Disgreement on Popes #2,3,4


The “Catholic Encyclopedia,” NewAdvent.org, under its reference for Clement I, lists four different sequences of the first popes after Peter. They’re pasted below, with the cited source noted in bold.

  1. Linus, Cletus, Clemens (Hegesippus, ap. Epiphanium, Canon of Mass).
  >>OR Linus, Anencletus, Clemens (**Irenaeus, Africanus ap. Eusebium**).
  >>OR Linus, Anacletus, Clemens (**Jerome**).
  1. Linus, Cletus, Anacletus, Clemens (Poem against Marcion),
  2. Linus, Clemens, Cletus, Anacletus Hippolytus (?), “Liberian Catal.”- “Liber. Pont.”].
  3. Linus, Clemens, Anacletus (Optatus, Augustine).

As someone who’s really trying to establish an understanding of the history of the early church, this disagreement between such major figures within the church (e.g. Augustine, Iranaeus, Jerome) raises my hackles. It makes me speculate about why there would be disagreement over what seems to be some pretty simple fundamental historical facts of the Church.

First, I would think that one factor that may come into play is the Jewish War, as depicted by Josephus. By 70 AD, Roman soldiers had breached the walls of Jerusalem. They razed the city, and induced the Jewish diaspora.

Of course, St. Paul had traveled out of the region of Roman Palestine by that point, so would probably be a reliable contemporary source. St. Clement, his companion, would also be thought as a good source of knowledge. Since St. Paul’s and St. Clement’s letters were so influential throughout the church, I would think that the sequence of leaders of the Church would be straight. However, their widespread travels in Europe don’t seem to have brought later Christians to agreement.

One of my hypotheses for what happened is that during that time, the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were under siege with the rest of the city, and that Rome was persecuting Christians so vehemently that it really became unclear as to who was leading the Church at what time. NewAdvent.org lists the years where this disagreement occurred as surrounding the time of the siege of Jerusalem. Maybe it was known that Cletus (and/or Anacletus) and Clemens led the Church during this period of strife, and that events were so confused that surviving Christians didn’t have the order down. Perhaps they just knew that their Church had been led during that time by Cletus and Clemens, and that when things settled down, no one had the story straight.

Another hypothesis is that the Church, by necessity, had split its leadership. :eek: This would seem to upset the order of Apostolic succession, but it doesn’t seem as though the available historical record contradicts it.

Since I’m an amateur at Church history, can anyone help me explain this seeming disagreement? I’d appreciate it if we kept the discussion historical and factual, rather than polemic. Just a request.


IT’s quite possible that since we do not have originals, copy errors exist in some materials. It’s possible that someone made a mistake since these are not infallible subjects or authors. I would tend to stick with number 1 since the Roman Canon uses it, Irenaeus, Eusebium, and Jerome agree. (Anencletus and Cletus) are different spellings of the same name.


Another great hypothesis, Brother. Copy errors certainly could explain the discrepancies, particularly since all copying was conducted by hand in those days.


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