Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #165

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I hope everyone has gotten into the Lenten spirit these last few days. Now is the time, this is the place (wherever you are at the moment)…to grow in holiness. Heb 12:14, “Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

I thought I would share with you a little prayer I was given many years ago for after Communion: “Oh my Jesus, may Your Body and Blood, light the fire of Your love in my heart. And with each passing day, Lord, let that fire burn brighter and hotter, that others may be guided by its light, and feel the warmth of its flame. Amen.”


I have not yet received a new response from Mr. Thrasher regarding our debate on Peter as the first Pope – I hope to do so sometime this week. But, I have received several emails from folks asking me about the order of Peter’s successors and Mr. Thrasher’s remarks on that topic which he brought up in his last round’s response.

So, I thought I would address that particular issue this week outside of the formal debate, although you will probably also see at least part of this in my next formal response.

So, below are first Mr. Thrasher’s remarks regarding the order of Peter’s successors, and then my comments.


Mr. Thrasher’s comments on Peter’s successors:

“Peter died in Rome and … his martyrdom came during the reign of Emperor Nero, probably in 64” (Catholic Encyclopedia). So how was he pope from 64-67?

“Imprisoned by King Herod Agrippa, he [Peter] was aided in an escape by an angel. He then resumed his apostolate in Jerusalem and his missionary efforts included travels to such cities of the pagan world as Antioch, Corinth, and eventually Rome” (Catholic Encyclopedia). Consequently, Peter did not arrive in Rome for several years after the church began. Therefore, he was not “bishop of Rome” (or pope) in AD 30, as John asserted.

“Ancient tradition assigns to the year 42 the first coming of St. Peter to Rome” (Catholic Encyclopedia). If Peter did not come to Rome until AD 42, then he was not Bishop of Rome (pope) from 30-41, contrary to John’s claim.
“As to the duration of his Apostolic activity in the Roman capital, the continuity or otherwise of his residence there, the details and success of his labors, and the chronology of his arrival and death, all these questions are uncertain” (Original Catholic Encyclopedia)

“Pope St. Linus … reigned about A.D. 64 or 67 to 76 or 79” (Catholic Encyclopedia). There appears to be some uncertainty about his reign.

“Ancient documents about his papacy have proven to be inaccurate or apocryphal” (New Catholic Dictionary).

“Tertullian omits him altogether. To add to the confusion, the order is different. Thus Ireneus has Linus, Anacletus, Clement; whereas Augustine and Optatus put Clement before Anacletus. On the other hand, the ‘Catalogus Liberianus’, the ‘Carmen contra Marcionem’ and the ‘Liber Pontificalis’, all most respectable for their antiquity, make Cletus and Anacletus distinct from each other” (Original Catholic Encyclopedia).

“The chronology is, of course, in consequence of all this, very undetermined, but Duchesne, in his ‘Origines’, says ‘we are far from the day when the years, months, and days of the Pontifical Catalogue can be given with any guarantee of exactness. But is it necessary to be exact about popes of whom we know so little? … Anicetus reigned certainly in 154. That is all we can say with assurance about primitive pontifical chronology’” (Original Catholic Encyclopedia).

Clement I
“According to Tertullian, writing c. 199, the Roman Church claimed that Clement was ordained by St. Peter …, and St. Jerome tells us that in his time ‘most of the Latins’ held that Clement was the immediate successor of the Apostle…. St. Jerome himself in several other places follows this opinion…The early evidence shows great variety.” (Original Catholic Encyclopedia)

“Little is known of his life” (New Catholic Dictionary).

“Date of birth unknown; died about 107.… The earliest historical sources offer no authentic data about him” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

“Little is known about his reign with certainty…. Evaristus reportedly followed Clement as the fourth successor of Saint Peter. However, contemporary scholars generally hold that a single bishop did not yet rule at Rome at this time, and the office of pope is therefore thought to be attributed to Evaristus and his colleagues retroactively by later writers” (New World Encyclopedia).

“In the article PAPACY we have referred to the uncertainty prevailing in regard to the first bishops of Rome. Roman Catholic writers themselves quite generally admit that the statements of ancient Church-writers on the subject are entirely irreconcilable, and that it is impossible to establish with any degree of certainty the order in which they followed each other, the years of their accession to the see of Rome, and the year of their death” (Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, volume 8, page 409).


My Response:

Mr. Thrasher is attempting to use the imprecision regarding the dates of Peter and his successors to generally make two points here:

1) Peter cannot be the first Bishop of Rome, and thus the first Pope, beginning in 30 A.D., because he didn’t make it to Rome until some some 12 years or so later.  (A corollary of sorts is that he could not have been Bishop of Rome from 64-67 A.D. if he in fact died in 64 A.D., as some people think.)

2) The imprecision of the dating of Peter’s reign and that of his early successors, as well as the question of the order of Peter’s successors, somehow proves that Peter was not the first Pope.

Regarding the first point, this is where Mr. Thrasher’s fundamentalism gets in the way of his thinking.  And I know…I know…some of you will call me "mean" or "uncharitable" for saying such a thing, but there is no way around this truth.  Notice what he said, "Peter did not arrive in Rome for several years after the church began. Therefore, he was not Bishop of Rome (pope) from 30-41, contrary to John’s claim.

Please, someone find for me where I ever claimed that Peter was Bishop of Rome from 30-41 A.D.  I claimed he was the head of the Church, or the Pope, during that time.  Unfortunately, Mr. Thrasher cannot separate the term "Pope" from "Bishop of Rome" as it relates to Peter.  The fact that Peter was not in Rome in 30 A.D., immediately after the death of Jesus, "proves" to him that Peter was not the first "Pope."  And, since Peter could not have been the Bishop of Rome at the moment of Jesus’ death, then Catholic claims that the Bishop of Rome is the head of the Church are false.  He simply cannot, or will not, get it through the fog of his fundamentalist thinking that Peter was the 1st head of the Church no matter where he was – when he was in Jerusalem, when he was in Antioch, and then finally when he was in Rome,   And, he cannot understand that since Peter was leading the universal Church as the Bishop in Rome at the time of his death, then it is the Bishop of Rome who takes Peter’s place as the universal leader of the Church. 

He also cannot, or will not, understand that Peter was the first head of the Church no matter whether he was called "Pope" or not.  I have clearly explained in my previous responses that the term "Pope," as used specifically and exclusively in reference to the head of the Church, probably came into being two to three centuries after Peter.  His response?  Well, that "proves" to him that Peter could not have been the first head of the Church because he wasn’t called "Pope Peter." 

In other words, Mr. Thrasher is hung up on how he defines Catholic terms, and refuses to understand and accept the terms as Catholics actually use them.  I thought this debate was about whether or not Peter was the first head of the Church, not whether he was actually called "Pope" or not.  As I explained to him, when Catholics call Peter the first "Pope," we are using that term to refer to him as the first head of the Church, even though he wasn’t initially the Bishop of Rome and even though that term may or may not have actually been used by those of his time.  So, if the debate is about whether or not Peter was actually called "Pope," which is what Mr. Thrasher seems to be arguing, then I will concede the debate, since it is a meaningless and irrelevant point.  If, however, the debate is about whether or not Peter was the first head of the Church, then I would ask Mr. Thrasher to please try and understand how Catholics use the term "Pope" in regards to Peter and make his arguments accordingly.

He also seems to think that different historians offering differing dates for Peter’s papacy, for Peter’s time as head of the Church, somehow "proves" that Peter therefore was not the head of the early Church.  This is where he makes a fundamental mistake.  The exact dates of when Peter was Pope are, essentially, irrelevant.  Whether he died in 64 A.D., 66 A.D., or 67 A.D., is irrelevant to the argument as to whether or not he was the first head of the Church.  In fact, Mr. Thrasher’s arguments actually support my side of the debate.  In these sources he cites, the question is not "if" Peter was the first head of the Church, but "when" he was the first head of the Church.  Essentially, by citing these sources, Mr. Thrasher has conceded the debate as to whether or not Peter was the first head of the Church.

Regarding the 2nd point he was attempting to make above.  Indeed there is some question as to the exact order of Peter’s successors.  I knew, when Mr. Thrasher asked me to name the first 10 successors of Peter, that he thought he was laying a clever trap for me.  I would name those successors and then he would pounce with all these questions as to the exact order and dating of the successors of Peter and that would somehow prove Peter was not the first Pope.  But, he was actually caught in his own trap.  Notice what the argument has become: What is the exact order and dating of Peter’s successors?  The question is no longer: Was Peter the first head of the Church and did he have successors in that role?  So, again, Mr. Thrasher now apparently admits that Peter was the first head of the Church and that he did indeed have successors.  If he now wishes to debate the proper ordering of those successors, I will be happy to do so.   

For a very good article from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Chronology of the Popes, check out this link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272a.htm


In Conclusion

I may not get a newsletter out next week, even if Mr. Thrasher’s next response comes in the next couple of days or so, as it is Spring break here in Alabama and I will be traveling with my family from Wednesday through Saturday.
If I don’t, though, one will surely be out the following week.

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Apologetics for the Masses