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Author Topic: The term, "Pontifex"  (Read 867 times) Average Rating: 0
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Volnutt
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« on: July 11, 2011, 01:43:01 PM »

I know it literally means "bridge builder," but not much else. When did it come into use and why did the Pope of Rome adopt the high priestly title, "Pontifex Maximus?"
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ialmisry
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« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2011, 02:01:55 PM »

I know it literally means "bridge builder," but not much else. When did it come into use and why did the Pope of Rome adopt the high priestly title, "Pontifex Maximus?"

Quote
The College of Pontiffs or Collegium Pontificum (see collegium) was a body of the ancient Roman state whose members were the highest-ranking priests of the polytheistic state religion. The college consisted of the Pontifex Maximus, the Vestal Virgins, the Rex Sacrorum, and the flamines. The College of Pontiffs was one of the four major priestly colleges, the others being of the augurs, the priesthood of the fifteen, and the seven feasters.

The title pontifex comes from the Latin for "bridge builder," a possible allusion to a very early role in placating the gods and spirits associated with the Tiber River, for instance. Also Varro cites this position as meaning "able to do".

The pontifex maximus was the most important member of the college. Until 104 BC, the pontifex maximus held the sole power in appointing members to the other priesthoods in the college....The Rex Sacrorum held the place of the head of state. The position originated after the fall of the monarchy and was instituted to have a priestly replacement for a king during religious rites in order to appease the gods....

Until the 3rd century BC, the college elected the pontifex maximus from their own number. The right of the college to elect their own pontifex maximus was returned, but the circumstances surrounding this are unclear. This changed again after Sulla, when in response to his reforms, the election of the pontifex maximus was once again placed in the hands of an assembly of seventeen of the twenty-five tribes. However, the college still controlled which candidates the assembly voted on. During the Empire, the office was publicly elected from the candidates of existing pontiffs, until the Emperors began to automatically assume the title, following Julius Caesar’s example. The pontifex maximus was a powerful political position to hold and the candidates for office were often very active political members of the college. Many, such as Julius Caesar, went on to hold consulships during their time as pontifex maximus.
Btw, Caesar instituted the Old Calendar in his capacity as Pontifex Maximus
Quote
The lex Acilia bestowed power on the college to manage the calendar. Thus, they determined the days which religious and political meetings could be held, when sacrifices could be offered, votes cast, and senatorial decisions brought forth.

The College of Pontiffs came to occupy the Regia (the old palace of the kings) during the early Republican Period. They came to replace the religious authority that was once held by the king. A position, the Rex Sacrorum, was even created to replace the king for purposes of religious ceremonies.

When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, after the decree of Theodosius I in 381, the Bishop of Rome (Pope) became the de facto governor of the city as the emperors had moved their administration to Constantinople. Around 440, Pope Leo I began using the title Pontifex Maximus to emphasize the civil authority of the Pope and the continuity of imperial power. The term "chief priests" in the New Testament (e.g. Mark 15:11) is translated as Pontifices in the Latin Vulgate and "high priest" as Pontifex in Hebrews 2:17, etc
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontifex
Quote
The reign of Gratian forms an important epoch in ecclesiastical history, since during that period Orthodox Christianity for the first time became dominant throughout the empire.

Gratian also published an edict that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (i.e., the Nicene faith). The move was mainly thrust at the various beliefs that had arisen out of Arianism, but smaller dissident sects, such as the Macedonians, were also prohibited.

Gratian, under the influence of his chief advisor the Bishop of Milan Ambrose,[4][5] took active steps to repress Pagan worship.[6][7] This brought to an end a period of widespread, if unofficial, religious tolerance that had existed since the time of Julian.[8] "In the long truce between the hostile camps", writes historian Samuel Dill "the pagan, the sceptic, even the formal, the lukewarm Christian, may have come to dream of a mutual toleration which would leave the ancient forms undisturbed but such men, living in a world of literary and antiquarian illusions, know little of the inner forces of the new Christian movement."[9][10]

In 382, Gratian appropriated the income of the Pagan priests and Vestal Virgins, forbade legacies of real property to them and abolished other privileges belonging to the Vestals and to the pontiffs. He confiscated the personal possessions of the colleges of Pagan priests, which also lost all their privileges and immunities. Gratian declared that all of the Pagan temples and shrines were to be confiscated by the government and that their revenues were to be joined to the property of the royal treasury.[11]

He ordered another removal of the Altar of Victory from the Senate House at Rome, despite protests of the pagan members of the Senate, and confiscated its revenues.[12][13] Pagan Senators responded by sending an appeal to Gratian, reminding him that he was still the Pontifex Maximus and that it was his duty to see that the Pagan rites were properly performed. They appealed to Gratian to restore the Altar of Victory and the rights and privileges of the Vestal Virgins and priestly colleges. Gratian, at the urging of Ambrose, did not grant an audience to the Pagan Senators. In response to being reminded by the Pagans that he was still the head of the ancestral religion, Gratian refused to wear the insignia of the Pontifex Maximus as unbefitting a Christian, renouncing the title and office of Pontifex Maximus under the influence of Ambrose, declaring that it was unsuitable for a Christian to hold this office.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratian#Empire_and_Orthodox_Christianity
he then delegated the office to Pope St. Damasus.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 02:02:54 PM by ialmisry » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2011, 02:02:54 PM »

It and similar titles are used of various bishops as early as the second/third century. It is only in the 11th century that it became an exclusive title of the Pope of Rome.
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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2011, 02:57:27 PM »

he then delegated the office to Pope St. Damasus.
Why would he delegate it if it was an unsuitable option for a Christian to hold?
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2011, 03:23:29 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

yes, as it has already been explained above, the term was a pre-Christian Roman term, so it is best to understand this assumption of this title by the Bishops in Rome in the context of Rome. Pontifex Maximus was a Caesaropapist term used by the Roman governments for the Imperial Roman control and interference with the religious matters of the Roman empire in the "pagan" era.

 Further, it seems to be a part of the Roman reversal of Eastern Caesaropapism as the Bishops and clergy began to assume more and more political and economic roles which in our Eastern histories were obliged by more secular authorities.  Since the Roman clergy operated in a deeper power vacuum it was logical that they would began to legally assume many political roles as well as religious, though that doesn't always jive well with our Eastern and Oriental theology regarding the Church. Still there was that relatively brief period between the 6th and 8th centuries when the selection of the Popes in Rome were influenced by the Byzantine Imperial governments, and of course then the increasing secularization of the Popes could if anything be seen as a kind reaction, even a retaliation, to that brief history of Byzantine intrusion into Roman internal affairs.

Either way history basically explains that the increasing secularization of the Roman clergy and of the Popes was the result of a differing political structure than in the East, and that in the West the Popes filled in the vacuum from a lacking central secular authority.  While the Protestants criticized this heavily, their dastardly experiments in the American colonies proved just as able to corruption with witch hunts and smothering religious legal codes.

stay blessed,
habte selassie


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ialmisry
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2011, 03:31:55 PM »

he then delegated the office to Pope St. Damasus.
Why would he delegate it if it was an unsuitable option for a Christian to hold?
The same reason you build a Church on top of a pagan temple.
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A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2011, 03:46:25 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

yes, as it has already been explained above, the term was a pre-Christian Roman term, so it is best to understand this assumption of this title by the Bishops in Rome in the context of Rome. Pontifex Maximus was a Caesaropapist term used by the Roman governments for the Imperial Roman control and interference with the religious matters of the Roman empire in the "pagan" era.

 Further, it seems to be a part of the Roman reversal of Eastern Caesaropapism as the Bishops and clergy began to assume more and more political and economic roles which in our Eastern histories were obliged by more secular authorities.  Since the Roman clergy operated in a deeper power vacuum it was logical that they would began to legally assume many political roles as well as religious, though that doesn't always jive well with our Eastern and Oriental theology regarding the Church. Still there was that relatively brief period between the 6th and 8th centuries when the selection of the Popes in Rome were influenced by the Byzantine Imperial governments, and of course then the increasing secularization of the Popes could if anything be seen as a kind reaction, even a retaliation, to that brief history of Byzantine intrusion into Roman internal affairs.

Either way history basically explains that the increasing secularization of the Roman clergy and of the Popes was the result of a differing political structure than in the East, and that in the West the Popes filled in the vacuum from a lacking central secular authority.  While the Protestants criticized this heavily, their dastardly experiments in the American colonies proved just as able to corruption with witch hunts and smothering religious legal codes.

stay blessed,
habte selassie




This is ever so much better and more reasoned than what I see here most days.  I wish you had time to write more!!!

Mary
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« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2011, 06:42:49 PM »

he then delegated the office to Pope St. Damasus.
Why would he delegate it if it was an unsuitable option for a Christian to hold?
The same reason you build a Church on top of a pagan temple.
Ah.
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« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2011, 07:22:57 PM »

Perhaps this speaks to my Protestant hang-ups, but what kind of "bridge" are they building? Does Christ the one Mediator between man and God need someone, say, to mediate between us laity and Himself?
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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2011, 09:08:19 PM »

Perhaps this speaks to my Protestant hang-ups, but what kind of "bridge" are they building? Does Christ the one Mediator between man and God need someone, say, to mediate between us laity and Himself?

You mean, as in his Mother? ...and the communion of saints?...and the Church?

no joke!!
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« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2011, 10:22:28 PM »

Perhaps this speaks to my Protestant hang-ups, but what kind of "bridge" are they building? Does Christ the one Mediator between man and God need someone, say, to mediate between us laity and Himself?

You'll have to ask the Lord that, as He is the one who made apostles in that very role.  For example, in the miracle of the loaves and the fish (that's "fishes" for those of you from New York), the Lord did not give them to the multitudes, but rather to the Apostles, and the Apostles to the multitudes.  They were pontifices.  Yes, the Lord is the only Mediator between God and man, as He is the only one that is both God and man.   This mediation is within Himself.   But to those within Himself, that is, within His own Body, as some are arms and some are legs, certainly there are ligaments and joints that bind them together. 
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« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2011, 11:10:49 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!


Perhaps this speaks to my Protestant hang-ups, but what kind of "bridge" are they building? Does Christ the one Mediator between man and God need someone, say, to mediate between us laity and Himself?

As I think the theological aspects were explained already I'll tackle the historical.  The pre-Christian Roman Pontifex maximus was a title used through out the first to fourth centuries it was reserved that that the Roman Emperors would have what me might say, multi-jurisdictional authority over the various Mystery cults of the Empire, including the first century Jewish Temple clergy.  The Roman Emperors serving as this title were intended to function as a kind of mediator for disputes and also a unifying "bridge" between the differing religious institutions.  I think then that in the context of the Church, the Pope is intended to be the maximum bridge between the differing parishes and regions, to really implement a Roman Catholic concept of the Universal Church.

This historical context of the Roman Emperors is a good way to help understand some factors which played into the increasing centralization of the authority of the Popes in Rome.  At different times when Popes were going through what we might be able to think of as a "throw back" era relying on proto-nationalistic revivals of the old Roman glory, they also fell back on the universality of the Roman Pontifex maximus. When the Popes in Rome began to assert a dominant role in the worldwide Church, they were relying on their own historic sense of "being the big brother" (and in the school yard sense, not the 1984 sense) for the world as the Roman Emperors had been before Christianity.  As the Roman Imperial Pontifex Maximus was the head and mediator amongst the disputes of the religions of that Empire, so to did at time the Popes feel somewhat historically entitled to the same privileges within the One, Holy, Universal, Apostolic Church.  Of course the other jurisdictions have always disagreed.  This of course may also be the influence of the Caesaropapism of the Byzantine Emperors, who were equally influenced by old Roman, pre-Christian Pontifex maximus of the Roman Emperors.

The Byzantine Emperors since Justinian were essentially and functionally the unbroken perpetuation of the Roman Empire, so just as the pre-Christian Roman Emperors had served as the Pontifex Maximus of the Empire, so to did the Byzantine Emperors as their successors claim the same authority.  This is what has been called "Caesaropapism" in the context of the Church, since the Emperors functioned as secular heads of the Church at different times and over different jurisdictions of Orthodox.  The Emperors realistically sought to achieve the same kinds of universal, old Roman authority of the religious institutions in the same way the Popes in Rome were.  The Popes in Rome only began to claim this title formally after the Schism when they could be free of the Byzantine Emperors sway and international influence (think the UK of its time, not as hegemonic as say the USA but a force to be reckoned with just the same) but really even since Leo III within the internal Roman jurisdiction the Popes maintained their old Roman privileges of Universal authority, something very foreign to the Patriarchs of the East and Orient.

I really like the Pontifex maximus topic, it is a very pivotal concept from the old Roman era and the first century in particular, but its influence really can still be felt even today, aside from some major events in the past 2000 years!

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2011, 11:16:00 PM »

Perhaps this speaks to my Protestant hang-ups, but what kind of "bridge" are they building? Does Christ the one Mediator between man and God need someone, say, to mediate between us laity and Himself?

You mean, as in his Mother? ...and the communion of saints?...and the Church?

no joke!!
Yeah, that's true. Good point.
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