The Catholic Church in the first 4 centuries

Help me fill out this chart! I want to view the consistency and continuity of the Church’s life and teaching of the first 4 or so centuries under these aspects: (A) the Eucharist, (B) Apostolic Succession & the Priesthood, © the Pope, (D) Mary, (E) the Bible.

Feel free to add elements that other people have already contributed to. I am looking for quotations from church fathers; references to church councils; anything at all that testifies to the Church’s understanding and practice of those topics above. My goal by doing this is to express the continuity of teaching in the Catholic Church, as well as the ongoing existence of the Church from the first century onward.

Fill in any or all! Contribute in any way!

Here is an example:

**Century 1
(A) The Eucharist **The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" - 1 Corinthians
“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ " - Didache 14 (Around AD 70)
Century 2
(A) The Eucharist
"Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice—even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God” - Letter to the Philadelphians 4 (Early 100s)

© The Pope"But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition" - Irenaeus, *Against Heresies *3:3:2 (Late 100s)
**Century 3
Century 4

Make the chart in any way you want. If you don’t know how to do special editing, just post your contribution, and I’ll update the chart every so often.


If you could, please focus on a section that has not been completed yet. Once there have been several posts, feel free to add additional information to a section!

There is a century-by-century breakdown on the Eucharist in Haydock’s commentary on Matthew 26:26 in the section entitled, This is my body, here.

Though not broken down century-by-century but rather by author, Catholic Answers also has some tracts on the Eucharist that include quotes from early Church Fathers, such as “The Real Presence” and “The Sacrifice of the Mass.” I’m sure they have other relevant tracts.

Ignatius of Antioch - letter to the Smyrnaeans

(Not the Lightfoot translation) has some of the BEST stuff from the early Church Fathers on all subject, including Holy Eucharist.

Here’s a snapshot of the 1st 4 centuries. It lists the Catholic Church, it names popes in Rome from Peter, it gives in those links if you read through each link, what the Church teaches on Eucharist and ecclesiology.


[/FONT]all internal links in my response are operational

Century 3
…D Mary
We fly to your patronage,
O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but from all dangers
deliver us always,
O ‘glorious’ and ‘Blessed Virgin’. Amen.
Sub Tuum Praesidium [c.A.D.250]

Century 2…A Eucharist

“They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Smyrnaeans, 7,1 (c. A.D. 110).

“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66 (c. A.D. 110-165).

Century 2
…D Mary
“He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, ‘Be it unto me according to your word.’ And by her He has been born…and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men (offspring) who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon him.”
Justin Martyr, ‘Dialogue with Trypho, 100’ [A.D.155]

“By disobeying, Eve became the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race. In the same way, Mary, though she also had a husband, was still a virgin, and by obeying, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race…”
Irenaeus, ‘Against Heresies, 3:22’ [c.A.D. 180]

Century 3
…D Mary
“And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus (the New Adam) was the first fruit among men of the purity which consists of chastity, and Mary (the New Eve) among women; for if it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity.”
Origen, ‘Commentary on Matthew, 10:17’ [A.D. 244]

“This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.”
Origen, ‘Homily 1’ [A.D. 244]

Century 4
…E Bible Codex sinicatus the oldest existing bible discovered in the 1800’s from 300ad had all 73 books.

Century 2

…C Pope

Quote from St. Irenaeus(140-202), disciple of St. Polycarp, disciple of St. John the Apostle.

The anti-Nicene Fathers (New York: 1890), V, 415-416

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested thoughout the whole world… We do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner… assemble in unauthorized meetings by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, as also (by pointing out) the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those who exist everywhere.

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric… In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles… To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sextus was appointed; after him, Telesphorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius, then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching fo the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.

Century 4

…C Pope

Pope Julius I
“[The] judgment [against Athanasius] ought to have been made, not as it was, but according to the ecclesiastical canon. . . . Are you ignorant that the custom has been to write first to us and then for a just decision to be passed from this place [Rome]? If, then, any such suspicion rested upon the bishop there [Athanasius of Alexandria], notice of it ought to have been written to the church here. But now, after having done as they pleased, they want to obtain our concurrence, although we never condemned him. Not thus are the constitutions of Paul, not thus the traditions of the Fathers. This is another form of procedure, and a novel practice. . . . What I write about this is for the common good. For what we have heard from the blessed apostle Peter, these things I signify to you” (Letter on Behalf of Athanasius [A.D. 341], contained in Athanasius, Apology Against the Arians 20–35).

Here is a reference from which you can get all kinds of quotes about Peter’s authority.


I found this to be a great resource. Thank you!

You may be interested in a resource I just released on the Church Fathers:

Index of Church Fathers on Apologetics Topics

That webpage is a list of the Church Fathers arranged in two ways: doctrines they taught and dates they were active. The page this has a number of useful features: if you want to know about a particular Father, you can see what doctrines his or her writings support. Or, you can trace a doctrine’s development over the centuries by clicking a doctrinal tag to see how that doctrine was supported in several centuries. It’s particularly useful for your project because it has Catholic distinctives supported in each century. Check it out and let me know what you think. God bless!

For example, your four categories are: (A) the Eucharist, (B) Apostolic Succession & the Priesthood, © the Pope, (D) Mary, (E) the Bible.

Using the list on my website, you can find the following:

1st Century
The Eucharist was talked about by: the Didache and Pope St. Clement I.
Apostolic Succession was talked about by: Pope St. Clement I.
The Pope was talked about by: Hermas and Pope St. Clement I
Mary was talked about by: the Ascension of Isaiah and the Odes of Solomon

2nd Century
The Eucharist was talked about by: St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian.
Apostolic Succession was talked about by: St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Hegesippus, and Tertullian
Priests were talked about by: St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Clement of Alexandria, and St. Hippolytus.
The Pope was talked about by: St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Dionysius of Corinth, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, the Martyrs of Lyons, Pope St. Victor I, and Tertullian.
Mary was talked about by: the Protoevangelium of James, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, and St. Hippolytus of Rome.
The Bible was talked about by: St. Papias, St. Polycarp of Smyrna, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Clement of Alexandria, and St. Hippolytus of Rome.


Right here, I’ve just listed the names of the Fathers who supported those doctrines, but if you go to the website, you can click to see fully-sourced documentation of what they said about each doctrine.

I hope that helps. Check out the website for more info. God bless!

BTW, based on that website, here are the Catholic doctrines that were already talked about by the Church Fathers who lived when the Apostles were still alive:

Angels and Devils
Apostolic Succession
Baptism as a Means of Grace
Contraception and Sterilization
Creation out of Nothing
Cross or Torture Stake?
Forms of Baptism
Intercession of the Saints
Mary, Full of Grace
Mortal Sin
Offering Penances for Self and Others
Original Sin
Private Revelation
Religious Orders, Monks and Nuns
Sabbath or Sunday?
Sacred Images
Salvation for Non-Catholics
The Authority of the Pope
The Canon of Scripture
The Necessity of Baptism
The One True God
The Permanence of Marriage
The Resurrection of the Body
The Sacrifice of the Mass
The Three Persons of the Trinity
The Trinity
Trinitarian Baptism

I think you might be especially interested in these ones: apostolic succession, baptism as a means of grace, confession, intercession of the saints, Mary full of grace, offering penances for self and others, original sin, purgatory, religious orders, monks and nuns, sacred images, the authority of the pope, the necessity of baptism, and the sacrifice of the Mass – all talked about and widely known when the Apostles were still alive! Just click the website for more info:

Index of Church Fathers on Apologetics Topics


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