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The Early Church Fathers on Apostolic Succession.
- Early Church Fathers
- From the Scriptures
- — St. Ignatius of Antioch, (A.D. 50-107)
— Pope St. Clement I of Rome, (A.D. 60-97),
— St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202)
— St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220)
— Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218)
— Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God.
Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8:1 [A.D. 110]
Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.
Letter to the Corinthians 44:1 [A.D. 95]
It is possible, then, for everyone in every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times: men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught to the elite secretly and apart from the rest, they would have handed them down especially to those very ones to whom they were committing the self-same Churches. For surely they wished all those and their successors to be perfect and without reproach, to whom they handed on their authority.
Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]
It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion.
Against Heresies 4:26:2
After the death of the tyrant, the [Apostle John] came back again to Ephesus from the Island of Patmos; and, upon being invited, he went even to the neighboring cities of the pagans, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, and there to ordain to the clerical estate such as were designated by the Spirit.
Who is the Rich Man that is Saved? 42:2 [A.D. 200]
Moreover, if there be any [heresies] bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the Apostolic age, so that they might seem to have been handed down by the Apostles because they were from the time of the Apostles, we can say to them: let them show the origin of their Churches, let them unroll the order of their bishops, running down in succession from the beginning, so that their first bishop shall have for author and predecessor some one of the Apostles or of the Apostolic men who continued steadfast with the Apostles. For this is the way in which the Apostolic Churches transmit their lists:
- — like the Church of the Smyrnaeans, which records that Polycarp was placed there by John;
— like the Church of the Romans where Clement was ordained by Peter.
In just this same way, the other Churches display those whom they have as sprouts from the Apostolic seed, having been established in the episcopate by the Apostles. Let the heretics invent something like it.
- After their blasphemies, what could be unlawful for them?
But even if they should contrive it, they will accomplish nothing; for their doctrine itself, when compared with that of the Apostles, will show by its own diversity and contrariety that it has for its author neither an Apostle nor an apostolic man. The Apostles would not have differed among themselves in teaching, nor would an apostolic man have taught contrary to the Apostles, unless those who were taught by the Apostles then preached otherwise.
Therefore, they will be challenged to meet this test even by those Churches which are of much later date - for they are being established daily - and whose founder is not from among the Apostles nor from among the apostolic men; for those which agree in the same faith are reckoned as apostolic on account of the blood ties in their doctrine. Then let all heresies prove how they regard themselves as apostolic, when they are challenged by our Churches to meet either test. But in fact, they are not apostolic, nor can they prove themselves to be what they are not. Neither are they received in peace and communion by the Churches which are in any way apostolic, since on account of their diverse belief they are in no way apostolic.
The Prescription Against Heretics 32:1 [A.D. 200]
"There being many who fancy that they think the things of Christ, and some of these think differently from those who have gone before, let there be preserved the ecclesiastical teaching which has been delivered by the order of succession from the Apostles, and which remains even to the present in the churches: that alone is to be believed to be truth which in nothing differs from the ecclesiastical and apostolical tradition."
T. 1, De Princip. 1. 1, n. 2,p. 47.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 262-263
"We are not to abandon the first and the ecclesiastical tradition, nor to believe otherwise than according as the churches of God have by succession transmitted to us."
T. iii. Comm. in Matthew (Tr. 29) n. 46, p. 864.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 263
Some trying to understand Catholic Christianity, won't deny that Jesus blessed Peter with special graces (Matthew 16:17-19), but don't see anywhere, in the Scriptures specifically, where that blessing was passed on from Peter to his successors and, for that matter, from any of the eleven Apostles, to their successors.
The Early Fathers believed that authentic teaching and authority came through Apostolic Succession. Christ conferred authority on the apostles who in turn conferred it upon their successors. We see examples of this in Scripture when the apostle Paul ordains Timothy and Titus. (See 2 Timothy 1:1-2, 6 below.)
The Church's Scriptures that support Apostolic Succession of the Church:
Jesus commissioning His Apostles
18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
Jesus appears to his Apostles and first Disciples after His Glorious Resurrection.
21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."
The First Converts to the Catholic Faith
42 And they devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread (the Eucharist) and the prayers.
Matthias Chosen to replace Judas
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms: Let their habitation become desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein. And his bishopric let another take. 21 Wherefore of these men who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, until the day wherein he was taken up from us, one of these must be made a witness with us of his resurrection. 23 And they appointed two, Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And praying, they said: Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 To take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas hath by transgression fallen, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave them lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
The Council's Letter to Gentile Believers
22 Then it pleased the apostles and ancients, with the whole church, to choose men of their own company, and to send to Antioch, with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas, who was surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren. 23 Writing by their hands: The apostles and ancients, brethren, to the brethren of the Gentiles that are at Antioch, and in Syria and Cilicia, greeting. 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that some going out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls; to whom we gave no commandment: 25 It hath seemed good to us, being assembled together, to choose out men, and to send them unto you, with our well beloved Barnabas and Paul: 26 Men that have given their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who themselves also will, by word of mouth, tell you the same things.
Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders
28 Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Salvation is for All.
15 And how shall they preach unless they be sent, as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things!
Unity in the Body of Christ
11 And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors, 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ; 14 That henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive
Salutation, Thanksgiving and Encouragement
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, according to the promise of life, which is in Christ Jesus. 2 To Timothy my dearly beloved son, grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from Christ Jesus our Lord. . . . 6 For which cause I admonish thee, that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee, by the imposition of my hands.
2 Timothy 1:1-2, 6
A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus
2 And the things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2
Titus in Crete
5 For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldest ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee:
Jesus, Our Great High Priest
4 Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was.
Service Well-Pleasing to God
7 Remember your prelates who have spoken the word of God to you; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation . . . . . 17 Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you.
Hebrews 13:7, 17