Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The First Pope

Someone asked me recently, "Peter was in Rome?"  Yes, reasonable tradition suggests that Peter was crucified in Rome under the emperor Nero. However, even Roman Catholic Bible scholars will tell you that it is not at all likely that Peter founded the church at Rome.

Brown and Meier, two of the best RCC Bible scholars of all time, suggest that the kernel of truth behind the tradition may be that the Roman church was a little more "conservative," more sympathetic to Peter's positions, than to Paul.

But I don't think it's appropriate even to translate the word episkopos as "bishop" in the time of the New Testament.  I believe that, for the most part, house churches were run by a council of elders and that these elders were also called the "overseers" of the assembly (=church). So there was probably not even a single overseer (episkopos) of an individual house church, let alone one over a whole city.  That doesn't happen until around the beginning of second century. That is not to say that there wasn't often someone more or less running the show.

So who was the first bishop of Rome?  Linus may very well have been an overseer in Rome. He's traditionally second to Peter.  Was he an overseer of all the churches in the city?  We just don't know if it got that far that early.  I personally doubt it.

Perhaps by the time of Clement, in the late first century, the role of overseer had developed enough for him to be called the overseer of the city.  Even here, though, he doesn't talk of the leadership of Corinth in such "one man" terms. Ignatius in the early 100s is arguing for the authority of a single overseer, so even then the idea of a single leader of a city is still being solidified.

So Peter was not the first bishop of Rome, let alone the first "Pope," a concept that would not develop for several more centuries.  Even in 1054, half the church denied that the bishop of Rome was of higher authority than the other bishops of key cities. Thus the Great Schism between East and West.


Robert Brenchley said...

Why would Peter have been in Rome? There's no evidence tat he was a Roman citizen so he wouldn't have bene able to appeal to Caesar, and what we know about his movements puts him further east.

Ken Schenck said...

I take "Babylon" in 1 Peter 5 to be an allusion to Rome. While the authorship of 1 Peter is disputed, it fits with what Clement of Rome says of his end. Although the dating of 1 Clement is disputed, a date in the 90s is still common.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Interesting that you attempt to ascertain the historical events via text/tradition to continue the tradition...following a post about philosophy....

In the context of the first known christians, most were not from the empowered class (except Paul, as a Roman citizen with an education), which would circumvent any political rights. This fits nicely with humanitarian missions to the uneducated and the poor.

But, what of the history that has become since, of the Church? Does that not apply? Yes, because we have become empowered and educated in a free society. Although the need for philosophy still remains. Some frame their life within a Christian philosophy, while others choose to frame theirs individually.

Unless, the empowered class still assumes that position for Chrsitians, where the Christian worldview "sees" or understands "God's Sovereignty" over-ruling evil rulers.

Or do Christians demand their right to be heard and seen in the realm of influence because of their "mandate from God"? What does this mean when their agenda does not get accomplished? Does it mean a change of strategy, or a change in worldview? or only a tweak?

The radicalizing elements on the Left and Right have brought a schism within the Christian movement. Why not acknowledge that philosophy is the way we know and understand "life" and also acknowledge that people will disagree on philosophical issues, some issues never being settled? Could we not give up the label of "Christian" and be humans attempting to understand and live in their world the best way we can? Could Christians acknowledge that what is true if true for everyone, not a select few, or an initiated "chosen" (whether predestined or fore ordained)?

But as a science fiction writer, Heinlein, once said, it is hard to to get a man to understand something when his salary (insert; ego, honor, "self", reputation, power, social connections) depends on it!!! We all have "turf" we want to protect, and this is normal. I just wish we'd acknowledge it. The world would be better off. Then, we could be realistic in our negotiations with one another!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Conservative Christians compete as much as the secular world, just within their "value frame".

The values of family,parenting, sacrifice, humility, obedience, hearing from God, understanding scripture, purity, fidelity, mission work, etc. mean conservatives have reputations and values to protect!

Liberal Christians aren't any better, just a little more "grounded" in the real world. Their pride of service is probably well known, as their busy schedules might exclude their family's needs for a "greater good", while the conservative would hold to obedience to the scripture to "forsake all for the Kingdom" or "leaving father mother, etc.....for the sake of the Kingdom to get a return hundred fold"! Both would justify shirking their duties at home, or leaving responsibilities behind for a 'spiritual mission"!

What does it say to those left behind, who might have needed them? Does it affirm the person's value to "The Good Christian Soldier"? I think not! This is where "the world" has a much better handle on things than "the people of God".

Nathaniel said...

Robert, in addition to 1 Peter 5, we also know Peter was in Corinth very early (1 Cor 1ff). Furthermore, some scholars believe Romans 15:20 is an allusion to Peter in Rome. CCEL has a series of lectures given at Oxford on the topic of the early Roman Church: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edmundson/church.html

These clearly represent one scholars opinion, and they are somewhat dated. But nonetheless, it is still a good introduction to the material.