take the See of Rome under his special care, and form to it a special relationship, there would be nothing in the fact of the foundation of the community having been due to co-operation to prevent his so doing. It cannot be said that St. James founded the See of Jerusalem, and yet he was its first bishop. And, conversely, although St. Paul, coming on to the scene after St. Peter, assisted in the foundation of the organization of the Christian community at Rome, it was not necessary that he should also be its bishop in the same sense as St. Peter.

Why, then, should Tertullian speak of Clement as ordained by St. Peter if Linus was the first bishop? The two facts I have shown are not mutually exclusive. There is nothing unreasonable in the first part of the explanation given by Rufinus in his preface to his translation of the Clementine Recognitions, viz. 'Linus and Cletus were indeed bishops in the city of Rome before Clement, but during the lifetime of Peter, that is to say, so that they bore the care of the episcopate, whilst he fulfilled the office of the apostolate.' (H.E. iii, p. 4) We must, however, add that they also reigned after St. Peter, and when it came to the successor of the Apostle, now in glory, one must come before the other, and whether from humility, as St. Epiphanius thought, or from whatever other cause, St. Clement came third. But it is more likely that it was settled by the two Apostles that Linus should be the first successor of Peter before their death, and hence the account in St. Irenaeus. They did not, they could not, hand on precisely their own position, for they were Apostles; but 'they committed the ministry of the episcopate to Linus' (Haer iii, 3, 3).

St. Clement, however, especially from his great Epistle, filled a place in men's eyes which the others did not, and so for Tertullian's purpose it would be enough to say that he was ordained by St. Peter, not thereby excluding the other two. Tertullian wished to insist on the succession of doctrine, and mentions the connection between the well-known Clement and St. Peter as sufficient. He received the bishopric from St. Peter, whether as first or third was not material to the point.

VIII. But this is not all. The question now occurs: When did the Clementine literature appear in Rome? Was it before Tertullian wrote? The Tubingen school did its best to force the composition of these writings as far back in the second century as the middle. The Bishop of Lincoln (preface to Primitive Saints) fathers Mr. Puller's theory, which is apparently the same as that of Dr. Lightfoot, and nearly that of Dr. Salmon. The latter writer renders his own theory more difficult to maintain, by making this literature 'not older than the very end of the second century,' [58] in at any rate the form in which it appeared at Rome. In this case it would have been contemporaneous with Tertullian's account, and one does not see how Tertullian could possibly have gone counter to the supposed older tradition at once.

Mr. Puller speaks of its appearance at Rome as 'an event which probably intervened between the time of St. Irenaeus' treatise and the time of St. Cyprian,' [59] which is too vague for his thesis. Accordingly he settles its date further on, purely, however, on the grounds of his own assumption as tot he effect of that literature. He says,

'There is much reason for supposing, that the notion that St. Peter himself consecrated Clement to the Roman See is wholly due to the Clementine Romance, and therefore that romance must have established its influence in Rome some time during the last twenty years of the second century, between the year 180, which is the approximate date of the treatise of St. Irenaeus, and the year 200, which is the approximate date of the treatise of Tertullian.' [60]

(But, like Dr. Lightfoot, he does not give the reasons for this, which is the pivot of the whole argument). Mr. Puller realises the importance of establishing a date for the Clementine literature anterior to Tertullian's account of Peter having ordained Clement. And it is not too much to say that the argument of his book altogether halts if this cannot be established. The 'very end' of the century, which Dr. Salmon gives as its date, will not really serve the purpose; for who cold believe that a new novel, making St. James the head of the whole Church, could in a year or two, or in five years, induce the Roman Christians to tell such a lie on behalf of their 'corporate pride' as to ignore their older lists and (supposed) older tradition on the authority of a book written in the interests of Ebionitism?

There is, however, an interesting piece of evidence which goes far to prove that neither the Tubingen Rationalists nor the anti-Papal writers are correct in assigning this Clementine literature to any part of the second century. In the 9th book of the 'Recognitions' of Clement, as preserved in Rufinus' translation, there are nearly ten chapters which are almost identical (in many places absolutely so) with a treatise o which Eusebius gives a copious extract, written by a Syriac theologian named Bardesanes, born at Edessa, and famous for his philosophico-theological speculations. The Syriac original of the treatise, of which Eusebius gives the extracts in Greek, was discovered by the late Canon Cureton in 1843 and published in 1855. Cureton thought that Bardesanes (or proper name, Bardaisan) himself wrote the treatise, but it was possibly written by a disciple of his, who incorporated the arguments of a treatise of his master. So that in that case what follows would apply to the substance of the Bardesanes dialogue, not to its form. But I will speak of it as Bardesanes. (i.e. By way of giving to the maintainers of the earlier date the benefit of the doubt. I have no doubt myself that the writing is that of a disciple. I have not discussed the only supposition that would militate against the following contention as to the date -- the supposition, namely, that an earlier form of the Clementine Romance reached Rome, and that the chapters from the treatise of Bardesanes were added in a subsequent edition. Probably no critic would maintain that. And it must be remembered that the crucial passage about Clement occurs in the Epistle to James, which is obviously the covering letter, so to speak, to the Recognitions, and no part of an earlier period. Rufinus, who had the original in his hands, expressly says that it was of later date.)

The first question that arises is, which borrowed from the other -- Bardesanes from the Greek 'Recognitions' or the 'Recognitions' from Bardesanes? Dr. Hort points out what most people will consider one adequate reason for believing that the 'Recognitions' borrowed from Bardesanes. [61] The Syriac original of Bardesanes 'contains various names and particulars pointing towards a Mesopotamian origin, which are obliterated partially in the Greek dialogue and still more in the Recognitions.' If, therefore, we considered the 'Recognitions' to be the original, we should have to suppose that Bardesanes took the matter from them and inserted these names and other particulars into his Syriac narrative as he went along. On the other hand, if the treatise or dialogue of Bardesanes (or his disciple) is the original, from which the writer of the 'Recognitions' borrowed these chapters, he did what was only natural, viz. dropped the allusions to Mesopotamia in giving the narrative its Greek dress, a process usual with a compiler such as the author of the 'Recognitions' appears to have been, and even with a mere translator who might wish to recommend the story to Western minds. Probably few scholars will hesitate which theory to adopt. So that the 9th book of the 'Recognitions' may be said with good reason to have been taken from the famous treatise of Bardesanes. (The consensus of scholars is in favour of the Eastern origin of the Clementine Romance as against Baur).

It only remains to determine the date of the original treatise or dialogue of Bardesanes. Now, there is a lengthy note of great value on this subject appended to an article by M. Priaulx (referred to in Hort) on 'Indian Embassies to Rome, from the Reign of Claudius to the Death of Justinian,' contributed to the 'Journal of the British Asiatic Society,' (1862, p. 289). The article is not written with reference to our present subject, but purely from an antiquarian point of view. M. Priaulx is showing reason why the date assigned to Bardesanes' writings by the early Christian writers is erroneous. His name is connected by these writers with Antoninus Pius, Antoninus Verus, and Marcus Antoninus, to whom Eusebius says Bardesanes presented a copy of his book, adding that he wrote it in consequence of the persecutions of the Christians by Marcus (A.D. 167-177), and about the time that Soter, Bishop of Rome, died (A.D. 179). Now, Bardesanes was born A.D. 154 (Edessene Chronicle). He was, therefore, only seven years old when Antoninus Pius died, and twenty-five when Soter died. But when he wrote the dialogue in question, or its substance (if it was that of his disciple Philip in its present form), he was able to allude to a former work of his, which makes it probable that he was in middle age. But there is a note of time, which forces us to place the earliest limit of the treatise considerably later. It says that 'as yesterday the Romans took Arabia and abrogated all their ancient laws, and more especially that circumcision with which they were circumcised.' This could only refer to the conquest by Trajan (167), or by Severus (196), (cf. Eutropius, iii 18), when Arabia was reduced to a province. In the one case Bardesanes would be only thirteen; consequently we must suppose that he wrote, not then, but soon after the death of Severus (A.D. 211).

If we suppose this treatise to have been written in 214, it would have been written 18 years after the conquest, and at the age of 60. Now, at that time the Emessine Elagabalus was on the throne, who specially affected the name of Antoninus. Nothing would be more natural than for Bardesanes to present his book to the emperor, and to address him as Antoninus, the name by which he was known in Syria. Further, it would be most probable that the Christians would know of the honour of the book being thus presented, whilst it would also be most natural that amongst subsequent writers a confusion should arise as tot he name Antoninus, as its application to Elagabalus was not known at that time, so far as we can tell, in Greece or Rome. Hence the mistaken transference of date to the time of the Antoninus in the second century by Eusebius and others.

By this ingenious conjecture, based on sound principles, new light seems to be thrown on the date of the 'Recognitions,' and Dr. Hort is probably quite correct in his estimate of that date. They could not have appeared at Rome until well into the third century. Consequently the theory of the writers with whom I have been dealing, as to Tertullian having adopted the incidental notice in the Clementine Romance about St. Clement having been appointed to the Chair of Peter, must be dismissed, and some other more solid ground for that writer's assertion must be adopted. No other needs to be sought than the list of the Bishops of Rome, which Hegesippus found in existence, whether orally or otherwise, in the middle oft he second century, which, according to Eusebius, made Linus, Anencletus, and Clement all successors of St. Peter. There would be no difficulty in supposing that St. Peter ordained Clement, whether we accepted St. Epiphanius' explanation or not.

IX. There is also no difficulty in supposing that the Clementine literature, on being introduced into the West, would contain what I may now assume to be the common tradition of the West as to St. Clement having been ordained by St. Peter, although thinking him to be the first successor, as an Eastern story well might; whereas the idea that, in order to depreciate St. Paul, the Ebionitish writer made Rome the See of Peter only, and so determined the whole future of the Church, first misleading the keen apologist Tertullian into assuming as the common teaching o the Church as heretical trick of less than twenty years' standing, is in the highest degree improbable from the view of merely natural criticism; but when we look at it from the supernatural view of the Church, as the Body of Christ and the home of the Spirit of Truth, and remember that, according to the admission of all, the Church of Rome, the leading Church from any point of view, the Churhc which, according to Dr. Lightfoot, owed her great position to her moral ascendency, as well as to her secular position: when, I say, we remember that she, the centre of the Christian world, adopted that view of her relationship to St. Peter which is implied in the supposition of this ordination, viz. that she is 'the chair of Peter,' then the theory that 'the corporate pride' of the Roman Christians led them to a guilty participation in a mere falsehood becomes quite untenable.

Novels are often based on facts, or at any rate contain a certain number of historical facts; and it is unreasonable to assume that every statement in the Clementine Romance is untrue because it is a work of fiction. Anyhow, Tertullian in A.D. 199 or 200, could not have derived his ideas from a romance which does not seem to have reached Rome before the time of Elagabalus, i.e. well into the third century. It results, then, from what has gone before, that

  1. St. Irenaeus taught that, whilst the See of Rome was founded by the two Apostles, Peter and Paul, it was also in a special sense the See of Peter; that
  2. so far as we can glean anything positive from Eusebius about the list of the Bishops of Rome, drawn up by Hegesippus in the midle of the second century, it also included a special relationship of St. Peter to that see; that
  3. Tertullian, after or during his visit to Rome, wrote as an ascertained fact that St. Clement was ordained by St. Peter, although he does not say that he was his immediate successor; that
  4. the Clementine literature reached Rome after Tertullian had left; and that
  5. in its Western dress it wove into its tale the common tradition of the West to which Tertullian had made allusion.

Note: Since writing the above I have seen a very able essay on the Clementine literature in the 'Studia Biblica' (vol ii) edited by Professors Driver, Cheyne, and Sanday. The writer, Dr. Bigg, considers that Uhlhorn has conclusively proved the Eastern origin of this literature, and that 'there can be no reasonable doubt' that the work called the 'Homilies' was well known to the author o the 'Recognitions' (p. 183). He shows, as others before him, that there must have been an earlier form on which both the 'Homilies' and the 'Recognitions' drew, and says that this 'must not be fixed too early.'  He suggests about A.D. 200. But his only reason for this seems to be his assumption that 'the Clement legend,' in which he seems to include the ordination by Peter, was contained in the older form. Dr. Salmon, rightly, denied this (Dict of Chr Biog, article Clem. Lit. p. 511). Dr. Bigg admits that the argument against heathenism is of a late type. As yet, however, not a shadow of proof has been produced that the earlier original o the 'Homilies' and 'Recognitions' appeared at Rome. Much less can it be supposed, in the face of Rufinus' statement to the contrary, that the letter of St. Clement, which mentions his ordination by St. Peter, belonged to the earlier original. The 'Recognitions' is, obviously, the form in which the literature first appeared at Rome, and the said letter of Clement was, as Dr. Salmon says, 'the preface to the Recognitions' (Dict of Chr Biog, ibid).

Dr. Bigg gives a very plausible account of the reason of the circulation of this literature at Rome. He thinks that Alexander of Apamea brought with him to Rome, 'as a new Gospel, the volume which had been dedicated to Elxai among the Seres of Parthia by an angel 96 miles high. The particular article of this revelation, on which he relied for success, was a baptism which washed away all, even the most hideous sins, without any discipline or penance at all' ('Hom' xi, 26-7). Alexander arrived in the city of Rome during the reign of St. Callixtus (A.D. 219-222), in the midst of the storm about remission of sins after baptism, and 'such as improvement on the terms of Callixtus might be expected to win over many of the looser Christians.' [62]

Whatever may be thought of this ingenious conjecture, it suggests that there are other reasons for the popularity of this literature more probable than that given by Dr. Lightfoot and others. But even if all these critical difficulties could be solved, one irrefragable proof of the untenableness of the view against which I have been contending would still remain. According to that view, the Romans wished that their see should be the See of Peter rather than the See of the two Apostles. It seemed to them more honourable; it 'flattered their corporate pride,' says Dr. Lightfoot. But why, unless St. Peter was superior to St. Paul? The mere fact that St. Peter was first in order, but not in jurisdiction (primus inter pares), could never be a sufficient reason for dropping the name of St. Paul. The Romans were not Ebionites that they should despise St. Paul. They must, on Dr. Lightfoot's theory, have considered Peter, on independent grounds, head and shoulders above his brother Apostle, if, in less than 20 years, they could reverse their (supposed) former history, and claim for their see the name of Peter only. St. Paul tells us that 'he laboured more abundantly than they all'; how could St. Peter tower above St. Paul, except on the supposition that our Lord had appointed him to be the supreme ruler of the Church?

Our adversaries in this matter have to suppose the very point which they are concerned to deny, viz. the supremacy of Peter, in order to find a motive for the supposed adoption by the Romans of this Clementine literature as the guiding star of their local history.


The Epistle of St. Clement is alluded to in a remarkable passage in the work of St. Irenaeus against heresies. He has just given the Church's rule of faith, which is, agreement with the Church of Rome, by reason of her 'more powerful sovereignty' as compared with other Churches. He then proceeds to speak of one special instance of her exercise of sovereignty, viz. 'the letter of the Church in Rome to the Corinthians on behalf of (eis) peace,' which letter he describes as most adequate or powerful (Greek). He describes it -- according to one reading, the Church of Rome, according to another, her letter (Haer lib iii, 3, 2) -- as 'forcing them together (Greek) and renewing their faith,' delivering 'the tradition which it had recently received from the Apostles,' i.e. St. Peter and St. Paul.

I. In the passage of which this is the sequel, St. Irenaeus, I have said, gives the Catholic rule of faith. Nothing can be more clear and simple. It is, ultimately, agreement with Rome. The deposit of the faith was delivered by our Lord to the Apostolic College; and if we wish to know what that faith is, we have only to consult an Apostolic Church. But the easiest way of all is to consult the Church of Rome, because all must agree with, or (which comes to the same thing) have recourse to, that Church. She was founded by two Apostles, the most glorious of all, so the saint avers, and her Church is the most renowned and the greatest of all. She has a more powerful sovereignty than the rest, and by reason of this, all other Churches must have recourse to, or agree with her, so that in her, by union with her, the faithful everywhere have preserved the deposit of revealed truth.

Such is the plain teaching of our saint, who united in himself such special qualifications for expressing the Church's rule of faith. St. Irenaeus combines the experience of East and West, and united the second century with apostolic times. He was an Eastern and had been trained by St. Polycarp, who himself had sat at the feet of St. John. And he was a Western bishop.

In the treatise from which the summary of his teaching, just given, is taken, he is engaged in pointing out the way in which the Christian faith may be known. Dr. Lightfoot observes that, in this second century, 'the episcopate is regarded now not so much as the centre of ecclesiastical unity, but rather as the depositary of apostolic tradition.' The two things, however, go hand in hand. St. Irenaeus himself mentions them together in specifying the effects of St. Clement's letter as 'compelling them to unity and renewing their faith' (Haer lib iii, 3).  It was as the guardian of the faith that the Church of Rome presided over the Universal Church. St. Ignatius speaks of her as 'presiding in the place of the region of the Romans' (an expression which indicates not the extent, but the centre of her presiding authority), and says that she presides 'over the [covenant of] love.' Dr. Lightfoot translates this 'in love' instead of 'over the love,' and understands the love, not as the supernatural gift of the Holy Ghost, but as 'practical goodness,' in a word, philanthropy, instancing her great generosity in alms. But Dr. Dollinger appears to be right in regarding 'the love' as the equivalent of 'the Church.' [63] And it was as the guardian of the faith that the Church of Rome presided over the covenant of divine love. This involved her being the centre of unity; for it is of the essence of the guardianship of the faith that those only should be admitted into the one teaching body, or remain in it, who hold the one faith, and this involves a central authority and source of decision.

Now this is what also results from the famous passage of St. Irenaeus quoted above. The Church of Rome has a sovereignty, and it is connected with the preservation of the faith.

II. But, as Dr. Dollinger says, 'For three hundred years there have not been wanting writers who have endeavoured to wrest these words from their evident meaning' (German title, 1833). I shall here only deal with such as have been adopted by writers in this country. But first, I will give the translation ordinarily adopted by Catholic writers, amongst whom I am glad to be able to number Tillemont and Bossuet.

'It is necessary that every Church, that is, the faithful who are everywhere, should agree with this Church [in Rome]; in which that tradition which is from the Apostles has been preserved by those who are everywhere.'

To this rendering exception has been taken in the following particulars --

(a) It is said that St. Irenaeus does not say that every Church must agree with the Church of Rome, but must resort to it, and that by every Church is meant the individuals amongst the faithful who find their way to the city of Rome. [64]

Now, it may be admitted that the words convenire ad may mean physical recourse, but it must be remembered that it is to the Church, not to the city of Rome that this centripetal movement is said to be 'of necessity.' And it is every Church which must resort to the Church of Rome. The following words -- 'those who are from all sides' -- explain, but must not be allowed to explain away, the word Church. It is as organised communities, not as individual men of business, that every Church must resort to the Church of Rome. The necessity also can hardly be that which arises from the fact that Rome was the centre of secular life. Men who came to hawk their wares, or consult the market, or plead their civil causes, are hardly the persons likely to promote the integrity of the faith. Whilst such men as Hegesippus found their way to Rome, men like Alexander of Apamea did the same. And, as a rule, it is either the wealthy, or the secular-minded, or the ne'-er-do-wells of a community who bend their steps to the metropolis, and this would not contribute to the preservation of the faith. The mere fact of a confluence of streams will not keep the waters sweet; there must be some preservative power in the centre.

Nor is there any need to see in the word 'necessary' anything more than a deep-seated attraction which drew men to the Church of Rome on another ground. The word used by St. Irenaeus is the regular word in ecclesiastical Latin, as is the corresponding word in Greek, for such necessity. St. Cyril uses it as expressing the obligation under which he lay of writing to the Pope about Nestorius. [65]

It is, therefore, more natural to translate convenire ad as 'agree with' [66] and to understand necesse est of that necessity which arose from the commanding position of the Church of Rome and the supernatural operation of the Holy Ghost. But even if we translate convenire ad 'resort to,' it must be borne in mind that a necessary resort of all Churches to the Church of Rome implies supremacy in the latter.

(b) To what was the commanding position of the Church of Rome due according to St. Irenaeus? Our answer is, to its superior sovereignty, as not only an apostolic but, as in after times it was called, the Apostolic Church; to its having, as St. Irenaeus puts it, been founded by the two most glorious Apostles, to which we must add the fact that one of those two most glorious Apostles was he to whom the Lord has said, 'Thou art Peter,' which signifies a special association with the Rock of Ages.

Dr. Pusey and Mr. Keble understood by the word 'sovereignty,' merely primitiveness or origin. They saw that the words must apply to the Church, and not to the city. Dr. Dollinger completely shattered to atoms this same translation, as given by Gieseler. ' (German text given) He scouts the idea that such as 'illogical conclusion ever entered the mind of St. Irenaeus'; and he shows that the word 'principalitas' means in Irenaeus' writings 'supreme authority,' and points out that Rome was not the oldest Church (German title, p. 357). Indeed, it may be added that St. Irenaeus expressly calls Jerusalem, the mother Church in point of antiquity (Haer iii, 12, 5).

(c) But whilst understanding the 'principality' as meaning sovereignty, others, as Mr. Puller, understand it of the imperial position of the city. But this is absolutely excluded by the context. It is the apostolic origin of any Church that gives it, according to St. Irenaeus, its commanding position; it is the specially apostolic character of the Church of Rome that gives it its peculiar position amongst the apostolic Churches. Bossuet calls such as interpretation as that given by Mr. Puller 'trifling' with the matter; Hefele calls it 'ridiculous' (lacherlich); Perrone, 'most absurd.' For, as Bossuet says, St. Irenaeus was speaking, in the previous sentence, of the Church of Rome as founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul, not in her imperial aspect. And the words 'more powerful' imply comparison with the Churches ('every Church') which he has mentioned in the same breath, and with which he contrasts the Church of Rome as 'the most ancient and the most universally known.'

(d) Some writers, as Mr. Gore and Mr. Puller, have laid great stress on the word translated 'everywhere.' It is literally 'from all sides.' And they seem to imagine that this suggests the picture of an assemblage of the faithful from all quarters in the city of Rome. But it may equally represent the view of a writer regarding the faithful as living in all quarters of the globe, and connected with the centre not by physical movement, but by the tie of a common faith. It is, however, certain that the word is used by the Latin interpreter, and that the corresponding word in Greek was also used by St. Irenaeus (for in this case we have the original in the Bodleian MS), for 'everywhere' simply. St. Irenaeus speaks of the four Gospels as 'breathing, or blowing, incorruptibility everywhere and revivifying men.' The word for 'everywhere' used here is the same as in the passage we have been considering; [67] and it is obvious that it means a radiation from a centre, not vice versa.

Further, St. Irenaeus does not say that the apostolic tradition was preserved through these merchants, and lawyers, and appellants, and heretics, and faithful, that gathered haphazard to the city of Rome, but by them -- which reduces the supposition that he meant these business travellers at all to an absurdity.

Once more, the interpretation given by Canon Bright, viz. that the principalitas was 'a sort of primacy' involving a moral guarantee of its soundness of belief, which led St. Irenaeus to say that every Church was itself true to apostolic tradition "must needs agree with it" -- implies the very doctrine which he is endeavouring to exclude. For it must be asked: If all orthodox Churches are necessarily found to be in agreement with the Church of Rome, what is this but ascribing infallibility to that Church? This, indeed, is what St. Irenaeus does ascribe to Rome, an ascendency in matters of faith which makes her teaching the test and norm of the Catholic faith. And so he goes on to show that as a matter of fact other Churches, such as Smyrna and Ephesus, do agree with Rome (Mr. Puller has misunderstood this passage).

(e) Lastly, it has been objected that the words 'in which' (in qua) may refer to 'every Church,' and not to the Church of Rome. But this, again, necessitates the absurdity of supposing that every orthodox Church is necessarily in agreement with Rome, and yet that Rome is not infallible, or the equal absurdity of supposing that the chance business men who found their way to Rome for secular purposes kept Rome right in the faith -- or the people, for instance, who brought with them the Clementine Romance. The words in qua are well explained by Dr. Dollinger, as stating that the faithful throughout the world were 'in' the Church of Rome -- that is, in communion with it as the centre of unity. The corresponding word in Greek would be that which is used by St. Paul of our being 'in Christ,' and the exact phrase of the Latin interpreter, whose translation is all that we have of this passage in St. Irenaeus, is used by the African bishop, St. Optatus, whose work St. Augustine recommended, viz. 'in which one chair [i.e. the chair of Peter] unity might be preserved,' i.e. that in communion with this one chair, etc. (German given in note, p. 358).

The plain and simple meaning, therefore, of St. Irenaeus remains in possession. All Churches must agree with the Church of Rome, so that if you know the faith of the Church of Rome you know the faith of the whole Christian Church.


One of the legal methods of preserving the evidence of a claim is to subject it, periodically, to a challenge pro forma. And one method of discovering how far a claim holds good, such as that which Rome makes, is to see what happens under circumstances that press heavily on the obedience of those over whom it is made, leading them in the natural course of things to dispute it. Resistance does not disprove authority; while a resistance which falls short of disputing the authority itself indicates a sense of its lawful existence. Such as occasion occurred in the second century of the Christian era. A portion of the East came into collision with Rome on a matter on which Rome proved to be right, although the Pope thought it well not to press the matter beyond a certain point. The circumstances were as follows.

I. In the Asiatic Churches a multitude of Jews had entered the Christian fold, and had kept to various Jewish customs, under the eye and apparently with the sanction of the Apostle St. John. Amongst these customs was that of celebrating the Paschal Feast on the same day as their unconverted brethren. In the West it was observed on the Sunday after the 14th Nisan -- always on a Sunday. Amongst those who now observed the feast on the same day as the Jews were some whose belief as to the idea of the feast was the same as that of the rest of the Christian world. But there were also some whose teaching as to the idea of the festival itself was erroneous, and whose observance of it differed altogether from that of the Church. (Many of the orthodox Quartodecimans thought that the main feature of the Paschal Feast lay in the commemoration of the death of Christ, of whom the Paschal Lamb was the type. cf. 1 Cor 5:7). [68] In fact, the observance of this Queen of Festivals, on which St. John the Apostle appears to have allowed some external difference, had come to be connected with Ebionitish teaching. It would therefore only be a matter of time for an endeavour to be made to bring the whole Christian world into unison on such an important matter, for though it was not a matter of faith, it was closely connected with the faith.

Rome had her observance handed down from the Apostles Peter and Paul; and her observance was destined to be the rule of action for the entire Church. In the beginning of the century she had made an endeavour to achieve a greater uniformity, but had ended with acquiescing in the continuance of the dissimilarity of practice. Anicetus received Polycarp to communion at Rome, although Polycarp adopted the Asiatic mode of observing the Feast. Soter went a step further and insisted on uniformity, at least in Rome itself.

II. But when Victor ascended the throne matters had become much more serious, and the Asiatic observance of Easter was adopted by certain schismatics, who were also infected with Montanism. [69] It became a matter of moment to stop the dissimilarity of observance in the Church itself, or to dissociate it from false teaching. St. Victor decided upon the first, but succeeded only in effecting the second.

Mosheim, the German Protestant historian, has said that the action of Victor in this matter, and the reception with which it met, prove that in that age the power of the Roman Pontiff was not such as that we could cut off from the whole Church those of whose opinions and practices he disapproved. He has been followed in this by the author of 'The Primitive Saints and the See of Rome,' (p. 24-31) who contends that the account of the matter in Eusebius shows that the loss of communion with Rome did not involve loss of communion with the rest of the Church. There is a sense in which this is true, but it is not the sense in which this writer uses the expression. There was, in early times, a measure of separation from Rome which was not intended to involve separation from the whole body. This lesser separation was a serious loss, but was meant to fall short, by a great deal, of the excommunication under anathema. [70] For the latter a distinct and formal notification of its terrible infliction was necessary. Moreover, this latter and more extreme measure might be preceded by the former. With these remarks I will proceed to narrate what actually happened, and to show that matters never came to the point which would necessitate our speaking of these Asiatics as being under anathema, and so in actual schism.

St. Victor first collected the evidence of the whole Christian world [71], except Asia, and then requested Polycrates, the Bishop of Ephesus, to summon the Asiatic bishops in council, in the hope of inducing them to relinguish their purely local practice. Polycrates obeyed. The Asiatic Churches, however, came to the conclusion that they would adhere to their own custom. Polycrates, their leader, went so far in the way of exaggeration as to speak of their own practice as though it alone were 'in accordance with the Gospel,' and they pleaded the authority of St. John the Evangelist and St. Philip. They may have meant only that their custom had been permitted by the Apostle. Anyhow, if they dreamt of an Apostolic prescription, we are not obliged to think that they were historically correct in their assertion.

The result of their answer to St. Victor was that he decided upon strong measures. The warmth with which they defended their custom must have seemed to him suspicious, as though they were erecting it into a matter of belief, or were really in danger of doctrinal error. For it must be carefully remembered, that the question of the Paschal observance involved not merely that of a day, but in many cases (known only too unhappily to the Pope) of the meaning of the feast.

St. Victor, therefore, decided, or at least threatened, to excommunicate the Asiastic Churches 'from the common unity,' (Greek given) as Eusebius expresses it. He set to work to do it; he made the endeavour; he took the first step. The word (Greek for endeavour) involves no more than the endeavour which the head-master of a school might make to enforce a salutary rule, but from which he might desist owing to the fear of rebellion. [72]  He issued his notice of excommunication, of downright excommunication, to the effect that they were cut off from the common unity (Greek given). Unfortunately we do not possess St. Victor's letter; consequently it is impossible to say whether or not the excommunication was contingent on their obedience at the next Easter. [73] But it is most reasonable, and most in harmony with what we know of such excommunications in after times, as, for instance, St. Celestine's excommunication of Nestorius -- to suppose that these Asiatics were to be excommunicate if they adhered to their custom at the following Easter. But as soon as they received the Papal injunction, or, at any rate, before the time came for compliance with it, i.e. before the following Easter, some bishops protested. ('The sentence did not please all the bishops' are the words of Eusebius, which implies that there were some, probably many, who thought St. Victor in the right.) Their protest, however, consisted only of exhortation or entreaty: 'they exhorted,' says Eusebius. This they did in no measured terms, but went beyond the limits of the respect due to the office of St. Victor.

(Greek given) Mr. Puller has translated 'very severely.' But the Greek implies bitterness -- 'objurgatione acri' is Dindorf's translation of the positive. 'Severely' is a word which suggests the tone of a superior rebuking the fault of an inferior, or of a usurper. 'Bitterly' (the correct translation) is a word which described the tone of a dissatisfied inferior protesting against his superior's action. And 'very severely' misses the point of the ending of the word. It is not (Greek given) but is in the comparative degree, implying excess, 'more than the occasion warranted' in the judgment of Eusebius.

Their complaints were probably a more bitter edition of Polycrates previous letter, in which that bishop pleads his own virgin life as a reason why he should be heard, and says he cares for no threats -- not a very edifying form of correspondence.

III. Peace, however, came from the mediation of the same saint, who wrote that 'it is necessary for every Church to agree with the Church of Rome, because of her more powerful principality or supremacy.' St. Irenaeus (the author of the words) wrote from Gaul a letter couched in more deferential terms. (Greek given) This seems to be in contrast with the (Greek) or excessive bitterness of the Asiatics. He was amongst the number of those who were displeased with Victor's determination, but different from them in tone. He agreed with Rome about the observation of Easter, but realised the impossibility of bringing the Asiatics into line under present circumstances. 


text text





[20] The references to St. Clement's letter are from Dr. Lightfoot's edition -- the second, posthumously published in 1890. [21] St. Clement calls it a schism (sect 46). [22] St. Clement of Rome, vol i, p. 69 (1890). [23] (Greek), Adv Haer iii,3,3. [24] (Greek, sect 44). Notice the present tense in the latter word. The Church of Rome treats the action of the Corinthians as incomplete. [25] Lightfoot, p. 69. [26] ibid, p. 84. [27] ibid, p. 352. [28] ibid, p. 69. [29] cf. Life of St. Thomas of Canterbury by Rev. J. Morris, SJ, p. 135. [30] Luke 22:25-27. And so from the time of St. Damasus the Popes have called themselves the 'servant of servants.' [31] St. Peter 5:13. Dr. Lightfoot so understands the word 'Babylon' in his St. Clement of Rome, vol ii, p. 491-2. [32] Lightfoot, p. 358. [33] Mr. Gore has an excellent reply to Dr. Lightfoot's erroneous conception of the episcopate in the early Christian Church in his Church and the Ministry (1889), note A, p. 353 ff. [34] Mr. Gore (ibid) speaks of 'the teaching authority which breathes in his [Clement's] Epistle.' [35] George Salmon, Infallibility of the Church, 2nd ed. p. 379. [36] Dr. Salmon, in the preface to his book says that much of it was written years ago. It certainly contrasts strangely in its tone of abruptness and heat with his admirable Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, in which he takes the same view of St. Clement's letter as in Smith and Wace's Dictionary. Possibly the new ending had not been discovered when he wrote that portion of his work on Infallibility. [37] C. T. Cruttwell's Lit Hist of Early Christianity (1893), vol ii, p. 404. [38] Lightfoot, vol i, page 178. [39] ibid, p. 71.


[40] Schaff, History of the Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity, vol ii, p. 639 (Edinburgh). 'He was regarded,' says Lightfoot, 'as the interpreter of the Apostolic teaching and the codifier of the Apostolic ordinances' (St. Clement, vol i, p. 103). [41] Salmon, Introduction to the Study of the NT, p. 646. [42] St. Clement of Rome, 2nd ed, p. 70. In the first edition it is 'Papal aggression.' [43] F.W. Puller, The Primitive Saints and the See of Rome, p. 45. [44] Introduction to the NT, 4th ed [1889], p. 15. Italics added. [45] Salmon Infallibility, 2nd ed [1890], p. 360. [46] St. Clement of Rome, ed 1890, vol i, p. 64. [47] P. xxi. Dr. King is here endeavouring to make room for our 'honesty.' But he starts with imputing to us the above theory, which no Catholic theologian ever held. [48] Puller, Primitive Saints, p. 50. [49] ibid, p. 54. [50] Tertullian, for instance, St. Cyprian's master. [51] Lightfoot, p. 71. [52] Hegesippus' expression [Greek] may imply that there was no written official list. But he found at least a reliable oral tradition. [53] Puller, Primitive Saints, p. 48. [54] See the whole interesting discussion on the 'early Roman succession' (p. 201-345) in his Clement of Rome, vol i. Every line will repay perusal. [55] It can be seen in the British Museum in A. Schoene's beautiful edition, in which the various versions are placed side by side. [56] Lightfoot, p. 213. [57] ibid, p. 204. [58] Salmon, Intro to NT, 4th ed, p. 14. [59] Puller, Primitive Saints, p. 44. [60] ibid, p. 48. Italics added. [61] Article on "Bardaisan" in Dict of Chr Biogr edited by Smith and Wace. [62] Studia Biblica, vol ii, p. 189.


[63] Original German and Greek from Dollinger presented in footnote, cf. for the use of the genitive with (Greek) Theodoret's letter to St. Leo; he uses (Greek for 'presiding over the world') of the Holy See. [64] Puller, Primitive Saints, p. 36; Gore, R.C. Claims, p. 97. [65] cf. p. 308. And also see the letter of the Council of Ephesus to St. Celestine: (Greek given, Labbe, iii, p. 1196). [66] This is Canon Bright's translation in The Roman Claims Tested by Antiquity, p. 8. [67] Haer lib iii, cap 11, n. 8 (Greek and Latin undique). Cf. also Latin given for 24, 1.


[68] Cf. Jungmann, Diss ii, 65 who gives a short account of worse heresies into which some of the Quartodecimans were falling. [69] Cf. Jungmann, ibid ii, 79. [70] Cf. Dollinger's Geschichte, Periede II ad finem; and quotations from De Smedt in Jungmann, Diss i, 75. [71] Eusebius, Hist Eccl v,23. [72] Mr. Puller greatly exaggerates its force (Primitive Saints, p. 30). [73] Dollinger, Geschichte, p. 289. [74] text


go to previousgo to previous sectionBack to Luke Rivington contents go to next sectiongo to next

About | Apologetics | Philosophy | Spirituality | Books | Audio | Links