I need an answer for clever Protestant

When and how did the Bishop of Rome become the exclusive successor to Peter and heir to his authority?

St. Linus became Bishop of Rome after St. Peter’s death (circa 67 AD).

The Bishop of Rome has always been recognized as St. Peter’s successor.

But the “authority” to which you probably refer was not recognized in the ancient Church. Eastern Catholic Faiths were established by other Apostles (for example, Constantinople was founded by St. Andrew), and it was not initially understood that one Apostolic See was superior in nature to other Apostolic Sees because of the superior (in authority) nature of its founder.

ALL Catholic Doctrine develops. There is NOTHING that you can cite today that was fully understood in the Apostolic age to the same extent that we understand it today. For example, the Apostolic Age said NOTHING about Baptism by heretics. It said NOTHING about Baptism of Blood. And, it said NOTHING about the See of Rome being inherently superior in authority to all other Apostolic Sees by virtue of its Founder.

There is a common Latin delusion that the Papacy was the ONLY doctrine that was fully understood in the very early Church (and, I admit, I have believed and promoted this fiction myself, before I actually studied the matter in detail).

I don’t know the exact nature of your “clever protestant’s” claims. But, if he is saying that the Apostolic Church (beyond the first century of Her existence) had no concept that we could compare with our understanding of a modern “Pope,” then you must concede the point, because s/he is correct. You are then faced with the more complex task of explaining how Catholic doctrine may not change, but may develop, and why our understanding of the Office of Peter is no exception.

You asked “when.” That’s a difficult question to answer, because various Popes asserted increasing degrees of authority, and it was recognized in increasing degrees. I would suggest that the “tipping point” was Saint Pope Leo the Great, circa mid-400s.

Since there is no explicit start of the Bishop of Rome being Superior except Christ’s words to Peter it only makes sense to assume that the Bishop of Rome always had Supreme authority in the Church and that the reason Ignatius and the very earliest Fathers didn’t mention it is because they took it for granted.

The Corinthians appealed to Pope Clement who told them to obey Bishops, you could ask why they’d apeal to him about that if he was equal to the Bishops they wasn’t obeying, the only answer which makes sense is they was obedient to the Pope through common knowledge that they must be and in turn he affirmed the authority of Bishops in general to the Corinthians so that obeying him which was normal to them they would in turn obey Bishops in general.

The Apostle Paul does not say to obey Bishops because people wasn’t refusing to obey them, later people did so Ignatius and Pope Clement and Fathers then said to obey them. Them Fathers didn’t say to obey the Pope because people wasn’t refusing to obey him, later people did so later Fathers said to obey the Pope.

As Cardinal Newman said, a doctrine is not definined until it has been defied, and “to be deep in history is to cease to be a protestant”.


The argument for Apostolic Succession can be made directly from scripture, from history and from logic.
Biblical Basis for Apostolic Succession**

Acts 1:15-26
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus—he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, " ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, " ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

The eleven replaced Judas with Matthias who filled the twelfth seat.

Acts 14:13-15
The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you.”

Paul and Barnabas are also Apostles. This makes fourteen.

Romans 16:7
Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Andronicus & Junius are Apostles according to the Apostle Paul – and possibly were Apostles before him. That makes 16 men named Apostle in Scripture. Other candidates include Apollos, Epaphroditus, Timothy and Titus.

2 Timothy 2:1-2
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

There are four generations of believers contained in this one passage: 1. Paul himself, 2. Timothy, who was Paul’s disciple, 3. those whom Timothy would disciple, and 4. those to whom Timothy’s disciples would preach.

Titus 1:5
The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

Apostolic Succession is illustrated here as Paul had appointed Titus and left him in charge of appointing elders in the Cretan church.

2 Peter 1:12-15
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

What effort could Peter make to ensure his message would be remembered after his departure? With the knowledge that he would follow Christ in martyrdom (cf. John 21:18-19), Peter alludes to his plans for naming a successor.



One document for the Early Church Fathers is so exceedingly clear on the subject of Apostolic Succession that appealing to any other historical source is unnecessary. Writing in around the end of the first century (and probably before the death of the Apostle John), Clement of Rome, the third successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome expanded upon Peter’s veiled thought contained in 2 Peter 1:12-15 in his “Letter to the Corinthians”:

The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labors, having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.”

Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behavior from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honor.

From these two chapters we see that the Apostles tested and approved their earliest converts to be Bishops and Deacons. Additionally, the Apostles gave instructions that when these Bishops and Deacons should “fall asleep’ either due to natural causes or martyrdom that they should be succeeded by other men in the ministry. Note that Clement also exercises his primacy as Bishop of Rome by correcting the Corinthian church for improperly removing some of the “presbyters” from office. The acceptance of Clement’s intervention by the Corinthians is evidence of the authority of the Bishop of Rome, or Pope, even at this early date.



Matthew 28:18-19
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

First, notice in the passage known as the “Great Commission”, that the Apostles were commanded to make disciples of “all nations”. How would it have been possible for these Eleven men to travel to every country on earth at a time when travel was slow and difficult? Given that the last of the Apostles died no more than 60 years or so after the Ascension of Jesus, would there have been time for them to physically visit every nation on earth to fulfill His command? No! Clearly, the instruction of Jesus only makes sense if it was given to the Apostles and those who would take the place of the Apostles after their deaths. Those who took the place of the Apostles would have to have the same Apostolic Authority given to the Apostles handed down to them. Thus, the “Great Commission” would be fulfilled over time through the missionary efforts of a greatly expanded Church.

Second, if the authority of the Apostles was intended to die out with the death of the last Apostle, why bother to elect Matthias to the office of Apostle after the suicide of Jesus’ betrayer, Judas Iscariot? (cf. Acts 1) Instead, we can understand that Peter had initiated the replacement of one Apostle (Judas), had known the beheading of another (James), and was conscious of Jesus’ prophecy concerning his own impending martyrdom. Wisely, Peter planned for his own replacement as Bishop of Rome.

John 14:16-17
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Does it make sense for Jesus to say “forever” if He anticipated that the Holy Spirit would depart from the church with the death of the last Apostle? No! The Spirit would remain with the Apostles and, through those who succeeded them, with the church forever. As we saw earlier, he also said,

Matthew 28:18-19
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

How could Jesus fulfill this promise if the disciples themselves did not live until the end of the age? Clearly, Jesus intended that the apostles would be succeeded by other men who are still with us and will live until the end of the age. Jesus can be with the Apostles through their successors who also have the same Apostolic Authority by means of Apostolic Succession.

When did Luther become infallible etc?

Who decided on their Bible’s canon?

Were they infallible?

This might be the most impressive non sequitur I’ve seen on this site yet.

Adding a bit of a twist to what’s already been said, one has to ask, who would be the contendor outside of the Church of Rome, if succession of Peter was NOT exclusive? And where is the evidence of such a contendor?

*]Antioch perhaps? Where is the historical evidence that the Bishop of Antioch was a contendor? Did Ignatius Bp of Antioch and disciple of St John the apostle, consider himself successor to St Peter? Nothing in his writings or any EC writings say that he was. Yet Ignatius acknowledges the Church of Rome holds the presidency. AND that he has no right to give this Church instruction. Yet he knows Rome gave instructions to the Church of Corinth settling sedition among their bishops.
*]Polycarp, Bp of Smyrna (today Turkey) knew Ignatius, and himself was also a disciple of St John. He discipled the Bishop who followed him Irenaeus
*]Bp Irenaeus, was from Smyrna, made bishop of Lyons (today, France). In his work “Against Heresies” Irenaeus gives the name of 12 bishops of Rome in succession from Peter down to his day. Bk 3 [/FONT]Chapter 3[FONT=Calibri] v 1-3 (read paragraph 3 for the names)
[/LIST]Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, all from the East. Timeline ~69 a.d. - ~180 a.d. iow, from apostolic times to middle of 2nd century. If there was another contendor to Peter’s chair other than the bishop of Rome, we should have heard it from any one of those 3 Bishops mentioned. 2 of the 3 were disciples of John the apostle. Nothing from them about any contendor. The 3rd bishop Irenaeus gives us the geneology of Peter’s successors through Rome and no other Church, and no other geneology, and no other city. That means we have a clear understanding with no amiguity that the successor to Peter comes through the Bishop of the Church of Rome…

And as an aside, notice in those 3 paragraphs, where Irenaeus says this teaching comes from. :wink:

When = when the Bishop of Rome after Peter took office.

How = because Peter was Bishop of Rome for 25 years and then consecrated Rome with his blood. Bishops Succeed the previous Bishop of their Diocese.

Nothing else can make him Peters Successor apart from the fact that he is.

The best thing that can help you is to:

  1. Remember King David pre-figured Jesus who is heir to David.
  2. Realise therefore that the Davidic Kingdom is fulfilled by Christ’s kingdom the Church.
  3. Read Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16 and see the parallel.
  4. Then you will know what Jesus meant in Matthew 16.
  5. From Isaiah 22 we learn the keys are an office with Exclusive Succession and Supremacy, the succession is demonstrated and the supremacy is as “HE shall shut NONE shall open, HE shall open NONE shall shut” - here there is not room for having more than one successor in this sacred unique office.

Jesus is the King.
The Pope is the Prime Minister.
The Bishops are the Cabinet Ministers.

Peter died in Rome as bishop of Rome, so his successor took his office.

But I want to add another thought. Paul also died in Rome and is also considered a founder of the Church at Rome. In my mind, the successor Bishop of Rome succeeded to both Peter and Paul, taking their (sub)power and authority: that of apostle to the Jews and that of apostle to the Gentiles. Each apostle, Peter and Paul, passed on everything they had to the successor Bishop of Rome.

So in the Church of Rome we have the apostle to the Jews and the apostle to the Gentiles condensed into a single, worldwide apostleship.

That is the way God set it up.

Just a thought.


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