Hierarchy of the Early Church

Some person I know tried to propose to me that the Catholic Church is not Christ’s true church by explaining that her hierarchy “does not resemble the early church hierarchy.” He said that each apostle started their own church, and that they had absolutely no similarities (eg. like modern Protestantism). The Catholic Church was founded, according to him, in A.D. 70 when “Rome invaded Jerusalem”. I really don’t know how to respond to this idiotic claim. :blush:

Tell that to Patriarch Theophilos III, the 141st Patriarch of Jerusalem, a direct successor of St. James himself. He is a living witness to the continuation of the New Testament church from Scripture itself. (And although you are Catholic, and Patriarch Theophilos III is Eastern Orthodox, historically he is still from a church in the New Testament).

I don’t have much to say (really just want to see where this thread goes :popcorn:), but I can say that the role of BISHOP, the successors of the apostles is no doubt something that comes from Apostolic teaching and scripture. I would recommend some of St. Ignatius’ writings from some tracts on Catholic Answers.

Somebody needs a history lesson. Jerusalem was a Roman territory during Our Lord’s life.

In 68 BC (that’s Before Christ), there was a civil war which ended with the Roman general Pompey in control of the Kingdom. Jesus was executed by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Jerusalem was a Roman territory during Our Lord’s life.

Our Lord was born under the Roman govenor Quininius (Luke 2:2). During his entire lifetime, and during the ministry of the Apostles, Jerusalem (and all of the Holy Land) was a Roman territory. The census that brought the Holy Family to Bethlehem was ordered by Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1). The Holy Land was a Roman territory.

There was a Jewish-Roman war in 67 AD (long after the Crucifixion) which resulted in the sack of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple 70 AD. This event is of little relevance to the Catholic Church, which was already well established while firmly under Roman governance (and the Catholic Church had broken ties with the Jewish Church by this time).

It is correct that Apostles established Churches. But, anyone who reads the Epistles of Paul to the Churches he established would know that Paul exercised authority over those churches. They were hardly free to “do their own thing.” Read 1-Cor - absolutely scathing. When those Churches got out-of-line, Paul let them know it.

Also, read the account of the proto-Council in Acts 15. There was a dispute about the necessity of circumcision. The Apostles met in Jerusalem and arrived at a decision, which was sent out by both letter and messenger to all the Churches with the decision of the Council. The letter began, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” [Acts 15:28]. The Council is teaching in the name of the Holy Spirit, and their decision is binding upon all Churches everywhere.

There are certainly elements of truth to the claim.

Each apostle did start his own church, but they were in communion with each other - rather unlike most Protestants. If you read the Letters of Paul, he clearly feels a responsibility for the Christian communities he has established, and expects that they should be loyal to him and his leadership, notwithstanding the proximity of other evangelists who may have been bishops. The Church was really feeling its way forward in the person of each of the apostles/bishops, and once it spread a good distance from Jerusalem there was no way for it to engage in collective decision making until the Council of Nicaea in 325.

Whatever primacy Peter may have had over the other apostles, he was not controlling the Church in the way the modern pope does, by appointing bishops worldwide, accepting resignations, modifying the universal code of canon law, etc.

Finally, Rome did invade Jerusalem around 70 AD after the Jewish population revolted, and leveled it. Refugees from the city moved to other towns in the region, most notably Caesaria Maritima. In these years the Church was mainly focused around three key sees, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. Jerusalem would have been a natural 4th in this list, but of course it had been destroyed. In later centuries it and Constantinople would be added to form the Pentarchy of ancient sees, each the see of its own patriarch. In the destruction of Jerusalem there may be some reason to doubt the precise succession of bishops in the record. However, it seems all but certain that the church was strong enough in the region that it would have survived relocation of its episcopate.

The Churches the Apostles founded are what we call Dioceses.

The “Church of Rome” for example is technically the Diocese of Rome.

It’s not uncommon to hear Diocese being called Churches. For example, in the United States you might here the following from Bishops:

Archdiocese of New York being called “the Church of New York”
Archdiocese of Chicago being called “the Church of Chicago”
Diocese of Brooklyn being called “the Church of Brooklyn”
Diocese of Trenton, NJ being called “the Church of Trenton”
Diocese of Toledo, OH being called “the Church of Toledo in America”
Archdiocese of San Francisco being called “the Church of San Francisco”

So yes, they created Churches.

Also to get technical, in the “Catholic Church” we have the following basic hierarchy (which doesn’t include religious orders, Ordinarates, etc):
*]Universal Church - headed by Pope
*]Autonomous Particular Churches also known as "sui iuris Churches (may be a entire Liturgical Rite or part of one) - typically headed by Patriarch or Major Archbishop
*]Province - headed by Metropolitan Archbishop
*]Local Particular Church (Diocese) - headed by Metropolitan Archbishop, Archbishop, or Bishop
*]Parish (which is not technically a “Church” but is actually a division of the local Church even though they typically worship in “Church Buildings”) - headed by a Pastor
*]Mission or Chapel or Worship site which is a second, third, fourth, etc church building of a parish - day to day operations headed by pastor, assistant pastor, or sometimes Deacon.

While much of hierarchical structure has developed over time due to need, it still follows the basic foundation of episcopate (bishopric - aka the bishops), presbyterate (priesthood - aka the priests), and diaconate (the deacons).

I pray this is helpful.

God bless!

Restless_Heart #1
Some person I know tried to propose to me that the Catholic Church is not Christ’s true church by explaining that her hierarchy “does not resemble the early church hierarchy.”

The first purely human priests of the New Covenant were the Apostles, whose priesthood was conferred at the Last Supper, which was the First Mass. All will understand Christ’s institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper only when they understand that as only the Apostles could confer the priesthood established by Christ, no other men can be real priests without that sacrament from Christ through His Apostles.

The command of Christ is crystal clear at the Last Supper, and St Paul himself attested to the realty of the Sacrifice in 1 Cor: 23-34:
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup unworthily will be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor: 26,27).

The priesthood was initiated by Christ the High Priest when He commanded: “Do this in memory of Me.” (Lk 22:19).

The Hebrew verb that Christ used at the last supper was to “sacrifice” - thus, “Sacrifice this in remembrance of Me”.

He said that each apostle started their own church, and that they had absolutely no similarities (eg. like modern Protestantism). The Catholic Church was founded, according to him, in A.D. 70 when “Rome invaded Jerusalem”. I really don’t know how to respond to this idiotic claim.

Such views show a lack of knowledge.

Christ established His Church and all others broke away with their own personal ideas and beliefs.
Jesus founded His Church on Peter:
**All four promises to Peter alone: **
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later, also to the Twelve].

**Sole authority: **
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

Even Adolf von Harnack, a rationalist historian of high repute among Rationalist and Protestants, wrote about those Synoptic Gospels confirming the establishment of Christ’s Church, that historically they were written before 70 A.D. – before the fall of Jerusalem, and accepted the tradition that St Luke derived his information on the infancy of Jesus from Mary His Mother. Theologische Quartalsch, Tubingen 1929, IV, p 443-4].
[See Sheehan/Joseph, *Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, 2002, p 89, 93]

Already, Peter had exercised his supreme authority in the upper room before Pentecost to have Judas’ place filled. At the first Apostolic Council of Jerusalem Peter settled the heated discussion over circumcising the gentiles and “the whole assembly fell silent” (Acts 15:7-12). Paul made sure that his ministry to the gentiles was recognised by, Peter (Gal 1:I8).

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