Why Does John Not Mention Popes?


#1

A Protestant acquaintance brought up a point that gave me pause, and I’d like to see how some of you would answer it:

St. John is said to have written the book of Revelation around 100 AD. Since there were three Popes following St. Peter during this time period (Linus, Anacletus, and Clement I), how is it that John never mentions any of them? This seems odd, given that these men functioned as the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of His Church.

Your thoughts?

Thanks,
Donald


#2

If God gave me such a vision and told me to write about it, I’d sure not spend any ink writing about things that He didn’t mention!


#3

[quote=Donald45]A Protestant acquaintance brought up a point that gave me pause, and I’d like to see how some of you would answer it:

St. John is said to have written the book of Revelation around 100 AD. Since there were three Popes following St. Peter during this time period (Linus, Anacletus, and Clement I), how is it that John never mentions any of them? This seems odd, given that these men functioned as the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of His Church.

Your thoughts?

Thanks,
Donald
[/quote]

John also doesn’t mention Polycarp, his closest desciple, nor does he mention many of the other great luminaries of the early Church.

Read Revelation – John (like all inspired writers) is writing for a purpose. His purpose is clearly not to write a history of the early Church, nor to present an organization diagram of the same.


#4

Well, for one thing, Revelation is addressed to churches in Asia, not Rome.


#5

Sorry, I should have been clearer in stating my question. I referred to Revelation because it’s considered John’s latest Scriptural composition. I should have asked why John neglects to mention these Popes in his canonical writings (his gospel, epistles, and Revelation) as a whole.

Thanks for your comments,
Donald


#6

As the last living Apostle, John was the highest ranking member of the Body of Christ - period. But he was in exile on Patmos, so not in a position to exercise broader authority, except via letters. Thus, the letters to the 7 churches in the beginning of Revelations addressed those churches he had direct authority over, even from exile. The bishop of Rome did not have that authority at the time. No historian disputes that. All of the bishops held equal authority. All of the bishops over the churches were all referred to as “pope” for centuries. The bishop of Rome grew in authority as disputes/issues cropped up in some churches that needed an external voice to help resolve. The church in Rome was, by far, the largest, estimated in the tens of thousands at the time, plus the fact that they were in Rome, the heart of the empire, made the bishop of Rome the logical voice of authority to help out. This was particularly useful in disputing heresies that cropped up. By deferring to a single authority based on that special Apostle, Peter, bishops in dispute with heretics used the “Chair of Peter” as a means to surpress the false teachings. Over time, it became important to maintain that image publically, which internally operating with an understanding that all bishops are equal and doctrinal decisions can only be made in council. Making “Peter” the first among equals worked for the first thousand years of the Church . . . and then we come to the fililoque, when “Peter” decided he wanted to be able to make the rules without having to consult the other bishops. Which of course led to the idea of “papal infallibility” . . . and the Great Schism.

And there you have it, the history of the Church leading to the concept of a divided Church in a nutshell.

David


#7

[quote=DavidB]As the last living Apostle, John was the highest ranking member of the Body of Christ - period. … Thus, the letters to the 7 churches in the beginning of Revelations addressed those churches he had direct authority over, even from exile. … All of the bishops held equal authority.
David
[/quote]

Let me get this straight…John was the “highest ranking member of the Body of Christ” because he was the last living Apostle. John had authority over his 7 churches. Yet, all the bishops over the churches were “equal in authority”?

So based on your account of things, “highest ranking” means equality?

Fiat


#8

[quote=Donald45]A Protestant acquaintance brought up a point that gave me pause, and I’d like to see how some of you would answer it:

St. John is said to have written the book of Revelation around 100 AD. Since there were three Popes following St. Peter during this time period (Linus, Anacletus, and Clement I), how is it that John never mentions any of them? This seems odd, given that these men functioned as the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of His Church.

Your thoughts?

Thanks,
Donald
[/quote]

The premise that the Book of Revelations was written around 100 A.D is flawed. JND Kelley (Yale/protestant) & N.T.Wright (Oxford/protestant) believe that the book was written prior to 70 A.D… Historically, the Book was thought to have been written between 90-100 A.D… This belief is becoming less prevelant with the passage of time. Scott Hahn goes into great detail as to the reasons. Perhaps the strongest scriptural reason is Revelations itself. John is asked to measure the Temple and how could he do that if it were destroyed?


#9

[quote=vern humphrey]…Read Revelation – John (like all inspired writers) is writing for a purpose. His purpose is clearly not to write a history of the early Church, nor to present an organization diagram of the same.
[/quote]

What he said :wink:

Peace in Christ,

DustinsDad


#10

[quote=DavidB]As the last living Apostle, John was the highest ranking member of the Body of Christ - period. But he was in exile on Patmos, so not in a position to exercise broader authority, except via letters. Thus, the letters to the 7 churches in the beginning of Revelations addressed those churches he had direct authority over, even from exile. The bishop of Rome did not have that authority at the time. No historian disputes that.

[/quote]

I don’t know what historians you have been reading lately but the historians I read say that while the Apostle John was alive and well, the Church at Corinth wrote to the distant Church at Rome for help in settling their internal strife and the Church at Rome responded with Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, about A.D. 80.

Why would the Corinthians write to the distant Church at Rome if Rome had no special authority, especially since the Apostle John, whom you call “the highest ranking member of the body of Christ” at the time was still around and closer? Your argument makes no sense.


#11

[quote=Donald45]Sorry, I should have been clearer in stating my question. I referred to Revelation because it’s considered John’s latest Scriptural composition. I should have asked why John neglects to mention these Popes in his canonical writings (his gospel, epistles, and Revelation) as a whole.

Thanks for your comments,
Donald
[/quote]

I think you’re making the protestant error here of assuming the gospel-writers were writing a manual of Christianity. They were not.

The Gospel of John is precisely that - an account of the latter part of the life and teaching of Jesus. There is no history of the Church after the Ascension included, nor a list of bishops or popes.

Similarly John’s letters are written to emphasize certain teachings, not to discuss the structure of the Church.


#12

[quote=Todd Easton]Why would the Corinthians write to the distant Church at Rome if Rome had no special authority, especially since the Apostle John, whom you call “the highest ranking member of the body of Christ” at the time was still around and closer?
[/quote]

That letter is interesting. I never heard of it before.

I will take a guess at your question. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that “No appeal seems to have been made to Rome”. The letter itself uses the word “consult”.

I guess we have to assume the Corinthians wanted to consult Rome. “Consult” doesn’t imply authority, does it? Consult to me means you are gathering information, some of which you may choose to disregard in making your decision.


#13

Not John, nor any other NT writer was intending to write an instruction booklet to Christianity. This is where *sola Scriptura *goes wrong. John’s writings were addressed to already converted Christians. Also, he wrote to address specific issues that needed resolution. If these Christians recognized the authority of the bishop of Rome, then it would have been redundant for John, and a waste of his time and ink simply restating a commonly held belief. It also couldn’t be clearer, that John did much teaching outside of his writings (cf. 2 John 1:12, 3 John 1:13).

So, your friend’s question has two major underlying errors. First, that everything about the Church must be written in the Bible (which the Bible never claims). Second, that John wrote everything he taught or knew, which is untrue according to John himself.

Once he can prove those previous two points, then proceed with discussing why John didn’t write about the pope.


#14

If you choose to use it as such, the end of the Gospel of John contains a great apologetic in favor of the papacy, and the primacy of Peter. The part with “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep.”


#15

[quote=Fiat]Let me get this straight…John was the “highest ranking member of the Body of Christ” because he was the last living Apostle. John had authority over his 7 churches. Yet, all the bishops over the churches were “equal in authority”?

So based on your account of things, “highest ranking” means equality?

Fiat
[/quote]

The original Apostles are the foundation of the Church and are the ones who a ppointed and anointed the bishops, thus they are in authority over the bishops. That’s one of the reasons the earliest letter referencing the bishops of Rome made no mention of Peter, he was an Apostle, not the bishop. Apostles are over bishops (or overseers in the Greek). The bishops had authority over their local churches. Apostles held authority over all of the churches. Isn’t this like Christianity 101? Surely you knew even this basic material.

And all Apostles held equal authority, which is why they are collectively referred to in Ephesians 2:20 as he foundation of the Church (not just Peter). Equal authority, but different responsibilities, which is why Paul was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews, another scripture that proves Paul was the equal of Peter, as was John who was specifically mentioned as being equal with Peter by Origen.

I’ve read many histories of the early Church, both Catholic and not.

David


#16

[quote=DavidB]As the last living Apostle, John was the highest ranking member of the Body of Christ - period. But he was in exile on Patmos, so not in a position to exercise broader authority, except via letters. Thus, the letters to the 7 churches in the beginning of Revelations addressed those churches he had direct authority over, even from exile. The bishop of Rome did not have that authority at the time. No historian disputes that. All of the bishops held equal authority. All of the bishops over the churches were all referred to as “pope” for centuries. The bishop of Rome grew in authority as disputes/issues cropped up in some churches that needed an external voice to help resolve. The church in Rome was, by far, the largest, estimated in the tens of thousands at the time, plus the fact that they were in Rome, the heart of the empire, made the bishop of Rome the logical voice of authority to help out. This was particularly useful in disputing heresies that cropped up. By deferring to a single authority based on that special Apostle, Peter, bishops in dispute with heretics used the “Chair of Peter” as a means to surpress the false teachings. Over time, it became important to maintain that image publically, which internally operating with an understanding that all bishops are equal and doctrinal decisions can only be made in council. Making “Peter” the first among equals worked for the first thousand years of the Church . . . and then we come to the fililoque, when “Peter” decided he wanted to be able to make the rules without having to consult the other bishops. Which of course led to the idea of “papal infallibility” . . . and the Great Schism.

And there you have it, the history of the Church leading to the concept of a divided Church in a nutshell.

David
[/quote]

I think you are forgetting about St. Ignatius of Antioch (martyred in 107 A.D.) who was a disciple of St. John and thus received revelation and the interpretation of revelation directly from the Apostles. In the Ignatian letters, he affirms the primacy of Rome.

If John was the highest ranking member of the Body of Christ, I wonder why his disciple didn’t think so?

Your explanation of the filioque makes it appear that the Pope at the time of the filioque estrangement came up with some wild idea that no one had ever believed before and forced his opinion on the Church. This is simply untrue:

catholic.com/thisrock/1993/9312frs.asp

Secondly, the filioque estrangement did not “lead” to the idea of “papal infallibility”. This was understood by eastern Bishops way before the Schism. For example, in 517 the Eastern bishops assented to and signed the formula of Pope Hormisdas, which states in part:** “The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who said, ‘Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt 16:18], should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied.”
**
In a letter from Pope Agatho, accepted by Constantinople III, the Pope says the Roman Church “has never erred,” has never yielded to “heretical innovations,” and “remains undefiled unto the end.” Agatho links this claim directly to the “divine promise” found in Luke 22:32, where the Lord prays that Peter’s faith would never fail. Declarations that the Apostolic See “has been kept unsullied” are claims of papal infallibility.

Anyway, Vern Humphrey is right, "Read Revelation – John (like all inspired writers) is writing for a purpose. His purpose is clearly not to write a history of the early Church, nor to present an organization diagram of the same.


#17

[quote=DavidB]The original Apostles are the foundation of the Church and are the ones who a ppointed and anointed the bishops, thus they are in authority over the bishops. That’s one of the reasons the earliest letter referencing the bishops of Rome made no mention of Peter, he was an Apostle, not the bishop. Apostles are over bishops (or overseers in the Greek). The bishops had authority over their local churches. Apostles held authority over all of the churches. Isn’t this like Christianity 101? Surely you knew even this basic material.
David
[/quote]

Sorry to be flip, here, but actually, this doesn’t seem like Christianity 101 to me as much as it does Creative Writing. Are you saying that the Apostle John, as the last living apostle, was the head of the entire Church militant until his death?

Fiat


#18

[quote=Donald45]A Protestant acquaintance brought up a point that gave me pause, and I’d like to see how some of you would answer it:

St. John is said to have written the book of Revelation around 100 AD. Since there were three Popes following St. Peter during this time period (Linus, Anacletus, and Clement I), how is it that John never mentions any of them? This seems odd, given that these men functioned as the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of His Church.

Your thoughts?

Thanks,
Donald
[/quote]

This is a specific book for a specific purpose. He neither mentions the Trinity either, which is an argument that the Oneness movement uses too. Although he does clearly write about Jesus’s divinity.


#19

[quote=Fiat]Sorry to be flip, here, but actually, this doesn’t seem like Christianity 101 to me as much as it does Creative Writing. Are you saying that the Apostle John, as the last living apostle, was the head of the entire Church militant until his death?

Fiat
[/quote]

He obviously execised authority over the bishops for the 7 churches addressed in Revelations. That’s undeniable. Can you imagine that any bishop anywhere would have denied John’s authority had he chose to exercise it?? No one knows his personal circumstances throughout much of his life. Like Origen stated, John was viewed as on par with Peter in the Church’s eyes. John had the authority to address the entire Church with instruction or correction. How can that be something that’s even subject to debate? Just as Peter took over for Paul in Rome after Paul as executed, if John has chosen to go to Rome after Peter, he definitely would have be treated as the head of the Church. He didn’t, so it’s all speculation, but I can’t imaine anyone who thinks that one of the 12 eternal, foundational members of the Apostolic wasn’t of a higher authority than anyone else in the Church at that time. John was one of the 12 on whom the entire Church is built - period.

David


#20

[quote=Scalia]The premise that the Book of Revelations was written around 100 A.D is flawed. JND Kelley (Yale/protestant) & N.T.Wright (Oxford/protestant) believe that the book was written prior to 70 A.D… Historically, the Book was thought to have been written between 90-100 A.D… This belief is becoming less prevelant with the passage of time. Scott Hahn goes into great detail as to the reasons. Perhaps the strongest scriptural reason is Revelations itself. John is asked to measure the Temple and how could he do that if it were destroyed?
[/quote]

Given that he was in and out of Jerusalem repeatedly through his life, I would suspect that he easily could have come by that knowledge prior to the fall of the Temple.


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