APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION: Are the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church Successors of the Apostles?

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A theory of ministry in the church that arose after a.d. 170–200. The Gnostics claimed to possess a secret tradition handed down to them from the apostles. As a counterclaim the Catholic church pointed to each bishop as a true successor to the apostle who had founded the see and therefore to the truth the apostles taught. The bishop, as an authoritative teacher, preserved the apostolic tradition. He was also a guardian of the apostolic Scriptures and the creed. In a generation when the last links with the apostles were fast dying out, this emphasis on apostolic teaching and practice was natural. In the third century the emphasis changed from the open succession of teachers to the bishops as the personal successors of the apostles. This development owed much to the advocacy of Bishop Cyprian of Carthage (248–58). Harnack regards this as a perversion rather than a development.

The terminology is not found in the NT, diadochē (succession) being absent from both the NT and the LXX. There is little evidence for the idea in the NT (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2). All early succession lists were compiled late in the second century.

There is also a difference between the Roman and Anglo-Catholic viewpoints. The former is a centralized autocracy with a papal succession traced back to Peter. The Tractarian teaches that all bishops alike, however insignificant the see, have equal power in a corporation. Thus an apostle transmitted to a bishop, through “the laying on of hands” and prayer, the authority that Christ had conferred on him. This theory of sacramental grace is a barrier to reunion in the Reformed churches, since nonepiscopal bodies are regarded as defective in their ministry.

The weakness of the argument of K. E. Kirk’s Apostolic Ministry is its failure to explain the absence of the idea in the first two centuries of the Christian era. Ehrhardt does not supply the defect by postulating a priestly succession derived from the Judaizing church of Jerusalem as it laid stress on the new Israel and the continuity of its priesthood. The idea was in the air in the second century.

Bishop Drury affirms that the apostles left behind three things: their writings; the churches that they founded, instructed, and regulated; and the various orders of ministers for the ordering of these churches. There could be no more apostles in the original sense of that word. The real successor to the apostolate is the NT itself, since it continues their ministry within the church of God. Their office was incommunicable. Three kinds of succession are possible: ecclesiastical (a church that has continued from the beginning), doctrinal (the same teaching that has continued throughout), and episcopal (a line of bishops traced unbroken from early times). This does not necessarily mean that the episcopal office is the same as the apostolic. – Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 89.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot

The Above is By R. E. Higginson

Below we will use the Jerusalem Bible, the New American Bible, and the Douay–Rheims Bible, Catholic Bibles, so that those Catholics who believe in Apostolic Succession cannot argue the Bible is a Protestant Bible.

Was Peter the “rock” on Which the Church was to Be Built?

Matt. 16:18, JB: “I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.”

We can see in the context of Matthew 16:13 and 20 centers on the identity of Jesus.

MATTHEW 16:18 “Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church”?

Who was the “rock,” According to Peter and Paul?

Acts 4:8-11, JB: “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! . . . it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone [“cornerstone,” NAB].’”

1 Pet. 2:4-8, JB: “Set yourselves close to him [the Lord Jesus Christ] so that you too . . . may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says: See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen and the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed. That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down.”

Eph. 2:20, JB: “You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone.”

Augustine a Saint of the Catholic Church

“In this same period of my priesthood, I also wrote a book against a letter of Donatus . . . In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built.’ . . . But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ For, ‘Thou art Peter’ and not ‘Thou art the rock’ was said to him. But ‘the rock was Christ,’ in confessing whom as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter.”—The Fathers of the Church—Saint Augustine, the Retractations (Washington, D.C.; 1968), translated by Mary I. Bogan, Book I, p. 90.

How Did the Other Apostles View Peter?

Luke 22:24-26, JB: “A dispute arose also between them [the apostles] about which should be reckoned the greatest, but he said to them, ‘Among pagans it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the title Benefactor. This must not happen with you.’” (If Peter were the “rock,” would there have been any question as to which one of them “should be reckoned the greatest”?)

Jesus Christ is the head of the church, so no successors are needed

Heb. 7:23-25, JB: “Then there used to be a great number of those other priests [in Israel], because death put an end to each one of them; but this one [Jesus Christ], because he remains for ever, can never lose his priesthood. It follows, then, that his power to save is utterly certain, since he is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him.”

Rom. 6:9, JB: “Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again.”

Eph. 5:23, JB: “Christ is head of the Church.”

Peter Was not Making Decisions for Those in Heaven

Acts 2:4, 14, JB: 2 “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed them in a loud voice: ‘Men of Judaea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, make no mistake about this, but listen carefully to what I say.’ 33 Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.

Acts 10:19-20, JB: “The Spirit had to tell him [Peter], ‘Some men have come to see you. Hurry down, and do not hesitate about going back with them [household of Cornelius]; it was I who told them to come.’”

Compare Matthew 18:18-19.

Is it Peter Who Decides Who Enters the Kingdom?

2 Tim. 4:1, JB: “Christ Jesus . . . is to be judge of the living and the dead.”

2 Tim. 4:8, JB: “All there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord [Jesus Christ], the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.”

Was Peter in Rome?

Was the Apostle Peter In Rome?

Has an unbroken line of successors been traced from Peter to modern-day popes?

Jesuit John McKenzie, when professor of theology at Notre Dame, wrote: “Historical evidence does not exist for the entire chain of succession of church authority.”—The Roman Catholic Church (New York, 1969), p. 4.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: “ . . . the scarcity of documents leaves much that is obscure about the early development of the episcopate . . . ”—(1967), Vol. I, p. 696.

REASONING WITH OTHER RELIGIONS

The Catholic Church Has The Most Atrocious History Against Humankind

Matt. 7:21-23, JB: “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?’ Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!”

See also Jeremiah 7:9-15.

The Catholic Church Has Not Been Faithful to God’s Word

A Catholic Dictionary states: “The Roman Church is Apostolic, because her doctrine is the faith once revealed to the Apostles, which faith she guards and explains, without adding to it or taking from it.” (London, 1957, W. E. Addis and T. Arnold, p. 176) Do the facts agree?

Celibacy of the Clergy

Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (Priestly Celibacy, 1967), endorsed celibacy as a requirement for the clergy, but he admitted that “the New Testament which preserves the teaching of Christ and the Apostles . . . does not openly demand celibacy of sacred ministers . . . Jesus Himself did not make it a prerequisite in His choice of the Twelve, nor did the Apostles for those who presided over the first Christian communities.”—The Papal Encyclicals 1958-1981 (Falls Church, Va.; 1981), p. 204.

1 Cor. 9:5, NAB: “Do we not have the right to marry a believing woman like the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” (“Cephas” is an Aramaic name given to Peter; see John 1:42. See also Mark 1:29-31, where reference is made to the mother-in-law of Simon, or Peter.)

1 Tim. 3:2, Dy: “It behoveth, therefore, a bishop to be . . . the husband of one wife [“married only once,” NAB].”

Catholicism borrowed from Buddhism and the Babylonian, whose priesthood required its priests and monks and the higher orders to be celibate. (History of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church, London, 1932, fourth ed., revised, Henry C. Lea, p. 6); The Two Babylons by A. Hislop.—(New York, 1943), p. 219.

1 Tim. 4:1-3, JB: “The Spirit has explicitly said that during the last times there will be some who will desert the faith and choose to listen to deceitful spirits and doctrines that come from the devils; . . . they will say marriage is forbidden.”

Separateness from the World

Pope Paul VI, when addressing the United Nations in 1965, said: “The peoples of the earth turn to the United Nations as the last hope of concord and peace; We presume to present here, together with Our own, their tribute of honor and of hope.”—The Pope’s Visit (New York, 1965), Time-Life Special Report, p. 26.

John 15:19, JB: “[Jesus Christ said:] If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.”

James 4:4, JB: “Don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy?”

Forced Conversion

Most of the world was conquered by Catholicism with a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other. If they refused, they were slaughtered with the sword.

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