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Author Topic: Early Affirmations of Apostolic Succession  (Read 1274 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: November 22, 2008, 09:10:31 PM »

The earliest references to apostolic succession seem to be in the Scripture, though some are only indirect:

"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee" - Tit. 1:5

"And God set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers" - 1 Cor. 12:28

The next reference is in St. Clement of Rome (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 42-44). There are also a couple passages in St. Ignatius which lend indirect support for the idea, though these are only indirect evidence (Epistle to the Trallians, 3; Epistle to the Smyrneans, 8; cf Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3 and Epistle to the Magnesians, 6). And of course there is always St. Irenaeus towards the end of the 2nd century (Against Heresies, 3, 3-4; 4, 26; 4, 33).

But are there any other references to apostolic succession in the first two centuries of the common era?
« Last Edit: November 22, 2008, 09:10:57 PM by Asteriktos » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2008, 11:18:01 PM »

I'm sorry brother, your question is a little confusing for me.  Are you looking for REFERENCES from the first 2 centuries indicating apostolic succession (1).  OR, talking about apostolic succession (2). 

OR are you looking for a list of apostolic succession, aka. which bishops came first, and then who they ordained, and then the ones after them, and then etc.? 

Sorry about my confusion...
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2008, 11:22:44 PM »

Sorry for the confusion! Basically I'm looking for references that demonstrate that apostolic succession was something that was in the minds of Christians at the time, something that indicates that there was an established doctrine. So, a list would do that I suppose, or something like the "our Lord appointed men, who appointed others..." type of reference. A best case scenario, as far as what I'm looking for, would be something else like this:

"The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God... Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry." - St. Clement of Rome, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 42 and 44
« Last Edit: November 22, 2008, 11:27:28 PM by Asteriktos » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2008, 09:41:33 AM »

Sorry for the confusion! Basically I'm looking for references that demonstrate that apostolic succession was something that was in the minds of Christians at the time, something that indicates that there was an established doctrine. So, a list would do that I suppose, or something like the "our Lord appointed men, who appointed others..." type of reference. A best case scenario, as far as what I'm looking for, would be something else like this:

"The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God... Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry." - St. Clement of Rome, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 42 and 44

Hm...

We studied this topic in detail in our Ecclesiology class, and I can give you further references if you PM me about it, but in general there are several non-fathers texts that I would recommend to get a better idea about this:

Raymond Brown:  The church the apostles left behind (historical text)
John Zizioulas:  Eucharist, Bishop, Church (it might be in a different order...i always forget the order)
Lohfink:  Jesus and Community

I would also look at texts like the Didache and the Apostolic Constitutions

Cyril of Rome also has other texts that are crucial to the concept of apostolic succession, as well as Cyril of Jerusalem and Ignatius of course (and Irenaeus, but he was a little bit later). 

I can try to do some more digging on each of these guys if you give me some further direction.  Just let me know which one of these things you want to go into further. 
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« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2008, 03:31:16 PM »

I've added those books to my to-buy list (which admittedly is already way too long). As to where to go from here, I'm open to suggestions/information, from Cyril of Jerusalem or anyone else that you think might be helpful (though I was hoping for a bit earlier). Thanks!
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« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2008, 07:41:47 PM »

I've added those books to my to-buy list (which admittedly is already way too long). As to where to go from here, I'm open to suggestions/information, from Cyril of Jerusalem or anyone else that you think might be helpful (though I was hoping for a bit earlier). Thanks!

Zizioulas goes through church history from the Apostolic era and then the next 400 years going through exactly how the church developed, and HOW the apostolic era was continued. 

Brown does the exact same thing, but focusing almost exclusively on the sub-apostolic period, so the period right after the apostles. 

The Didache is a 1st century text, so that's right up your ally in terms of information. 

If you are really interested in this, I sent you a PM offering my Ecclesiology notes, which go through some of these details.  It's not exactly what you're looking for, but it might be a start. 

I will do my best to help you out further in this, so i'll look through my syllabus on this stuff and come up with some other stuff for you.  And, i'll keep looking through the fathers and etc. 

If you don't mind me asking, why exactly are you looking for this information?  It might help me in terms of thinking of people/fathers that could be helpful to you. 
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« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2008, 02:45:19 AM »

I am fairly certain that "apostolic succession" as a concept does not necessarily exist in the first two centuries, specifically the "laying on of hands" and such, but the idea that there was a constant chain of faithful leadership that originated with the apostles is historical.

Whether or not those in leadership originally understood themselves to be at sitting in an "apostle's throne" is doubtful.  All of them were probably more likely thinking in terms of Christ's expedient return and preserving the truth until that time.  I don't know if my subtle distinctions are making any sense...
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2008, 11:59:10 AM »

Thanks for the suggestions/throughts!

Quote
If you don't mind me asking, why exactly are you looking for this information?  It might help me in terms of thinking of people/fathers that could be helpful to you

At this point, it's mostly just curiosity. Eventually I plan on writing an essay that will incorporate the topic, so I guess maybe I'm doing a bit of leg work ahead of time.
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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2008, 08:44:31 AM »

Thanks for the suggestions/throughts!

Quote
If you don't mind me asking, why exactly are you looking for this information?  It might help me in terms of thinking of people/fathers that could be helpful to you

At this point, it's mostly just curiosity. Eventually I plan on writing an essay that will incorporate the topic, so I guess maybe I'm doing a bit of leg work ahead of time.

Sounds good.  Let me send you my Ecclesiology notes.  Check your e-mail. 
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2008, 05:13:50 PM »

I ran across these two passages in Tertullian (†220), though I'm not sure when exactly he wrote it. Anyone know when exactly Tertullian wrote The Prescription Against Heretics?

Quote
They then in like manner founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church, (founded) by the apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way all are primitive, and all are apostolic, while they are all proved to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion, and title of brotherhood, and bond of hospitality,— privileges which no other rule directs than the one tradition of the selfsame mystery...

From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for no man knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. Matthew 11:27 Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles, whom He sent forth to preach— that, of course, which He revealed to them. Now, what that was which they preached— in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them— can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves, both vivâ voce, as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles.

If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches— those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth. - Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, 20-21

Quote
But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs ] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,— a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed...

To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine. Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith. - Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, 32
« Last Edit: December 07, 2008, 05:18:43 PM by Asteriktos » Logged
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