You do know how to ask the hard questions but you have to realize that Baptists don’t think like Catholics. Those things you regard as significant aren’t even on the Baptist radar, and that is why it is difficult to answer these questions
Apostolic succession is linear only if you believe in apostolic succession. You are correct about the Levites, the priestly tribe of the O.T., and also that the messiah had to be of the tribe and lineage of Judah. But that was the Old Testament. We are under the New Testament where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28.
Do the Baptists have any interest in finding their roots? Are they curious about, ultimately, from which church their particular branch sprouted?
Baptists have very little interest in finding their roots. Moreover, they don’t all agree on where these roots are to be found. There are three main theories that cannot possibly be reconciled.
They came from the Separatist movement in England led by John Smyth and Thomas Helwys. This came about in the early 1600’s, about the same time as the publication of the King James Bible. The Separatists wanted to (and did) cut all ties with the Church of England. They were influenced by the Anabaptists but were not a part of them. This is probably the most accurate portrayal, although it is very hard to trace these Separatists through the 17th Century into the Baptist churches we have today.
They are descendants of the Anabaptists, a/k/a Dutch Mennonites.
They go all the way back to the apostles. This is commonly known among Baptists as the “trail of blood” theory, after a book by that name. The author maintains there has always been an underground Christian church with beliefs similar to Baptists that has very little written documentation, mainly because they were constantly persecuted by the Catholic Church. This theory has been discredited by most Baptist scholars.
Why do they think that no one has authority over the churches, when the apostles themselves commissioned men to go out to the churches? And replacing Judas is proof, I think anyway, that the apostles would be replaced when they were gone–that someone else would take on their role.
The only place you see this commissioning in no uncertain terms is the book of Titus. In other places it is implied but not expressly stated. Ask a Baptist about Titus being sent to appoint elders in the Cretan churches and you will get the same answer I gave a couple of posts ago—that these were immature Christians who were not yet capable of self governance.
Many deny that Peter was ever in Rome, but does it really matter if Peter was ever in Rome? What difference does his address make, anyway? There were valid popes who didn’t live in Rome. It’s not the address, it’s the role that counts.
It really doesn’t matter that Peter was in Rome except it would be difficult to carry the title of “Bishop of Rome” unless you lived there. It would also make papal succession difficult, because we know from the Bible that Linus (second pope) was in Rome. Of course I may be the only Baptist alive who realizes that Linus in 2 Timothy was also was the second Bishop of Rome.
Would proving to their satisfaction that Peter lived in Rome make a difference? If not, why do they bring up a question about his address?
It wouldn’t make a difference. They just don’t buy into apostolic succession. It’s not even on their radar. They bring up Peter’s address because (1) the Bible never says Peter was in Rome; (2) Paul never mentions Peter in any of his letters written from Rome; and (3) Peter says in 1 Peter 5:13 that he is writing from Babylon. Biblical literalists understand this to be the ancient city on the Euphrates River.