When Tradition Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Michael Liccone has criticized by deployment of the canon of St. Vincent against the papacy. To be clear, I did not invoke the canon in terms of what every individual Christian professes. I am on board with Yohann Eck when he asked, “Do all believing Christians agree with one another? Never in a thousand years!” The VC refers I believe to the deposit of tradition made in specific churches founded by the Apostles-Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Ephesus.  This was to serve as a guide for the churches in what was genuinely of apostolic origin and what was an innovation. If something was discovered to have doctrinal content that was unique to a particular church, then it was an innovation. Consequently, this was meant as an aid to the principle teachers of the Church, specifically the bishops. Only secondarily was it meant as a guideline for “individuals.”  This view is expressed in early witnesses as Tertullian and Fathers like St. Ireneaus. Saint Vincent is not innovating when he invokes the rule. 

Consequently, pace Micheal, it is not very odd to invoke the canon as a guide to interpreting Scripture that presupposes the Church as a reference point because the canon, even prior to its utterance by St. Vincent, presupposed the possibility of specific churches misinterpreting Scriptures and that there were churches founded directly by apostles. What would be odd would be to invoke it against the entire church by say Protestants who would claim that the entire church erred.  In my view, all that the rule requires is that there are in fact churches that the apostles founded and that in their tradition we can discover that which is truly apostolic. (Incidently to deny this premise is to beg the question against Orthodoxy and advance an implicity argument agianst Orthodoxy.) It does not presuppose some general vague notion of “the Church.” So the rule does not assume that one can identify the faith apart from the church, but exactly the opposite. It is because these sees are the church that one can identify the faith from their consensus.    

It is the historical truth that these churches were founded by Apostles that grounds Vincent’s canon and hence its application. This is why it was invoked by him initially to test the Augustinian teaching. If Augustine were correct, you should be able to find it in all of the apostolic sees, which would silence objectors that what Augustine was teaching was in some significant respects novel. And this is what Vincent, and even the Catholic Church admits to this day was the case , although partially and it took Rome longer to do this than Vincent and the East.  In any case, the application of the canon does not presuppose in any way the epistemic independence of the investigation from locating the church. All the person invoking the canon need reply is, do you mean to question whether these churches were founded by the Apostles? If yes, then we need to go back to the historical level to convince the objector. Does Michael wish to call into question the apostolicity of these churches? If not, then the invocation of the rule is not independent of knowing which churches were founded by the apostles. If the affirmative, then certainly Jerusalem, Antioch and Epehesus have no weaker claim to apostolicity than Rome does.   If anything, the opposite is the case, if at all.  

Consequently, the argument that the canon is idle shows this only on a miscontrual of the canon. The canon itself is not some ecclesiastically free floating principle but is rooted in the historicity of the particular churches. The application of the rule does not seek to identify the content of the faith apart from the Church, but rather on the basis that said sees are the church. If Michael wishes to put up in the air the status of these sees as the church, he can do so, in which case I can’t see how he will establish the apostolicity of Rome apart from an appeal to history. Perhaps there is some analog from natural theology to natural ecclesiology but that would be a strange animal indeed.   

Because the content of the faith is discoverable in the church, specifically those churches founded by the apostles, as Tertullian, Ireneaus and Vincent direct, it is not an attempt to discover the content of the faith apart from the location of the church, but rather because the church is located there we can discover the content of the faith.  There is therefore no presumption of the falsity of Catholicism or Orthodoxy, but rather the demonstration of the falsity of Catholicism, since its distinctives are not found in the other sees. What is at work here is the notion of tradition and Saint Ireneaus along with St. Vincent and others were wise enough to rely on tradition.  The rule then actually turns on and is an invocation of tradition. The apostolic tradition isn’t limited to one particular church, but is given whole to every church.   

This is part of the point of Apostolic Succession since it requires a succession of tradition. The tradition is discoverable and known in the succession of the apostles. This was the motivation of privileging those sees directly founded by the Apostles.  This is why this line of reasoning was so very effective against Gnosticism as invoked by St. Ireneaus.  The Gnostic claim to have teachings not found in the Scriptures could not be undone by an appeal to the scriptures since what was there was dependent on the selection of not only the contents of the canon but also on the hermeneutical principles that one employed.  The novelty and non-apostolic status of the Gnostic position was made clear then by the Apostolic Succession in all the churches and not just one of them.  To appeal to one apart from the rest would only prove innovation by St. Ireneaus’ reasoning, which was why he could flush out Gnosticism.  

To appeal to doctrinal content that is unique to one church or even one see is to elevate innovation and reject tradition.
 This is why the apparatus of development is so essential to the Catholic position since it is an implicit admission that it cannot justify its position based on the rules which the tradition handed on in identifying itself.  It is also I might add the paradigm case of private judgment-the tradition is only in effect what this individual says it is, and not that which is found in the deposit of all the Apostolic Churches.  Consequently, it is no surprise that Michael has to re-interpret St. Vincent’s canon as being effective in identifying tradition only by one church, Rome.  In other words, innovation via development has become the tradition or rather, tradition in the patristic sense simply doesn’t matter for Catholics. What matters is the private judgment of this particular bishop. 

So I fully agree with Michael to investigate apart from answering the question of what is the church is an exercise in private judgment but since the canon depends on the answer to where is the church, the person invoking the canon isn’t appealing to private judgment.  In fact, he isn’t reducing the question to opinion at all, but to knowledge, to wax platonic, just its opposite.  For opinion is a view for which it is impossible to discover the truth, which is why everyone is entitled to their own. Knowledge on the other hand entails truth, which was why the Church kept a list of the successors of the Apostles. Whenever there was any question the bishops would exclaim, ‘Bring out the scroll!” as their ancestors in the OT did. (Neh 7:64).  The point is that the churches know in whose ministry they participate and continue. If Michael thinks otherwise then he needs to show that we can’t know that said churches were established by the apostles. (This was in part the point of burying the apostles in particular churches and why various Latin’s stole their remains from the East, making them thieves twice over.)  

It is on the fact of Apostolic Succession then that the identification of the deposit in the churches is built. And this was St. Vincent’s and St. Ireneaus’ point. Gnosticism was an innovation. To identify factually that Gnosticism was so was not an exercise in question begging. The same goes for Augustinianism, the filioque, and the papacy.  It is a factual question, which again was why in practice even the teaching of Rome was held up to this standard. Leo had to agree with Cyril and not the other way around because Cyril was judged to have articulated the faith of the Apostles. Michael’s argument is not only based on a straw man, but is unconnected with the actual practice of the church, especially in those cases when the bishops held Rome’s feet to the fire in the case of Vigilius for example. If I am wrong and Michael’s argument isn’t a case of question begging, it is hard to see how the Gnostics could not have had a legitimate counter-argument against Ireneaus.   

So it isn’t a case of private judgment in the problematic sense at all about which body is the church any more than the judgment concerning the facticity of apostolic succession is.  The latter isn’t and so neither is the former. Michael I think is simply wrong that any judgment identifying the tradition amounts to a problematic kind of private judgment. Such a judgment isn’t attempting to make a creed or confession. It isn’t at that level attempting to grant the level of normativity to the judgment that one assigns to the Creed. It is the normativity that applies to judgments concerning knowledge and not the formulation of dogmatic statements. This is exactly why St. Maximus, when confronted with the capitulation of Rome to monothelitism confessed that he would still refuse to commune with Rome on the basis of a heterodox profession. 

Consequently, it is not that what is not explicitly and consensually clear across sees is not normative, for many consensual points have not been clear. Nor is it a cherry picking of the fathers but just the opposite and that is the point.  Nor is it what is consensually clear but what is in fact believed in each and every location  of the direct apostolic deposit. Consensus is what emerges after the testimony of each see.  This was the point of having ecumenical councils in which those sees were represented and in part the basis on which various sees could press their case that what some individual or group was teaching was innovation.  So the claim is primarily factual, that is, it is a claim about what constitutes tradition.   

The constant repeating of development of doctrine as making formally explicit what was always materially present ignores the problem that given dialectical principles, just about any proposition can be maintained as always implicitly held. That is the point of holism. Any conceptual schema can admit of contrary evidence given sufficient adjustment and analysis according to its own principles.  This was exactly the same hermeneutical principle on which the Gnostics justified their innovations-we aren’t teaching anything new, but this is what was “hidden” in these sources. We are simply making explicit what was always present. The genius, if I can say this, of the Gnostic position is in the recognition that the use of dialectic cuts both ways. If philosophical analysis is necessary to give content to theological terms, then this same method can render any analysis of those theological terms consistent and “implicit” by the use of dialectic. Any “development” then alters the entire system in such a way that the entire system carries the new meaning as implicit and “always” present. Hence it confuses omnipresence with history.  This is why the appeal to merely articulating what was always present rings hallow on the same principles upon which the idea of development of doctrine is built. The theory undoes itself-the serpent consumes itself-old heresies go home to Rome to die.   

Lastly, on Michael’s reading practice of the Fathers like Ireneaus and Vincent and even witnesses like Tertullian is rendered odd and useless or rather even worse, stupid.  If Augustinianism were part of the deposit, what St. Vincent should have recommended was writing letters to Rome to inquire the judgment of Rome.  Irneneaus should have done the same, rather than painstakingly arguing point by point that what the Gnostics were offering could not be found in any of the Churches founded directly by the Apostles.  Moreover, it attenuates the value of patristic material against Protestants. When Catholic apologists are quoting Ignatius of Antioch on the Eucharist or Nicea on baptism, what they are really doing is just saying, “You should believe this because Rome this is the tradition of Rome.” Rather than the argument often given that the evidence is testament to a wide, pervasive and apostolic origin of teachings and practices, the argument should be that this data is evidence of Roman tradition, for that is the only locus of the full and unsullied deposit of faith. But this is at best implausible and worse absurd. Consequently the use of the Apostolic tradition in Ephesus or Jerusalem or Antioch testifies to the falsity of papal claims and shows Rome as simply private judgment write large.

82 Responses to When Tradition Doesn’t Matter Anymore

  1. Jim says:

    You have a point Don. But I think it’s inductive and it’s strength depends on what’s already been conceded in the mind of the person it’s targeted at (me, in this case).

    It’s still something I’ll need to consider.

  2. Don Bradley says:

    Jason stated that he wasn’t sure whether St. Vincent’s dictum was applicable…….

    The lack of controversy, upheavel, mayhem, bloodshed should say something for the time period being examined here over this issue. Nobody cried out against a “power grab” by the episcopate; nobody cried out that the apostolic order was being subverted to the “monarchial bishops”; the cries of “Semper Reformandum” weren’t heard for another 14 centuries.

    Novelty, which is what St. Vincent was writing against, is most readily seen in history by the reaction of the faithful against said novelty. The lack of reaction by 2nd century believers should give the 21st century reader pause to consider whether their hypothesis of wholesale episcopal change ever occured at all.

  3. Jason says:

    Hopefully this message works; I’m using a text-only browser since Firefox isn’t working and since I don’t have IE.

    In any case, for politeness’ sake, I just wanted to say that I’m probably not going to have time to respond for at least a few days, if not longer. Grad. school has me a bit swamped. Sorry!


  4. Jim says:

    Actually – don’t read too much into the Tertullian reference. I just remembered it as I was typing in the previous comment. While Justin avoids using the usual term for ‘priest/elder,’ I haven’t done a language study on the Tertullian reference and for all I know the term might well refer simply to “priest” and been rendered ‘president’ according to the proclivities of the translator. Though, I guess I’ve just given myself another homework assignment.

  5. Jim says:

    Well – that didn’t work.

    In any case I’ll be using IE here.

    On Eutychius, like I said, you’ve given me a research project. For now I’ll accept what you’ve written and assume you’ve refuted my use of him.

    On Irenaeus (and Tertullian, who uses much of the same reasoning), I think we differ only slightly. Like I said, though you may not, and though Fr. Patrick certainly doesn’t, I view Irenaeus and Tertullian as the trailing end of a development process of the Episcopate.

    You read Ignatius as I would have expected. I do not read him that way.

    Justin writing only slightly later than Ignatius talks a bit about the structure of the local church. Take notice, the “president” (the “ruler of the brethren” (to proesttitn adelphn)) is the center of the Eucharist in each individual gathering of Christians . In Tertullian (De Corona – which I quoted above for a different reason) note: they take the Eucharist from the hand of the “president” and no other. Clearly this is not “a bishop” in the Episcopal sense .

    Now, read Ignatius again. The term he uses for ‘bishop’ (i.e. overseer) is synonymous with this person listed as “president” by these other writers. The Ignatian ‘bishop’ is linked repeatedly to the Eucharist, is linked one-to-one to the altar, and in one case a local church received “bishops” from neighboring churches. The Ignatian bishop or “president” of the congregation, simply doesn’t exist anymore in the Orthodox church.

    So I do not need to collapse this development into the first century for (as I said) I see the trailing end of it at the end of the second.

  6. Jim says:


    This is actually broken in firefox. I’m adding this quote in an attempt to repair the page for firefox users.

  7. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:

    My comments have been a little incoherent tonight. 🙂

    Regarding Bishops, they are not a development of the Church, a disciplinary matter nor merely of practical nature. They are an essential part of the Mystical form of the Church and without the office of Bishop there would be no manifestation of the Church on earth. There were such from the beginning and this is clearly the teaching of St John Chyrsostom and evidenced in St Ignatios, the Scriptures with St James in Jerusalem, by St Irenaeus, by St Clement and all the lists of Apostolic succession. The fact the the names Bishop and Presbyter were initially used for both offices does not affect this, as St John Chrysostom and St Jerome show but rather enhances the Mystery. Only the Bishop can ordain because there is only one source of the Priesthood, Christ. As Perry was trying to say in the Platonic Signs… thread, form is doesn’t just make a Mystery valid, it is an integral part of the very reality of the Mystery, just as Christ’s human form was an integral part of His Incarnation. The Apostolic Tradition protects not only the Faith of the Church but also its form in rites, ministry and worship, which are necessary for the Mystery of the Church. We cannot do as we please but as God has commanded us. It is His worship and Life, in which we participate as ours not our own worship sourced from ourselves; God is all in all.

    Here is a quote from St Clement:

    These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the
    depths of the divine knowledge, it behooves us to do all things in [their
    proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated
    times. He has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be
    performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the
    appointed times and hours. Where and by whom He desires these things to
    be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all
    things being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be
    acceptable unto Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the
    appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the
    laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned
    to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests,
    and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is
    bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.

    The case in Alexandria does not contradict this. The consecration of a Bishop is different to that of a Priest, Deacon or minor clergy in that it is not from one source but a gathering of Bishops in consensus and in the prayer of at least two or three, as I said earlier, with the Gospel placed on the candidates head by the Bishops rather than a Bishop’s Omophorion. I suggested that perhaps the gathering of Priests with the Gospel in an exception without any possibility of other Bishops being present may perhaps provide a form of necessity, such as Baptism by pouring rather than immersion. As in all cases of necessity, when the normal form it available, it is to be used without fail. Thus even if this extreme necessity was practised in Alexandria, it was expected to be changed when it could be. This doesn’t invalidate the necessity neither because a form of necessity is “sufficient”, does it mean that it should be used apart from the time of necessity.

    Personally, I prefer to think that Eutychius was mistaken, maybe influenced unduly by the comments of the heretics, and rely on St Jerome to the extent that the custom was for the Priest’s to elect the Bishop but that he was consecrated in the normal manner by other Bishops. Later the custom of election was standardised with the practice of the rest of the Church, so that there may be uniformity just as in the case of when to celebrate Easter. Even, if things are not wrong they may be changed to conform to the uniform practice of the Church. This is a reason for change as well as when a case of necessity it changed to its standard practice at the end of the time of necessity.

    This understanding relies heavily on understanding the Mysteries correctly and the Mystical nature of the Church, as the Body of Christ, who is its ever present Head. If one sees the Church as a product of human ideas, or development, or practicality then one will never truly understand the Church and its history or St Vincent.

  8. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:

    Sorry <blockquote>

  9. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:

    Oops comment tags didn’t worked other than intended.

    I meant to say use <blockquote;gt; This is a block quote </blockquote>

  10. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:


    To blockquote use around your text without the that I have used as comment tags.

  11. Michael says:

    More exactly, what Jim seems to be arguing isn’t succession “rising from the laity” but rather “rising from the presbyterate”. Presbyteral succession. Which might be possible, but I do note there were certain “apostolic men” among the presbyters whose names we still remember…Ignatius of Antioch who called himself “bishop of Syria”, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, and of course other sub-apostolic leaders like Timothy and Titus. Seemingly the task of ordaining was entrusted to such central figures, call them “president” or whatever. The real question is, was that development (if development it was) by Divine will or just a human agreement and custom?

    It does strike me that the rise of the episcopate, and the canon of the New Testament, and the Creeds, occur roughly simultaneously. I certainly hope and trust the Lord’s hand was in that whole process! And indeed, all the competitors (Gnostics et al) died out, not strong enough to endure Roman imperial persecution. The only Church we know about, really, is the Nicene Church…and that means bishops.

  12. Jason says:


    Thanks for your comments. (Incidentally, I wish I knew how to use blockquotes on these blogs like you do.) I’m glad to hear that we seem to be in at least near-essential agreement on Irenaeus and Jerome. Regarding Irenaeus, I might insist a bit more on the importance of the bishop for him (or the president of the presbytery; it doesn’t matter what you call him) with respect to succession, rather than on the presbytery as a whole. Historical theologian Eric G. Jay has a nice article somewhere called, “From Presbyter-Bishops to Bishops and Presbyters,” that I read at one point, but which I don’t have in front of me right now. All I have is his concluding section (quoted in full by Clifton here: http://chattablogs.com/aionioszoe/archives/cat_ecclesiology.html). He sees Irenaeus as representing a stage of history at which those who were (apparently *previously* to Irenaeus) recognized just as the presidents of the presbytery “are now styled bishops.” They (the bishops) are the ones who preserve the apostolic doctrine and constitute “a series of authoritative teachers in an unbroken line from the apostles.” This is in addition to their serving as the focal points of the Church’s unity, as the overseers of the presbytery (regarding discipline and worship), as the one’s responsible for maintaining communication and relations with other churches, and so on. Jay sees Irenaeus’ stage as a development of a prior stage that had completed throughout the Church largely by the end of the first century (notably, during the time of (some of) the apostles; Jay even says that monoepiscopacy might have been achieved in some places before the year 90 AD).

    But perhaps we’re still not disagreeing. It may be largely a terminological matter. On that note, I frankly don’t care what we call things (Clifton seems to make this same point in the blog post I linked to). There was something at least very much like a “monoepiscopate” going on in the Church possibly even before 90 AD, even if the person was called president of the presbytery rather than bishop (although, again, Jay says that he *was* called “the bishop” in at least some places prior to Ignatius’ letters, which were written c. 110-115 AD). If that’s the case, though, then the only real “development” outside of the time of the apostles is a name change, albeit followed by one other development, which is that the bishop alone is the sole ordainer. Maybe this is precisely the point you’re making (i.e., that *this* is the development which occurred and which therefore might not meet the requirements of St. Vincent’s Canon, were it strictly applied), in which case we’re still not clearly disagreeing (I have to admit that I haven’t carefully read the whole thread here, and also that I generally suspend judgment on this last matter). I will note, however, that Jay says that this development was “but a small step and a seemingly logical one,” for what it’s worth. And, in the end, I’m not entirely sure that St. Vincent’s Canon is applicable here, because the decision to allow bishops alone to ordain seems to be a disciplinary rather than a doctrinal one. (This is not to say that it was *merely* a matter of Church order–i.e., it was not that the presbyters still had the *power* to ordain after this decision was made, but simply could not do so “validly” or “licitly” (whichever term applies). It is to say, rather, that after a certain time it was decided that only bishops were to be “ordained to ordain” (and so given the power to ordain at their ordination) whereas presbyters were ordained but not “ordained to ordain” (and so not given that power). Of course, this is another probably controversial and book-length topic that I’ll not contend for here. Cirlot discusses it in the book I mentioned, for any who are interested.)

    [On a similar note–and sorry for adding all of these parenthetical remarks–it doesn’t really matter one way or another, strictly speaking, whether presbyters were initially the ordaining and focal point for succession, as far as apostolic succession is concerned. It very well could have been the case that presbyters were initially *very* early on the focal point of succession, that they then went on (before 90 AD, still during the time of (some of) the apostles) to assign presidents, called bishops, as the focal point of Church unity, that these presidents were then (perhaps as a matter of discipline) assigned the role of sole ordainer, while the other presbyters were no longer given the power to ordain, and so on. This is consistent with apostolic succession because it holds that there is a succession from the apostles, by whatever means, of a line of authoritative teachers who are ordained by those who are allowed to ordain, and who ordain their successors, and who receive a “certain gift of truth” along with their ordination (to quote Irenaeus again). But I doubt that this point is what’s being disputed here. I think it’s just the development I cited above.]

    Regarding Eutychius: you’re quite correct to say that it’s impossible to read *him* in any other way. When I denied the impossibility, I was speaking of Jerome and not Eutychius. Eutychius is quite clear, and so again I don’t think we disagree there. This is why I did not attempt to reinterpret Eutychius, but instead drew attention to the historical problems surrounding him (the late occurrence of his writing, the likelihood that it was an interpretation of earlier material, the fact that his contemporaries and those shortly before him seem wholly opposed to his reading of events, the fact that historical materials closer to the source don’t say what he suggests and in fact seem to contradict his account, and so on).

    Regarding Athanasius: there are some portions of what I said the significance of which I believe you may have missed (or that you at least have not mentioned). First, my reason for mentioning the story of Abba Poemon was largely this: it is our *earliest source* for anything like the claim that the presbyters of Alexandria ordained their bishop, and yet (1) it is a false slander used as an accusation by heretics, and (2) it is shown false by the historical record, for the bishop whom they were accusing was very likely Athanasius, whom we know to have been ordained by bishops. Likewise, the response of the bishops on his behalf, written to the entire Church, makes it seem quite likely that the charge that a bishop had been ordained by presbyters would have been cause for scandal and, indeed, the deposition of the accused bishop; and not just because the practice at Alexandria had recently changed, but because such a practice would not be countenanced by *any* of the other bishops in the Church at *any* location. All of this seems to make it unlikely that it’s true that the Alexandrian presbyters used to ordain their bishops, and even did so up until a time at which Athanasius himself was still living; the response by the bishops and the use of the charge as an accusation against the bishop do not seem to indicate that there has merely been a recent change in practice. (Indeed, the *only* clear reason we have so far for thinking that it was a recent change in practice is Eutychius, so far as I can tell… But again, there are good reasons for questioning Eutychius’ accuracy, especially given his distance from the time period.)

    But beyond that, what of Ischyras of Alexandria, whom I mentioned and who was used in a plot against Athanasius? That plot occurred some time around 329-331 AD. Ischyras, however, had been “ordained” before then, indeed apparently *before Nicea* (see the source I’m about to mention). You’ll note that part of the response to Ischyras was the determination that he *could not* have been a priest precisely *because* he was ordained by a presbyter; thus presbyters apparently could not ordain even before Nicea (unless you will contend that presbyters could ordain bishops but not presbyters, which seems an odd position to me; but then why? Because of Eutychius?). Interestingly enough, this determination had also been made years earlier, in 324 AD (again, before Nicea) by an Alexandrian synod. They determined that Ischyras was in fact a layman, having not been ordained by a bishop (Meletius). See the Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wace/biodict.html?term=Ischyras,%20Egyptian%20bp. No doubt you’ll note that the Dictionary says that Ischyras claimed to have been ordained by “the pseudo-bishop Colluthus,” and so you might say, “But look, the reason he was found to be a layman was that he was ordained by a bishop who was in schism, not because he was ordained by a mere presbyter!” However, this is not the reasoning that was in fact given for declaring Ischyras a layman, as far as I can discern from my sources; he was declared a layman just because he was ordained by a presbyter. Here is Cirlot, recounting the history (to which I admittedly do not have direct access): [Emphasis is Cirlot’s] “Ischyras . . . was deprived of his Orders because he had been ordained by a presbyter unassisted. This shows quite clearly that presbyters did not have the power to ordain validly in the eyes of the Church of that day . . . His ordainer, Colluthus . . . had become a schismatic, and in schism had been made a Bishop, and *as such* had ordained Ischyras. But in those days, before St. Augustine, Ordinations given in schism were treated as absolutely invalid. Hence he was in the eyes of the Church, to which he had later been reconciled, no true Bishop but only a presbyter. Consequently all his Ordinations were invalid. It would seem that his Ordinations [including that of Ischyras] might have been condemned also on the ground that they were done in schism. But in fact the other ground [that Colluthus was a mere presbyter] was assigned[!]. Possibly the reason may have been that there could be less dispute about the reason actually assigned than about the other . . . If this conjecture is correct, it would show [not only that presbyters did not have the power to ordain in the eyes of the Church, but that] the doctrine that a presbyter could in no case ordain validly was an even more undisputed point at that time than that Orders given outside the Church were invalid” (p. 386-387 of the book I mentioned). Incidentally, Colluthus was apparently received back into the Church as a presbyter and died as such.

    So again, in addition to what I mentioned in my previous comments (i.e., the evidence that ordination by presbyters was rejected in other parts of the Church well before Nicea), we seem to have some pretty strong reason to think that presbyters were not allowed to ordain even in Alexandria, and even before Nicea (cf. Ischyras, and the charges against Athanasius; also the little bit from Clement of Alexandria that I mentioned previously). We *don’t* have strong reason to think that presbyters could ordain there, unless (1) we somehow get around the case of Ischyras, and (2) we think that Alexandria was unique from the rest of the pre-Nicean church, and either (3) we accept the false accusation by heretics, proven false by the historical record and responded to immediately by bishops writing to the entire Church as if the charges were scandalous, as actually indicative of a practice which had been accepted until recently (and again, this despite Ischyras and the rest of the Church), or (4) we accept Eutychius, a 10th-century witness removed from the time period and surrounded by (what seem to me) good reasons for doubt, as authoritative enough to determine the early 4th-century practice (and again, this despite Ischyras, the false charges of heretics against Athanasius, and the rest of the Church). As far as evidential considerations are concerned, my evidence seems to justify a belief that presbyters in Alexandria did not ordain as Eutychius claimed. 🙂

    All the best,

  13. Don Bradley says:

    “the episcopate shortly thereafter becomes an essentially distinct office”

    So in your opinion all Presbyters are Bishops, and the two offices are but mere synonyms. Let’s examine the practical import of what you’re suggesting:

    Let’s say you’re a deacon in 4th century Alexandria and your Bishop dies. You get elected Bishop by the Presbyters. There is no Bishop to make you a presbyter so they can all lay hands on you to make you their Bishop. How do you become a Presbyter to become the Bishop?

    You seem to want to argue NOT for succession descending from the apostles to later generations, but rising from the laity of any given period upwards. Let’s leave the myriads of evidence against bishop and presbyter being synonyms aside for the moment……. the sole fact that only a Bishop can ordain a Presbyter; what does that tell you? Now imagine a “President of a presbytery” in Reformed circles articulating that only he can ordain a presbyter; he wouldn’t make it out of the room alive.

  14. Jim says:


    Well done.

    1) Don cites St. Irenaeus as follows: “Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father.” This quote is then interpreted by both Don and Jim to mean that there are *two different* successions, one of the presbyters and one of the bishops.

    That is not exactly my interpretation. There is one succession that Irenaus is concerned about. As I opened with “Irenaeus and Tertullian clearly refer to the PRESBYTERY as the sine qua non of their conception of succession while using the President of the Presbytery as a convenient ‘tracer function’ or shorthand.” This makes sense coming where he does in history (in my view) as the Episcopate shortly thereafter becomes an essentially distinct office.

    I think there’s *other* evidence to suggest that at least there was a unique member of the presbytery who was a “focal point” of the Church, who was the only one who could ordain (at least in typical circumstances), through whom the succession was traced and (because of his unique ability to ordain) through whom it was passed on, etc., but tackling those issues would require a book (like Felix Cirlot’s, “Apostolic Succession: Is it True?”).

    I’m not sure we’re that far off in this respect.

    2) Regarding the material from Eutychius and Jerome:

    While I didn’t know about Eutychius writings being superseded (you’ve given me something to research) I certainly find it “impossible” to read him any other way. If the ‘laying on of hands’ of the Presbytery was only election or sealing, which is apparently fine, why did Alexander (according to Eutychius) CHANGE it upon returning from Nicea for (according to Eutychius) this custom persisted “until the times of Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria, who was of the number of the [bishops at Nice].” at which point “he forbade the presbyters to create the Patriarch for the future, and decreed that when the Patriarch was dead, the bishops should meet together and ordain the Patriarch.”

    This is why I gave the entire quote – because I had heard that interpretation. The context creates utter nonsense when understood that way. You have a better chance discrediting him all together.

    […]given the time at which Abba Poemen lived, it is probable that the archbishop whom these heretics were speaking against was Athanasius […]

    Alexander was the bishop of Alexandria at Nicea (his *deacon* Athanasius was with him). As a matter of fact, I would think that the Arian’s would have objected to Athanasius (since they installed their own representative in Alexandria after Alexander’s death) upon Athanasius’ return from exile with exactly the claim detailed by Abba Poemen *precisely because*, up until right then, it had been the habit of Alexandria to ordain their bishops by the presbytery. Athanasius would have been the FIRST bishop in Alexandria ordained by other Bishops (or, more likely, second, give that Alexander at Nicea was probably “officially” ordained for the sake of economia).

    On Jerome. What can I say? You are clearly correct. I was misreading him. After your explanation, when I went back and read it, it seemed obvious.


  15. Death Bredon says:


    Spot on.

    The entirety of the Western Schism represents the Frankish ploy of twisting prior Latin expression of the Faith to contradict, not complement, Greek expression thereof for the sole purpose of driving a political wedge between East and West to the end that the Germanic tribes (led by the Carolignian Franks of course) would complete its triumph over the Hellenized Christian Roman Empire.

    Of course, Karl the Barbarian cared not one whit that Christianity might be corrupted so much as to cause a Western Reformation or even the present age of outright religious skepticism and amoral secularization. Indeed, though his western Holy Roman Empire didn’t quite make it as he envisioned, the world domination largely by the descendants of the Germanic peoples through USA / NATO / EU, and the relative political supplication of the Byzantine Commonwealth, tends to show that Karl “won.”

    And his apologists thrive to this day.

  16. Michael says:

    Thank you, Jason!

  17. Jason says:

    Regarding some of the texts that have been mentioned and interpreted here (mostly by Don and Jim):

    1) Don cites St. Irenaeus as follows: “Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father.” This quote is then interpreted by both Don and Jim to mean that there are *two different* successions, one of the presbyters and one of the bishops. I cannot quite see why (or at least why it *must* be interpreted this way). Suppose that I am praising a friend by pointing at him and saying, “Behold he who surpasses all others in kindness; he who is wise beyond his years; he who, together with this wisdom, has a generosity unparalleled, etc.” The phrase “he who” refers to the same person. Likewise, “this wisdom,” in the last clause, refers to the same wisdom mentioned in the second. This is how I read Irenaeus. That is: “Wherefore it is incumbent to obey *the presbyters* who are in the Church,-*those who*, as I have shown, possess *the succession* from the apostles; *those who*, together with *the succession* of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth.” “Those who” refers to the same “presbyters.” “The succession” in the last clause refers to the same “the succession” in the preceding clause. In other words, “the succession from the apostles” *is* “the succession of the episcopate”–the presbyters have received the succession, and together with that succession have also received the certain gift of truth. This is just another incident where “presbyter” and “bishop/overseer” are used interchangeably, as frequently occurred early in the Church. Indeed, this seems to “jive” best with Irenaeus’ language. For if he is speaking of two different successions, then he is speaking first of the presbyters using a concrete, collective noun, and then, instead of speaking of “the bishops” in that same straightforward manner, is, in a rather odd turn of phrase, calling the bishops “the succession of the episcopate,” using an abstract, rather than a concrete, collective noun (as “the bishops” would be). This reading is bolstered, I think, when one takes into account other material from Irenaeus, for example his saying things like, “We can enumerate those were appointed *bishops by the Apostles themselves* in the several churches, and *their successors* down to our own day,” or, “all these [heretics] are much later than the *bishops to whom the Apostles committed the churches*,” etc. Irenaeus seems to speak of one succession, using the words presybter and bishop (“episcopate”) interchangeably (as was customary), though probably having in mind one particular member of the presybtery through whom the succession was traced and who came to be called (unequivocally) the bishop.

    This evidence alone doesn’t adjudicate between Jim’s theory and Don’s. By itself, it could be evidence of an episcopal succession (as, I have to admit, the other quotes of Irenaeus seem to suggest), albeit in the context of a Church that hasn’t yet clarified its terminology, *or* of presbyteral succession. I think there’s *other* evidence to suggest that at least there was a unique member of the presbytery who was a “focal point” of the Church, who was the only one who could ordain (at least in typical circumstances), through whom the succession was traced and (because of his unique ability to ordain) through whom it was passed on, etc., but tackling those issues would require a book (like Felix Cirlot’s, “Apostolic Succession: Is it True?”).

    2) Regarding the material from Eutychius and Jerome:

    We have to note first that Eutychius (the first source cited by Jim) is a 10th-century source. This on its own of course does nothing to discredit him, or anything near to that, but it’s at least worth noting, because it’s likely that his own testimony is based upon earlier sources, and so is only “derivative” evidence. In other words, it’s very likely that his own testimony is an interpretation of a body of earlier evidence (though Schaff asserts that it is at least independent of Jerome–though who knows what he means by “independent of”, or to what extent it was independent, or how Schaff knows this, etc.; Felix Cirlot suggests that Jerome may have been at least indirectly an influence on Eutychius), just as the testimony of his contemporaries might have been.

    That said, it’s interesting to note what Eutychius’ contemporaries themselves, and those who preceded them, did say about this earlier evidence. They do not seem to interpret it in the way that Eutychius does. Bishop Charles Gore, author of “The Church and Its Ministry” and an historian writing a bit later than Schaff writes (in the Journal of Theological Studies, 1902, pp. 278-282) that the early evidence from Jerome “was certainly taken to mean by ninth-century [i.e., before Eutychius] Latin writers, who repeated it without hesitation or unwillingness, that the bishops at Alexandria received no new consecration on acceding to the episcopate, but simply election by their fellows.” (Jim claims that this interpretation is impossible; I’ll get to that in a moment.) Here Gore cites Amalarius and Pseudo-Alcuin. But one might think that Latin writers, even if they are earlier than Eutychius, are less significant here, because Eutychius himself *was* a patriarch of Alexandria, and so might have had some closer connection with the tradition. It may be precisely because of this that Gore *also* cites a Severus, bishop of Eshmunain (Egypt), c. 950 AD, whose writings were apparently newly-published right at the time of Gore’s writing (and so apparently would not have been available to Schaff). Severus’ writing, conveniently enough, consists of a history of the patriarchs of Alexandria, and Gore notes that here he “differs from [Eutychius] almost wholly in his account of the origin of the Alexandrian church.” He also goes on to say that Severus was quite a bit less “ignorant” than Eutychius (the latter of whom he calls one of “amazing ignorance”), for what that might be worth in considering his testimony. All of this suggests that we ought to be at least cautious in considering Eutychius’ testimony to be altogether powerful. This might be all the more the case when we note that Felix Cirlot (whose book I mentioned earlier, and who is also an historian writing later than Schaff) says that “when we test [Eutychius’] additions to our knowledge from other sources by the usual critical means, we do not find anything to encourage us to think that his sources of information were reliable. Hence we must refuse to place confidence in those portions of his story not supported by other and better evidence” (p. 372). You might be able to tell already, but I think that this is probably sensible advice. (Cirlot, by the way, cites an “Appendix B” of Gore’s, “The Church and Its Ministry,” which apparently addresses Eutychius at length, but which I have not read.)

    [One side note: there is an earlier source which mentions the alleged tradition of the presbyters of Alexandria ordaining their bishops. It is a story involving one of the Desert Fathers, Abba Poemen. There it is said that “some heretics” had “spoken against the archbishop of Alexandria as having received his ordination from presbyters.” Three things are worth noting about this. First, the people making this accusation are explicitly called heretics, though it is likely not (just) because of this accusation. Second, and more importantly, note that this is an *accusation* that the heretics are speaking *against* the archbishop; why would this have been a forceful charge against him if presbyteral ordination of bishops was the accepted tradition? Why would this have somehow called him into question? Third, given the time at which Abba Poemen lived, it is probable that the archbishop whom these heretics were speaking against was Athanasius (both Gore and Cirlot note this). But we have a letter from the Alexandrian synod of bishops to “the bishops of the Catholic Church” saying, of Athanasius, “to the fact that the majority of us ordained him, under the eyes and amidst the acclamations of all, we again are better witnesses than those who were absent and who speak falsely–we who ordained him.” This evidence also further suggests the probability that Athanasius was the archbishop against whom the heretics were speaking. If this is so, then the earliest explicit mention of presbyteral ordination of the Alexandrian (arch)bishop is (1) a lie used as an accusation, and (2) shown false by the historical record. At the very least, the historical record shows that, by the time of Athanasius, presybteral ordination of the (arch)bishop was not the usual practice in Alexandria (else why would it be used as an accusation, and why would the synod of bishops respond on his behalf?).]

    Now what about the material from Jerome? Note first that he begins by speaking of presbyters as the same as bishops, but then finally says that ordination belongs to bishops but not to presbyters. This is in line with what I said above regarding Irenaeus. Note also that calling presbyters “bishops” is Jerome’s central argument for saying that they are assigned a higher place in the Church (i.e., note how the argument works: it appeals to the contemporary and apparently accepted notion that bishops are the high officers of the Church, and says, “Well, see, presbyters *are* bishops, so they have a high place too! …Although, of course, they can’t ordain like bishops can.”). Note also that the sense in which bishops *are* presbyters, for Jerome, is apparently a sacramental sense; he explicitly connects it to producing the body and blood of Christ. Additionally, he notes that some may argue against him by claiming that “there must then have been more bishops than one in a single church.” Why would this be a good argument at all, to which Jerome would have to respond, unless it were the case that his contemporaries expected that each church had *one* and only one bishop? (Again, this links up with my comments about Irenaeus; it’s because there was *one* special presbyter, called a bishop, who ordained and played the role of sustaining and passing on apostolic succession!) So all of this is quite in line with what I’ve said so far: bishops and presbyters are the same *as far as their sacramental “abilities” are concerned* (Jerome emphasizes this again in the second portion of the quote that Jim provides, saying the presbyter is superior to the deacon “in virtue of his *priesthood*”), but only bishops can ordain (note that in the second portion of Jim’s quote, Jerome likens the presbyters to the sons of the bishop, saying that bishops, presbyters and deacons (incidentally, all *three* of which he says here were “handed down by the apostles”) are analogous to Aaron, his sons, and the Levites), and there is only one bishop per church, through whom apostolic succession proceeds. (Another note: following immediately after the part at which Jerome distinguishes bishops and presbyters by saying that only bishops can ordain, he then begins speaking *only* of bishops and says, “Wherever there is a bishop . . . neither the command of wealth nor the lowliness of poverty makes him more a bishop or less a bishop. All alike are successors of the apostles.” The bishops are called the successors.)

    So all of this is leaning quite in favor of the view appointing to the bishop a special place and function when it comes to ordination, passing on and receiving the succession, being the successor of the apostles, being likened to the “father” of the presbyters, etc. Now what of the final element of Jerome, which Jim has bolded for us. Does it say that the presbyters ordained the bishop? Is any other interpretation impossible?

    I don’t think so. First, it would be very odd for Jerome to be saying as much and then to immediately (literally) say that ordination belongs to bishops and not to presbyters. And indeed, note Jerome’s language. He says that the presbyters *named* (nominabant) the bishop by having *elected* (electum) him from their members. Does he mean ordination by this? Why then does he immediately say that presbyters do not have the function of ordaining that bishops have? (And keep in mind some of the above, particularly that saying that a bishop was ordained solely by presbyters was an accusation *against* that bishop.) Here are Cirlot’s comments regarding this text: “If the reader will take the trouble to read the long study of ‘succession language’ and the terms used in Latin and Greek to express Ordination or appointment in the third essay, by the late Prof. C. H. Turner, in Dr. Swete’s collection entitled ‘The Early History of the Church and the Ministry’, he will see that the words electum, collocatum, and nominabant are not the usual words used for this purpose, and that the words commonly employed are conspicuous in their absence from St. Jerome’s vocabulary in the crucial sentence, though he shows his knowledge of their proper use by saying excepta ordinatione (ordination excepted) in the sentence immediately following. On the whole, then, it seems not unfair to say that the very thing St. Jerome has failed to say, even though it would have strengthened his case to say it clearly and explicitly [i.e., his case that presbyters are equivalent to bishops, and so of a higher place than deacons], and even though it would have been perfectly easy to say it in a vocabulary already well established, is that the Alexandrian presbyters not only *chose* their own Bishop out of their own number, but *ordained* him.” Even Lightfoot, who was arguing for quite the opposite of what I’m here arguing with respect to Jerome, admits that “The direct statement of this father refers only to the *appointment* of the bishop.” He goes on to say that one could *infer* that the function of the presbyters extended to the consecration, but he says that this inference is based on other evidence… And that evidence is precisely the evidence from Eutychius (which we have dealt with above), and another piece of evidence which Cirlot (on p. 371 of his book) notes involves a mistranslation and does not refer to ordination, and so is “of no real weight.”

    There is additional reason to interpret Jerome in the way suggested, but I will be brief. First, there is no other earlier and reliable piece of evidence suggesting presbyteral ordination of the Alexandrian bishops. Next, St. Clement of Alexandria, writing earlier than Jerome and (obviously) acquainted directly with Alexandrian practice, seems to have no notion of this practice, and even writes that the Apostle John “used to go away, when he was summoned, to the adjacent districts, in some places to establish bishops, in others to organize whole churches, in others to ordain to the clergy someone of those indicated by the Holy Spirit” (in his “Who is the rich man that shall be saved?”; shortly after saying this, incidentally, he speaks of “*the* bishop,” i.e., of the one bishop in the church). Note that he distinguishes between ordaining bishops and ordaining clergy on the one hand, and establishing whole churches on the other; the suggestion is that John went to ordain bishops even where churches were already established, which would at least *suggest* that presbyters could not do so. And then there’s all the other material that’s often mentioned. I won’t get into it all, but it’s at least of interest that Hippolytus of Rome writes in his Apostolic Traditions that when presbyters lay hands on a man who is being ordained, they are only *sealing*, not *ordaining*, whereas it is the bishop who ordains. The Apostolic Constitutions say “the bishop both ordains and lays on hands,” whereas “the presbyter lays on hands, but does not ordain” (this may be too “late” of a document for some of you… but if Jerome is evidence, why not this?). There’s also the case of Ischyras, the Meletian “priest” who was used in a plot against Athanasius. I put “priest” in quotes because it was determined in the course of this controversy that Ischyras *could not* have been a priest precisely *because* he was ordained by a presbyter. And so on and so on.

    Sorry for the length of this comment, but hopefully it was somewhat informative.


  18. Neochalcedonian,

    If it weren’t for the Franks and the Carolingians, there wouldn’t been anything to renounce. There was already an authentic Western doctrine of “energetic procession” type of “filioque” in the West with St. Gregory the Great and St. Martin as understood by Maximos the Confessor, until the Carolingians came along and played the Gnostic game of “giving new meaning to old terms.” Augustine–in my opinion–was either ignored or probably more likely, corrected.


  19. Photius,

    Do you believe that the Latin West would have eventually, with some help from the East, renounced the Filioque if it were not for the Franks and Carolingians?

  20. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:


    Good questions and I have been thinking about Apostolic succession also in this regard. I have always understood it as the laying on of hands by Bishops on other Bishops but it is more than that. What is interesting in this case is that if Alexandria did have such a means of making Bishops then it doesn’t have to be Bishops’ passing on the succession through their laying on of hands, although this is the normative manner. I think that elements of all your questions are true but at present I cannot say exactly what or how, I certainly think there may be an economia here because of the peculiar circumstances of the time. It will take some thought about these issues because the situation isn’t text book, so to speak. I would love to hear what others may have to say. Perhaps my attempt at explanation has more problems than it solves but it is interesting to see what the issues are and to develop a better understanding of what could be going on.


    The Orthodox Church is one of exceptions with all sorts of interesting things happening that do not fit the norm. Sometimes these things are simply wrong but in trying to see how they fit one can often learn some valuable truths about the Church.There are some things that are puzzles but overall the consensus of history, I believe supports the Orthodox Church as per St Vincent’s test. An exception or two doesn’t defeat the test. St Vincent was aware of these issues and yet he still maintained the test gives guidance on how to deal with the situations that you describe. Man is free and hence there are bound to be numerous variations on certain matters throughout history; these don’t affect the universality, antiquity and consent of St Vincent’s Canon. This is something that is not about exact uniformity of practice and thoughts but a core understanding that produces that same consensus of doctrine even if there are some points of divergence. The similarity far outweighs the differences. This is what St Vincent is getting at. It is Christ in the Church that provides this consistency within synergy of men of free-will. I expect to see such a unified tradition because I expect that Christ is with us always and He has not left the Church and I also expect variation because man is free. If one rejects St Vincent’s argument then it seems that one does not believe that Christ is truly present with the Church, the pillar and bulwark of the truth, as its Head and that the Holy Spirit does not guide men into the Truth. If Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, then His presence in the Church must be identifiable through history because He became part of history in His Incarnation. I see that St Vincent’s Canon is how we identify this presence.

    I don’t think that St John Chyrsostom is trying to push an agenda. He is simply working from the received understanding of the Faith and explaining the Scripture within this understanding. His surprise is not his own but anticipation of the reactions of his audience. I don’t know his exact response to the other matters but I am sure that he would explain them justly and coherently with all the other things that he teaches.

    Now, I will let St Vincent speak for himself:

    WHAT then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the
    Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith?
    What, surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the
    unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel
    contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church,
    but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this
    day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.
    But what, if in antiquity itself there be found error on the part of two
    or three men, or at any rate of a city or even of a province? Then it will be
    his care by all means, to prefer the decrees, if such there be, of an ancient
    General Council to the rashness and ignorance of a few. But what, if some
    error should spring up on which no such decree is found to bear? Then he
    must collate and consult and interrogate the opinions of the ancients, of
    those, namely, who, though living in divers times and places, yet
    continuing in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand
    forth acknowledged and approved authorities: and whatsoever he shall
    ascertain to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two of these
    only, but by all, equally, with one consent, openly, frequently,
    persistently, that he must understand that he himself also is to believe
    without any doubt or hesitation.

  21. Jack wrote:

    > Perhaps we could say that not all the fathers spoke in Christ
    > all the time. Nor did some the “fathers” (including Origen)
    > speak outside of Christ all the time.

    I submit that the above exhibits the all-too-common, IMO, valueless use of ‘fathers’, inasmuch as it appears to be synonymous with ‘writer’.

    Following Fr Michael Azkoul’s ‘Who is a Church Father’ (available at
    http://www.geocities.com/trvalentine/orthodox/churchfather.html ), I believe there needs to be distinction between someone who was separated from the Church (e.g. Tertullian and Origen), a saint who has been so recognised *despite* his writings (e.g. Augustine of Hippo) or is not a reliable guide to correct teaching (e.g. Jerome), and the relatively few who are reliable guides to correct teaching (e.g. Maximos the Confessor).

    I would suggest ‘writer’, ‘saint’, and ‘Father’ (I prefer the term capitalised) respectively. Are there other suggestions?


  22. Jim says:

    Sorry. The bold test was supposed to be closed after “see.”

  23. Jim says:


    I wasn’t trying to justify the filioque as I don’t think it has a basis either historically or scripturally (though I take Fr. Patrick’s and Perry’s insistence that ‘sending’ in an economic sense implies ‘precession’ in an ontological sense more than a little puzzling). Anyone that put Plotinus side by side with Augustine, and doesn’t have a previous commitments to Augustine’s infallibility, ought to be repulsed. My point was directed at an inconsistent use of VC.

    Fr Patrick,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    There are several issues here that are only tangential to my original point. For now, I will pass on them unless you’d like to pursue them further. Originally, I only used the Orthodox view of the Episcopate as an example to illustrate the failure of Vincent’s Dictum. I listed several other examples, any of which could be pursued, and some even further, but this was the one I was pressed on.

    In granting even the case of the see of Alexandria, universality, antiquity, and consent are difficult to maintain. The Anglican William Goode, writing against the Oxford movement, in response to a similar apology for history, wrote:

    Whatever the Fathers may say, then, we can thus get good support for the doctrine we wish to maintain. If the Fathers uphold it, well and good; if they oppose it, then their efforts to root it out of the minds of the faithful show that the faithful believed it, and so either way we get good testimony for it. A little ingenuity will do great things in this matter.

    On another point the part of Jerome’s quote that was left out is very interesting regarding other matters on this blog. …

    And indeed, you are spot on!


  24. Jim

    There is no basis for the filioque doctrine in antiquity, except in heretics who were influenced by Neo-Platonic philosophy and one Father, Augustine, who was influenced by Neo-Platonic philosophy. The filioque is based on the ‘God-in-general’ “god” of the philosophers, which is why Gilson says that Augustine’s view of deity or “divine essence” is essentially pagan in content.


  25. Michael says:

    Father Monk Patrick,

    This is fascinating.

    1. Does the ordination of the patriarch in Alexandria by the priests imply that, after all, apostolic succession and the Mystery of Christ’s fulness resides in the Community as a whole, and is not simply the result of tactile succession (which vagante bishops also have)?

    2. Is ordination then primarily an answer to prayer…in which case Christ is truly the One who ordains?

    3. Or is this all really an example of a kind of ekonomia, since the practice — and development? — of the Church as a whole is settled on orders being handed down by the bishops?

    I hope these questions make some kind of sense.

  26. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:


    Thanks for your reply. I find it interesting learning about situations such as these because it helps greatly to refine ones understanding of the mysteries. I think that the Orthodox ecclesiological model can fit this evidence coherently.

    I will assume that the evidence is accurate and that the Bishop of Alexandria was accepted as a valid Bishop by the other Churches during this time. There is much in the evidence that supports Orthodox ecclesiology such as having a Bishop and the laying on of hands. The difficulty comes only from the issues of Presbyters laying on hands to make a Bishop.

    It must be noted that this was an exception and not a rule to normal Church practice and I haven’t seen other evidence to support this practice being wide spread. By the first Ecumenical Council, it is clear that the matter is normalised, earlier following St Jerome. St John Chrysostom, quite rightly for Orthodox ecclesiology, establishes that the structure of one Bishop per city goes back to the Apostles and it is necessary that this is so. The Church structure isn’t just a practical development but it incorporates a Mystery that is needed for the very being of the Church.

    As both St John Chrysostom and Jerome point out, Bishops and Presbyters are Mystically equal, other than the Bishop alone can ordain. I think that this rule was also understood in Alexandria even with their unique manner of installing a Bishop. I believe that the interchange of names in the early Church was important to make clear this similarity, so that later when the names became fixed for the specific functions people would not lose sight of the equality of Priesthood. Bishops are not an order of higher Priesthood, although they may be “High Priest”. Christ being the High Priest is manifest in His Priesthood, equally in Priests and Bishops. Nevertheless, there is a distinction between the unique President of the Community, the Bishop, and the Priests, who may be many in number, and, again only the Bishop can ordain not the Priests. This gives unity to the Church and reminds that there is one source of Priesthood, Christ, and it is not a human appointment, as it seems to have become in many Protestant churches. The model of Christ and the Apostles is appropriate. Christ is the unique source of Priesthood and Apostleship but the Apostles in synergy with Christ make Him truly and fully present.

    Normally a Bishop is made so by the Bishops of his province in unison. The important, but not exclusive, elements of the Mystery are the Orthodoxy of the Bishop, who repeats the Creed, and the coming together of three of more Bishops, or properly all Bishops of the Province with the Metropolitan, or head of the Province. The coming together is an act of unity and consensus in recognition of the candidate to be the Bishop of the diocese. The Mystery is conducted in the laying on of hands on an Orthodox candidate in unity so that “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst”; that is Christ answers their unified prayer and blesses the new Bishop as Bishop in that diocese (there may be more involved than I am indicating). The Bishops properly consecrate a Bishop, so that he is understood to be in communion with the other churches and united with them. It is not so much an act of ordaining to a higher Priesthood but a recognition of his place and a call for God to establish him within it.

    Even though Priests do not ordain there is an exception to this in that Abbots, as Presidents of their communities can ordain minor clergy such as readers, chanters and subdeacons by the laying on of hands. This is because an Abbot effectively has the same role as a Bishop within his monastery and can ordain to a limited degree because he is the unique President, although he must also be a Priest. So, the laying on of hands by Priests is not all together impossible within Orthodox ecclesiology, although they certainly do not ordain deacons or Priests, which type of ordination is distinct from that for lower orders. The main point is that there is precedent for the laying on of hands to appoint someone to an ecclesial rank.

    Putting together the above elements, it may possibly be shown that the consensual agreement of the Priests and their laying on of hands could be sufficient for God to bless the candidate as a Bishop in answer to their prayer. However, this would only be an exception when no Bishops are at hand because it doesn’t encompass the connection between Churches as demonstrated by the agreements of their heads the Bishops. Nevertheless, the unified recognition of the Bishop by the Presbyters within a Church could still express much the same Mystery, although, as said above, this is an exception only and shouldn’t be considered applicable as standard practice.

    Anyway, that is one way in which I think the situation could be understood within an Orthodox ecclesiology without distorting the evidence or sweeping it under the carpet. It is a strange exception that doesn’t follow the normal practice but I don’t think that, in itself, causes the Orthodox ecclesiological model to fail. There are probably better solutions found in the Fathers or theologians on this matter and this is only my very fallible opinion.

    On another point the part of Jerome’s quote that was left out is very interesting regarding other matters on this blog.

    …It is not the case that there is one church at Rome and another
    in all the world beside. Gaul and Britain, Africa and Persia, India and the
    East worship one Christ and observe one rule of truth. If you ask for
    authority, the world outweighs its capital. Wherever there is a bishop,
    whether it be at Rome or at Engubium, whether it be at Constantinople or
    at Rhegium, whether it be at Alexandria or at Zoan, his dignity is one and
    his priesthood is one. Neither the command of wealth nor the lowliness of
    poverty makes him more a bishop or less a bishop. All alike are successors
    of the apostles. But you will say, how comes it then that at Rome a presbyter is only
    ordained on the recommendation of a deacon? To which I reply as follows.
    Why do you bring forward a custom which exists in one city only? Why
    do you oppose to the laws of the Church a paltry exception which has
    given rise to arrogance and pride?…

  27. Samn! says:

    Hi All,
    So, I don’t usually post on these things, but I read them more than I ought. However, I perk up a bit when Eutychius (Sa’id ibn Batriq) is quoted, as he’s a bit of a pet fascination of mine. In terms of his value as a historical source for anything earlier than his own time, he’s only credible in a certain way. His strongly anti-Monophysite polemical bent aside, it’s not likely that he makes any given anecdote up so much as he includes uncritically any bit of information that strikes him as curious or notworthy. So, the degree to which one might be able use him to confirm the historical accuracy of anything earlier is shaky- it just means that the anecdote was available to him. Not worthless, but…

    As a wildly off-topic side note while I’m thinking about it, a question for the bloggers: Eutychius begins his kitab al-burhan with the statement:
    الله لا يعرف في جوهره ولكن يعرف في ذاته من افعاله
    That is, “God is not known in his jawhar (the usual Arabic word translating ousia, although sometimes at this time still used for physis- that is, basically similar to the Syriac kyana), but he is known in his dhat (sometimes also used to translate ousia, but more resonant by the 10th century as the word in Islamic theology for God’s essence as opposed to his attributes) from his actions. ” So, I’m at a loss as to how one would put that into Greek theological language, specifically the word dhat. Any suggestions?

  28. Don Bradley says:

    On your 1st point: The President of the Presbytery designation you use doesn’t suffice in the Irenaeus quote I gave since he would still only be a Presbyter and not have the succession of the episcopacy.

    2nd: Chiliasm fails St. Vincent’s dictum. We aren’t Calvary Chapel; we have varying eschatologies. The only eschatology I am bound to is what is in the Creed.

    3rd: Finding temporal irregularities in one locale does not negate the whole, but the correction of that irregularity should speak volumes to you.

    4th: You continually collapse the episcopate into the presbyters, mostly because you can’t manufacture it in your theoretical ideal. The self-ordained head of your entertainment center surrounded by bobbing-head dolls that are popular isn’t the ideal Irenaeus had in mind. Even in Presbyterianism they could care less about succession, they just modified the episcopal model they overthrew.

  29. Michael says:

    Oops, Fr. Francis A. Sullivan, the author of the book I mentioned, is still living! Fr. Francis P. Sullivan, also a professor of theology, is the one who died.

  30. Michael says:

    Dear Jim,

    I seem to recall that the late Francis Sullivan, S.J., dealt with that question in his book, “From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church”. Fr. Sullivan was of course a RC priest — and also unflinchingly honest in his scholarship. Alas, I can’t remember his exact conclusions as to how the Episcopacy developed, but you are encouraging me to re-read the book. Thank you for the challenge.

  31. Jim says:

    Fr. Patrick.

    Footnote in Schaff’s history

    The custom of the church of Alexandria, where, from the evangelist Mark down to the middle of the third century, the twelve presbyters elected one of their number president, and called him bishop. This fact rests on the authority of Jerome, and is confirmed independently by the Annals of the Alexandrian patriarch, Eutychius, of the tenth century. The latter states that Mark instituted in that city a patriarch (this is an anachronism) and twelve presbyters, who should fill the vacant patriarchate by electing and ordaining to that office one of their number and then electing a new presbyter, so as always to retain the number twelve. He relates, moreover, that down to the time of Demetrius, at the end of the second century, there was no bishop in Egypt besides the one at Alexandria; consequently there could have been no episcopal ordination except by going out of the province.

    Now. As Schaff is not an authority anyone here would accept, following is the pertinent sections of mentioned treatises. I’m familiar with the argument that you’ve put forward that the selection of a Bishop is a two phase process and that the selection by the presbytery (or by the laity) is what’s referred to. Note, I quote the entire context so that you can see this interpretation is simply impossible:

    Moreover he [Mark] appointed twelve presbyters with Hananias, who were to remain with the Patriarch, so that when the Patriarchate was vacant, they might elect one of the twelve presbyters, upon whose head the other eleven might place their hands and bless him [or, invoke a blessing upon him,] and create him Patriarch, and then choose some excellent man, and appoint him presbyter with themselves in the place of him who was thus made Patriarch, that thus there might always be twelve. Nor did this custom respecting the presbyters, namely, that they should create their Patriarchs from the twelve presbyters, cease at Alexandria until the times of Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria, who was of the number of the [bishops at Nice]. But he forbade the presbyters to create the Patriarch for the future, and decreed that when the Patriarch was dead, the bishops should meet together and ordain the Patriarch. Moreover he decreed, that on a vacancy of the Patriarchate they should elect, either from any country, or from those twelve presbyters, or others, as circumstances might prescribe, some excellent man and create him Patriarch. And thus that ancient custom by which the Patriarch used to be created by the presbyters disappeared, and in its place succeeded the ordinance for the creation of the Patriarch by the bishops. — Eutychius, Bishop of Alexandria, in the 10th century

    We read in Isaiah the words, “the fool will speak folly,” and I am told that some one has been mad enough to put deacons before presbyters, that is, before bishops. For when the apostle clearly teaches that presbyters are the same as bishops, must not a mere server of tables and of widows be insane to set himself up arrogantly over men through whose prayers the body and blood of Christ are produced? Do you ask for proof of what I say? Listen to this passage: […] And lest any should in a spirit of contention argue that there must then have been more bishops than one in a single church, there is the following passage which clearly proves a bishop and a presbyter to be the same. […] In the Greek the meaning is still plainer, for the word used is episkopointes, that is to say, overseeing, and this is the origin of the name overseer or bishop. But perhaps the testimony of these great men seems to you insufficient. […] When subsequently one presbyter was chosen to preside over the rest, this was done to remedy schism and to prevent each individual from rending the church of Christ by drawing it to himself. For even at Alexandria from the time of Mark the Evangelist until the episcopates of Heraclas and Dionysius the presbyters always named as bishop one of their own number chosen by themselves and set in a more exalted position, just as an army elects a general, or as deacons appoint one of themselves whom they know to be diligent and call him archdeacon. For what function, excepting ordination, belongs to a bishop that does not also belong to a presbyter? […]


    Of the names presbyter and bishop the first denotes age, the second rank. In writing both to Titus and to Timothy the apostle speaks of the ordination of bishops and of deacons, but says not a word of the ordination of presbyters; for the fact is that the word bishops includes presbyters also. [note – your position requires the other way around] Again when a man is promoted it is from a lower place to a higher. Either then a presbyter should be ordained a deacon, from the lesser office, that is, to the more important, to prove that a presbyter is inferior to a deacon; or if on the other hand it is the deacon that is ordained presbyter, this latter should recognize that, although he may be less highly paid than a deacon, he is superior to him in virtue of his priesthood. In fact as if to tell us that the traditions handed down by the apostles were taken by them from the old testament, bishops, presbyters and deacons occupy in the church the same positions as those which were occupied by Aaron, his sons, and the Levites in the temple. Jerome

    Now, Jerome was a contemporary of Chrysostom, and if you look at the source of the above quote (Letter CXLVI) he dealt with some of the same verses. Chrysostom even seems to acknowledges the plain reading is contrary to what he wants it to say (what he needs it to say). How did he deal with Clement? How did he deal with the Didache? More specifically, how did he deal with Alexandria?

    I think the witness of history is clear as to the process of the development. Now, no matter how weak you think you can make my case, you will have to eliminate it all together in order for an application of Vincent’s Dictum to be used to derive the modern Episcopate, for you need to show universality, antiquity, and consent. If you can’t use it to show the essential necessity of a distinct office of episcopate, how can you use it against the filioque?

    Please do not consider St Basil and St John Chyrsostom as too late for your tastes.

    They’re on my list. Though I’ve been fascinated by earlier works, and the chroniclers and historians (like Eusubius, Jerome and Rufinus) that cover the Ante-Nicean period. That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far (and I haven’t finished the histories yet). If God grants me the time, I certainly hope to read them.

  32. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:


    Regarding the understanding of the Vicar of Christ, I think Steven has spoken on the matter in one mind with myself and judging from your comment answered your question very well.

    I sense that Roman Catholicism in having powers and infallibility given to the Pope and Bishops speaks in a manner incompatible with the Orthodox understanding of the Mysteries. Even though much of the same language is used and there are many ideas in common, the Eastern distinction between Essence and Energies, and how this affects the Mysteries, gives a completely different understanding of ecclesiology from Roman Catholicism. The filioque also plays an important role in this and the issue comes out in the synergy between God and man, which I believe can only be fully realised in the Orthodox framework. If Roman Catholics had the same understanding and framework as the Orthodox then they would have the same teachings; I would strongly argue that the teachings are not valid options from the same framework but reveal incompatible theologies. I am raising these matters precisely to test this point.

  33. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:


    The appointment of Bishops by presbyters has two distinct issues involved. One is the election of the Bishop, which in principle can be done by the local clergy or perhaps laity. Then there is the laying on of hands to consecrate the elected candidate to the Episcopate. This can only be done by other Bishops. Presbyters do not have the power to ordain other clergy let alone a Bishop. If this was the historical practice in Alexandria then I would be rather surprised and I couldn’t imagine the rest of the Church not making a huge noise about this matter. I am assuming that what you are referring to as the presbyters appointing the Bishop is to do with the election of the Bishop rather than his consecration.

    Some quotes from St John Chrysostom can help:

    DISCOURSING of Bishops, and having described their character, and the
    qualities which they ought to possess, and having passed over the order of
    Presbyters, he proceeds to that of Deacons. The reason of this omission
    was, that between Presbyters and Bishops there was no great difference.
    Both had undertaken the office of Teachers and Presidents in the Church,
    and what he has said concerning Bishops is applicable to Presbyters. For
    they are only superior in having the power of ordination, and seem to have
    no other advantage over Presbyters.

    Homily on 1 Timothy 3:8-10

    “To the fellow-Bishops and Deacons.” What is this? were there
    several Bishops of one city? Certainly not; but he called the Presbyters so.
    For then they still interchanged the titles, and the Bishop was called a
    Deacon. For this cause in writing to Timothy, he said, “Fulfill thy
    ministry,” when he was a Bishop. For that he was a Bishop appears by
    his saying to him, “Lay hands hastily on no man.” (1 Timothy 5:22.) And
    again, “Which was given thee with the laying on of the hands of the
    Presbytery.” (1 Timothy 4:14.) Yet Presbyters would not have laid hands
    on a Bishop. And again, in writing to Titus, he says, “For this cause I left
    thee in Crete, that thou shouldest appoint elders in every city, as I gave
    thee charge. If any man is blameless, the husband of one wife” (Titus 1:5,
    6); which he says of the Bishop. And after saying this, he adds
    immediately, “For the Bishop must be blameless, as God’s steward, not
    self willed:” (Titus 1:7.) So then, as I said, both the Presbyters were of old
    called Bishops and Deacons of Christ, and the Bishops Presbyters; and
    hence even now many Bishops write, “To my fellow-Presbyter,” and, “To
    my fellow-Deacon.” But otherwise the specific name is distinctly
    appropriated to each, the Bishop and the Presbyter.

    Homily on Philippians 1:1,2

    Please do not consider St Basil and St John Chyrsostom as too late for your tastes. They are invaluable to help understand the earlier Fathers and Church. St John Chyrsostom is a commentator and interpreter of Scripture par excellence. You at least shouldn’t try to understand the early Church, Fathers or Scripture without at least considering these Fathers, even if you don’t end up agreeing with them. Personally, I think that thinking differently to them on any matter is a perilous occupation. They tend to be proved right and the Church accepts them as universal teachers.

    Regarding unwritten and secret tradition , the early Church kept the Holy Mysteries away from public view so as not to cast pearls before the swine and to prevent those outside the Church from using the Mysteries and associated teachings to blaspheme God. It was mainly to prevent unbelievers suffering any worse condemnation that things were kept secret and certainly nothing to do with special knowledge for the chosen ones in the sense of Gnosticism. Also, it was to reinforce the Holy nature of the Mysteries just as God in His Holiness is hidden in a cloud. This tradition is still alive in the Orthodox Church today, although perhaps not in the full manner of past times. There may be more to this than what I have just said but this is what I have picked up so far. Exactly which Fathers also said this I cannot recall but it is certainly a common theme among a number of them.

  34. Michael says:

    St. Peter in his epistle calls himself a “fellow-presbyter”, that does not negate him as an apostle; likewise a second-century presbyter is not precluded from also being a bishop. I believe it is clear from the letters of Ignatius and Polycarp that by the early second century the bishop had a calling beyond that of the presbyters. I would be interested in hearing a response from Don et al about your presbyters of Alexandria reference, however…do all historians agree with that?

  35. Jim says:


    Thanks for the quote. Saved me the time to look it up. So how does this one, along with all the others where he mentions “succession” (or describe it) do anything but prove my point that “the sine qua non of their conception of succession [ is the PRESBYTERY] while using the President of the Presbytery as a convenient ‘tracer function’ or shorthand,” if as Irenaeus points out in the quote you gave, “those [PRESBYTERS] who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles.”

    On your second quote, Irenaeus’ primary concern, as his entire treatise implores, is for the Christian to be under the”Rule.” I’m curious Don, since Irenaeus is an *authority*, are you a chiliast, or a heretic – for, if I recall correctly, that’s the (dialectical) option Irenaeus presents elsewhere?

    Also, if you ALL have maintained said episcopal succession to this day, how is it that the *presbyters* of Alexandria appointed their bishops from among their own numbers up to the point that its representation returned from Nicea.?

    The guardian of the “Rule” is the presbytery (and your quote is not the only place in Irenaeus that this is obvious).

  36. Michael says:

    Many Thanks, Todd! As ever you are a luminary.

  37. Michael said: “Could that be the very sense in which RCs are using the term ‘Vicar of Christ’, namely, that a bishops are all, in a Mystery, the concrete presence of Christ? Or do the Latin concepts of jurisdiction ruin the picture?”

    I think that Anglican author George Every answers your question, and in doing so he connects the difference between the two sides to the Western concepts of ‘jurisdiction’ and ‘created grace.’ Here is what he said:

    “[In the East] the primacy of Rome was seldom directly denied, in the sense of ‘the primacy among her sisters, and the presidency in the first place of honor at General Councils,’ but the Latin interpretation of the primacy in terms of jurisdiction revealed a difference between East and West in the doctrine of the Church. Attempts were made to relate this to the filioque, but these could not penetrate to the heart of the matter while the distinctive element in Latin theology was very little, if at all, understood in the East. St. Augustine was not translated into Greek before the fourteenth century. His ‘De Civitate Dei’ and his anti-Donatist writings did much to determine the development of the Western doctrine of the Church, as his anti-Pelagian writings are the starting-point of all Western controversies on the nature of grace. Grace is the connecting link between theology (in the Byzantine sense of the doctrine of the Trinity) and ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Church. The Eastern Churches never had a doctrine of created grace, of the gifts of God apart from the gift of Himself to the baptized who are buried and risen with Christ and live and reign in the Holy Spirit. Therefore they could never understand the idea of the vicar of Christ ruling His Church in His absence. They thought of their bishops not in the first place as rulers, but as high-priests in the presence of Christ and the Spirit, witnesses to the truth, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” [George Every, S.S.M., “The Byzantine Patriarchate 451-1204,” pages 191-192]

    God bless,

  38. Don Bradley says:

    Hey Jim the Barbarian, I found this in our boy St. Irenaeus, 4.26.2:

    “2. Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. ”

    Notice Jim, Irenaeus cites TWO DIFFERENT successions; “together with”. What an inconvenient truth in light of your hypothesis. We maintain these two successions to this day.

    Think he was a minimalist that all he required was an assent to just a “rule of faith”? The rest of this chapter is scary…..

    “But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. And the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of God— namely, strange doctrines—shall be burned up by the fire from heaven, as were Nadab and Abiud.41594159 Lev. x. 1, 2. But such as rise up in opposition to the truth, and exhort others against the Church of God, [shall] remain among those in hell (apud inferos), being swallowed up by an earthquake, even as those who were with Chore, Dathan, and Abiron.41604160 Num. xvi. 33. But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, [shall] receive from God the same punishment as Jeroboam did.41614161 1 Kings xiv. 10. ”

    A rule of faith was insufficient for Irenaeus to those “who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever”.

  39. Jim says:

    Fr. Patrick,

    Something else you said sounded familiar …

    However, the worship rites of the Church were unwritten and secret

    Another early Father referred to something similar. Can’t quite bring the picture into focus. Something about “unwritten” “secret” “viva voce” … hum … help me out here.

    In any case, I’m sure said Father must have been all for the idea.

  40. Jim says:

    Fr Patrick,

    Thank you for your insightful comments. I really enjoy reading your posts. I found your description of how we must love people, not in the abstract, but the actual immediate particular individuals, particularly striking. As it so happens that was something that struck me when reading Dostoevsky, who made a similar point in The Brothers Karamazov and something I strive to live by (as difficult as it is and poor as I am at it).

    I am acquainted with the Basil passage but I have not studied the work. He’s a bit too late for my patristic tastes. When reading the quote it rang familiar though. Tertullian, a much earlier witness, in De Corona says almost an identical thing. His witness to the praxis of the same Holy Tradition which came from the Apostles:

    “If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading tradition, written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted, if no cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter of custom, affords us any precedent […] Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel. Then when we are taken up (as new-born children), we taste first of all a mixture of milk and honey, and from that day we refrain from the daily bath for a whole week. We take also, in congregations before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike.”

    If it weren’t for the whole bath thing – I might consider it.

  41. Michael says:

    Ugh! I didn’t mean to do that smiley face. Perry, remove it please if you can!

  42. Michael says:

    Dear Hieromonk Patrick,

    I agree very much with what you have written, but have one question.

    Is it possible we are misunderstanding the term “Vicar of Christ” as applied to the bishop of Rome? I believe the RC Council Vatican II taught that all the bishops are “Vicars of Christ”. Of course, that could mean baldly that the pope holds Christ’s place on earth because Christ is in heaven. But perhaps we could give them the benefit of the doubt here, for on another blog I believe you said,

    “That there is one Bishop, who is Christ. All Bishops are in a Mystery the concrete presence of Christ in the Church in His capacity as “high priest”, “teacher” and “master”. ”

    Could that be the very sense in which RCs are using the term “Vicar of Christ”, namely, that a bishops are all, in a Mystery, the concrete presence of Christ? Or do the Latin concepts of jurisdiction ruin the picture?

    One major difference, of course, is that the pope has in many instances forbade the bishops in Council to actually make decisions, reserving all power and jurisdiction in certain issues (celibacy, contraception) to himself, hence there is a lack of collegiality and RC bishops are at times reduced to being acolytes rather than bishops.

    Forgive me, I am just thinking out loud.

    By the way, I second the calls of Photios and Jack that you be a contributor to this blog. 🙂

  43. Jack says:

    Monk Patrick,

    Perhaps we could say that not all the fathers spoke in Christ all the time. Nor did some the “fathers” (including Origen) speak outside of Christ all the time. Other than this small quibble, I enjoyed your post. The Church IS the Body of Christ that we are becoming. There is no need for vicarious representation. Christ is not somewhere else.


    With regard to the condemnation of Origen, I’ve always understood the substance of said alleged condemnation to be less than clear. I’m not sure we have the acts. And, history and intent are delicate things. Origen may be dead wrong on important points, but he is surely often misunderstood and misrepresented. Behr’s short essay on him in his history is worth looking at, as is everything written by Behr.

  44. Better yet, you interested in being a contributor on this blog?

  45. Sophocles says:

    Dear Father Patrick,

    Would you please consider starting your own blog? Your voice is much needed! Again, a brother humbly asks you.

    In Christ and in fellowship,


  46. Regarding the Vincentian Canon, perhaps it can at least be used to say that if a teaching or practice cannot be testified to from a range of historical times to demonstrate its historical continuity, or at least that it is not a new innovation or previously suppressed innovation, and testified by a range of jurisdictions to demonstrate its universality, or at least that it is not just the tradition of one place, then it must be understood as being of uncertain validity. Nevertheless, there may be room for consistent teaching or “new” terminology to be brought to light in defence of a new heresy that cannot be otherwise defeated with previous definitions. This occured with Arianism when a new word, not found in the Bible to the horror of some at the time, was used to ensure that Christ’s divinity was properly guarded. However, these teachings and new words need to undergo much debate to ensure their validity in defending the deposit of faith.

    Jim, St Basil is clear that there were many things passed on by Christ to his Apostles in Holy Tradition see the quote I posted on the tread: Platonic Signs and Sacramental Realities part 1. Christ ordered the worship of the Church in the same detail as He did the worship of the Jews in the Torah. However, the worship rites of the Church were unwritten and secret. God is the same God who gave the Law and, with the care taken for Jewish ritual, it would be surprising the He didn’t give as much attention to the worship of the new Israel, which is a transfiguration of the same worship to express the realities of the new covenant. Just because many of the traditions were not visible in early writings does not mean that they were not there.

    Even though Roman Catholics and Orthodox say many of the same things, it is clear from the differences that they come from a different basis, which is what Perry and Photios are trying to make clear. The issue of filioque and the distinction between essence and energies are at the core of divergence in matters regarding the Papacy and other differences between the two Churches. Attempts to reconcile the differences in filioque mean that one has missed the point. The differences are irreconcilable. The difference with the teachings regarding divine energies, I believe, results in Roman Catholicism having the Church and Pope being given powers or infallibility to represent Christ on earth, as Christ is in heaven. In Orthodoxy there is instead a synergy between man and God, enabled by the energies, in which Christ is present fully here on earth in synergy with man. Because He is present, there is no need for a “Vicar of Christ” on earth. It is He who teaches, guides and disciplines the Church, as its Head, through synergy with the Bishops in a Mystery in the Holy Spirit. This synergy requires the full presence of God, who through His energies involves man, who shares in this Mystery freely. Man’s free-will is not removed, otherwise he would not be truly man, and there could be no synergy between God and man. Unavoidably, Bishops can be heretics just as Adam could fall. To say that a Bishop could be infallible because of his office makes no sense because he could only do so with loss of free-will and, hence, of being a man, meaning that he couldn’t even be a Bishop. Papal claims to infallibility make no sense. The claims can only be made in another framework that doesn’t involve synergy but some sort of given power and forced infallibility but this, to Orthodox, rejects both the presence of God and the full humanity of the Pope; it as if he is a remote controlled robot. The Orthodox believe a Bishop can teach infallibly if he is freely submitting to Christ and teaching as Christ but there is not guarantee that he will always teach infallibly ex cathedra. Also, there is no separation between Church Militant and Church Triumphant but both are united in the worship and life of each local Church which is the fullness of the Church manifested on earth. The VIncentian Canon works because it is the same Christ teaching in synergy with the Fathers in all places and at all times. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; His teachings remain the same even allowing, as did St Vincent, for the growth of the Church from infancy to maturity and that not all “fathers” spoke in Christ.

  47. Joseph says:

    **As I told Perry once I look at all of the ancient writers as “witnesses” – Calvin is the only Father.***


    April Fool’s Day is next month. Today is only March 1st.

  48. Jim says:


    My apologies on the poor phrasing. I should consider my words more carefully and consider my audience.

    As I told Perry once I look at all of the ancient writers as “witnesses” – Calvin is the only Father.

    Jerome had in mind many of the ancients in that particular quote since he was generalizing, but his thoughts were certainly on Origen since this occurs in a refutation of Rufinus’ attempted apology for him. Or more specifically, the work is a refutation of Rufinus’ insistence that Origen’s works MUST have been corrupted by heretic copyists.

    Not that I blame him (Rufinus, that is) given the penchant of the early Church to fabricate documents or modify legitimate writers in order to pass off their views. Why else, with so little left of the first century Church’s writings (and there were many), would we have three completely different versions of some of Ignatius’ epistles?

    Of course, Rufinus went on to doctor his own set of writings in order to rescue Origen … “when in Rome” … DOH!

  49. Jim,

    If Jerome has in mind say someone like Justin Martyr, then no we shouldn’t be hasty in labeling him a heretic. The grounds for heretical tendencies later, I affirm. If he has in mind Origen, on what basis would I consider the label ‘Father’ whom is the basis of all the Eastern errors and condemned by an Ecumenical Council. I think you and I have different understandings of what a ‘Father’ is.


  50. Jim says:


    I have no doubt Irenaeus expressed an orthodox view of the deity of Christ, as far as his statements went. But he is not the sum total of the voices speaking at the time (and is actually in the minority in this respect – at least based on what’s survived – or based on the fact he didn’t detail everything he thought).

    As far as his “Rule” goes, it took different forms in different places but was usually a few lines that look vaguely like the Apostles Creed (minus the descent to hell, reference to the one holy catholic church, and the communion of the saints – but that’s neither here nor there). Sometimes it included other synopses from the old testament.


    Perhaps – I’m certainly no scholar. I do appreciate Jerome’s comment though:

    Of the Father’s writings Jerome comments (AH! I had to type this in since ccel seems to be down):

    But you may ask, how is it then that in their books some false views occur? Well, if I answer that I do not know the parties whence these false views came, I must not be thought to have said that they are heretics. It is possible that they may have fallen into error unawares, or that the words bore a different meaning, or that they may have been gradually corrupted by unskillful copyists. It must be admitted that, before Arius arose in Alexandria as a demon of the south, things were said incautiously which cannot be defended against a malevolent criticism.

    Now. Jerome is being particularly generous – you are more than welcome to peruse the plethora of positions that appear to contradict Nicean orthodoxy (on many points) in the writings of the Fathers (as Jerome admits appear) prior to Nicea and explain Arius’ appeal to tradition another way – or not.

  51. Jim,
    A very superficial understanding, though popular by western scholars, of the problem. No attention to why Nicea happened, the affects of Gnosticism, and what made Origenism possible.


  52. Jack says:

    I do not have Irenaeus’s account of the infallible Christian Rule in front of me, but does anybody seriously believe that it is Arian?

  53. Jim says:

    The Arians lost, not because Rome didn’t get back them, but because their innovations had no legs in tradition…

    Then why did the Arians make more of Tradition in their arguments than Athanasius?

    John Keble of the Oxford movement put it well:

    “When Constantino the Emperor exhorted the Nicene Fathers to concord in the question then to be disputed, they being Divine matters, he would they should be ended by the authority of the Divine Scriptures. And they did so And the Arians offered to be tried by Tradition St. Athanasius did sometimes pretend to it, though not always ; and this shows that there was no clear, indubitate, notorious, universal Tradition in the question, and if there were not such an one, as good none at all. From all which it is evident that the questions at Nice were not and could not be determined by Tradition.”

  54. Matt says:

    “The Arians lost, not because Rome didn’t get back them, but because their innovations had no legs in tradition…”

    Of course, the Orthodox today have difficulty saying whether something has legs or not. Look at Russia and the EP fighting over the meaning of Canon 28 of Chalcedon. How many more years of Ukrainian jurisdictional battles will there be before that is sorted out? Or maybe eventually there will be a common consensus on whether the OCA is autocephalous or not. Or maybe it should be under the EP too. You can’t just assume it’s obvious what “is” or “is not” consistent with Christian tradition. People are going to have disagreements (surprise). You can’t even vote on something because the majority of bishops could be in heresy. Even some sort of nominal primacy doesn’t help you because it’s derived from political power so it can move about from place to place. Not to mention it makes it makes it harder to have consistent teaching on social issues. It’s like having having labor negotiations without a mediator or arbiter. Sometimes both sides are just going to end up yelling at eachother and nothing is resolved.

    Court of appeal anyone?

  55. Perry’s argument about Irenaeus and the Vincentian canon doesn’t prove too much at all. I think its time to trace out the movement toward and away from Hellenization in the pre-Nicene period. Otherwise, Origen, Novatian, and somewhat the Apologists are given more court then what they deserve, just like Newman did.


  56. Death Bredon says:

    “As Jim’s comment indicates, your argument proves too much. If the VC were duly applicable in the sort of way you say it is, then, e.g., the Arians and the Nestorians would have had just as much justification as the “Orthodox,” including Rome, for claiming fidelity to the apostolic deposit. But they didn’t, so it isn’t.”

    * * * * *

    This is the same fallacy committed by Newman, though he did with the so-called Monophysite.

    In any event, the unsupported queote is absolute nonsense. In point of fact, the principle or methodology of Tradition or Anti-Innovation (later so elegantly expressed in the VC), is what ultimately quashed the Arian heresy, not charismatic Roman authority to divine the course of somesort of “continuing public revelation.” The Arians could not prove fidelity to the deposit, but rather relied on special pleading and rational argument against the mystery of empirical Revelation.

    Any decent history of the dispute shows that Athanasius won the day, not by appeal to instituional Roman authority (though he used Rome as a refuge and an ally), or an appeal to superior rational argument, but rather by appeal to the authority of admittedly mysterious, empirical Tradition of special, public, Christian Revelation (which at that time Rome then still deigned to humble itself to). Indeed, because the inaptly termed “semi-Arians” of the East held the substance of Tradition per the laterly codified VC, they eventually were persuaded that Athanasius’s anti-Arian terminology was crucial to drive out the rationalizing Arian innovations and attacks on the the empirically Revealed and strictly speaking irrational mystery of Incarnation (how can God become Man and simultaneously remain God?).

    Hence, the traditionalists of Alexandria and the Orient resolved terminological differences to uphold the substance of Christian Tradition, and Rome played little role save to give Athanasuius needed sanctuary from which to persuade his Eastern bretheren. In short, the vanquishing of the Arians was a matter of consensus building regarding proper anti-Arianism termnology (express at Nicea and necessarily corrected and revised at Constantinople) within the true local Churches that had always held the Tradition in the model of the VC, not due to an institutional pronouncement of Rome.

    Indeed, anti-Arianism was the traditional position before the explicit pronouncement of Nicea, and Arianism was, as a point of fact, an ahistorical innovation BEFORE the condemnation at Nicea. The view that Roman assent to Nicea was the definitive act that MADE Arianism heretical is sheer, willful revisionist fantasy. The Arians lost, not because Rome didn’t back them, but because their innovations had no legs in Tradition, regadless of Rome’s position. Had Rome chosen to back the Arians, then all that would have happend is the acceleration of the Greatest Schism in the Gentile Church. Nothing more. Arainism would not have become orthodox, though this seems to be the logical conclusion of the papal claims.

  57. Jim says:

    We shall deal with your rebel friends soon enough.

    … and your little dog, too!

  58. AH says:


    Thanks…I was hoping there was some ‘secret stash’ of GHD and that I could acquire one…such is life. thanks

  59. Jack says:

    “But Irenaeus didn’t have anything other than the baptismal rule of faith in mind.”

    Bingo. And it is this rule that general councils protect. Interestingly, in Irenaeus’s version there is no filioque. There also aren’t three divine people in communion whom the church images. To back Perry, with whom I often disagree with, this rule is not dialectically achieved but handed down.

    With regard to Bishops and priests, as Father Schmemann has observed, the priest is merely the bishop’s extraordinary minister. There has been no dogmatic development here, only a pratical accomodation.

  60. David Richards says:

    Had a couple of friends who live in Witchita look into Eighth Day for me and much to my chagrin they do NOT have Farrell’s Free Choice but they have a copy or two of The Disputation with Pyrrhus. I’ve been trying to find a way to get my hands on Free Choice for some time, to no avail.

  61. acolyte says:

    Michael L.

    If you only knew the POWER of the Dark Side!

  62. Sophocles says:

    Dear Mike L.

    ‘ “We shall deal with your rebel friends soon enough.”

    An apt allusion, given the change of graphic in the blog title box.’

    LOL-too funny, Mike.

  63. Rob Grano says:

    For Farrell’s books, you could also try Eighth Day. They probably have them and may even have a copy or two of Free Choice floating around.

  64. Mike L says:

    “We shall deal with your rebel friends soon enough.”

    An apt allusion, given the change of graphic in the blog title box. 🙂

  65. Joseph says:


    Check Amazon.com every day. I got a copy of Free Choice… a few months ago because some poor sap thought it would be a good idea to sell his. I had to shell out $40 for it, but it was well worth it. Maybe another copy will randomly pop up.

  66. AH,

    You can obtain Dr. Farrell’s translation and introduction of St. Photios’ mystagogy from Holy Cross Orthodox Press and you can obtain the Disputation with Pyrrhus from St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press. Free Choice is out of print and God History and Dialectic is unpublished. Perhaps Dr. Farrell will republish Free Choice and publish GHD in the future. Perhaps it would be interesting to create a new thread about Free Choice and those who would be interested in obtaining copies. If we have enough want, maybe Dr. Farrell would publish the 2nd edition, but that is totally up to him.


  67. Jim says:

    If I am allowed the luxury of choosing my own means of obliteration, can I request that it be bludgeoning one blow at a time, rather than having the entire bag of hammers dropped on me at once?

    Thanks for your consideration.

  68. Eric W says:

    “Eric W, ‘We shall deal with your rebel friends soon enough.'”

    FYI, Perry – I’m on your side. 🙂 I’m being baptized into the church on Holy Saturday.

  69. Perry Robinson says:

    Eric W,

    “We shall deal with your rebel friends soon enough.” Moff Tarkin, Star Wars, Episode 4.

  70. Jim says:

    “lengthy?” … Yeah right.

    I have no doubt that Perry, as well as others, have an answer. I’m less sure he will consider that it even warrants a response.


  71. Eric W says:

    That should have been: “So … what is your response to Jim’s lengthy critique of Orthodox ecclesiology….”

  72. Eric W says:

    So … what is your response to Jim’s lengthy critique of Orthodoxy ecclesiology and your arguments? Has he struck the Achilles heel of Orthodoxy’s understanding of the Church, Tradition and Apostolic Succession?

  73. AH says:

    Dr. Farrell,

    Pray tell where would one be able to find “ANY” of you works for purchase?

    an enquiring mind…

  74. Jim says:

    That the other patriarchal sees, in due course, demurred is no more telling than the fact that the councils of Rimini and Arminium/Seleucia were larger and more representative than those of Nicaea I and Chalcedon respectively.

    Hey! That’s what I said. I figured that’d work as a Roman argument too … though you should be more consistent – you hand waved with Honorius.

    No doubt any justification of him would die the death of a thousand qualifications and be largely semantic – and could never come anywhere near that master of semantics himself, Cyprian, who DEFINED Novatian out of the church.

    History is, after all, messy. Best avoid actually looking at it.

  75. Jim says:


    It’s funny you would join me even on that smallest of points – but I guess it makes sense. If there were an objective mechanism that could be applied (such as VC) that could determine the content of the Apostolic Deposit, that would compete with Rome’s role.

    Then again, Perry, if he used it objectively, would reduce the faith to essentially nothing more than an appreciation for Scripture, plus the clearly Biblical, yet uninterpreted and unspecific praxis of Baptism and Eucharist.

    However, if we understand that Holy Tradition as a separate ‘nature’ and not the particular propositions of various doctrines and required acts of praxis, we can “Deposit” that mystical universal into the Church , and there’s no messy interrogation of history necessary. And since we’ve defined the church in terms of Apostolic Succession (which also fails the VC strictly applied) and the 12 sees, we just go there to see what it is.

    Now when we want to go from the *concept* of Holy Tradition to the *content* of Holy Tradition, we can easily conflate the entire Vicentian procedure with “current common consensus” and since Perry’s has taken the minimalist position, he wins!


  76. Mike L says:

    Fr. Patrick:

    The Catholic Church does not maintain that the the pope is unaccountable to Tradition. Doctrines that Rome has ratified with the fullness of papal authority are considered irreformable, so that no pope may seek to bind the Church to negations of them. The dogma of papal infallibility entails that no pope will use the fullness of his authority to do so.

    2. The Catholic Church does not maintain that the pope has authority over the Church Triumphant. He is considered “the” Vicar of Christ among his vicars, the bishops. In heaven, where the risen Christ is fully manifest to the blessed, such a vicar is neither necessary nor desirable.


  77. Mike L says:


    As Jim’s comment indicates, your argument proves too much. If the VC were duly applicable in the sort of way you say it is, then, e.g., the Arians and the Nestorians would have had just as much justification as the “Orthodox,” including Rome, for claiming fidelity to the apostolic deposit. But they didn’t, so it isn’t.

    Now on to other specific points.

    1. You attempt to put “Augustinianism, the filioque, and the papacy” on the same epistemic level as Gnosticism: i.e., as mere innovations defended by their creators as somehow hidden in the apostolic deposit and as true despite the dissent of apostolic sees other than Rome. I recall rarely if ever seeing Orthodox or even Protestant critics of Catholicism go that far. That’s because the evidence does not support the move.

    If only to clear away some of the fog here, let’s leave “‘Augustinianism” and “dialectics” aside. Augustinianism is a theology, not a set of dogmas, and neither he nor the Catholic Church teach otherwise. The important things are the dogmas. Whether the Catholic development of certain dogmas depended on “dialectical” as opposed to some other method of argument is also beside the point. Dialectics are not limited to Catholic theology, and the key question is whether the conclusions are true or false—not whether the methodology that helped some people believe them is the best overall. In any case, your claim that any old conclusion can be established by dialectic is not shared by the method’s theological practitioners and is entirely unsupported by argument—probably because, in the nature of the case, the argument would be dialectical.

    To be sure, the influence of Augustine was important in the development of certain dogmas, such as original sin and the filioque. Not that of the papacy, of course; Leo the Great went further than Augustine seemed prepared to go on that point; and on original sin, the Church has decisively rejected Augustine’s idea that it is personal guilt in those who inherit it. All that said, the Catholic Church has never maintained that the actual dogmas in question are esoteric, i.e., unknown to the “catholic” Church and somehow knowable only by the enlightened few. Affirming the same deposit as that appealed to by the Orthodox, she has maintained that they are not only consistent with but right there in the agreed-upon deposit. That the other patriarchal sees, in due course, demurred is no more telling than the fact that the councils of Rimini and Arminium/Seleucia were larger and more representative than those of Nicaea I and Chalcedon respectively. On the basis of mere “scroll-checking,” the first-millennium councils that both Orthodoxy and Catholicism consider ecumenical have no more claim to that property than certain other councils that came to be deemed heretical. The only mark of authority visible in the former and lacking in the latter is the ratification of Rome. That of course is only one piece of support for the papal claims. Neither in itself, nor in conjunction with other arguments, is it dispositive; for no argument is stronger than its premises, and what’s in question here is how to interpret the premises. But of course the same goes for opposing positions too.

    2. Three strawmen need to be disposed of too.

    A. I do not claim that “any judgment identifying the tradition amounts to a problematic kind of private judgment.” If I thought any such thing, then I would reject the concept of catholic judgment, a concept entailing that the tradition can be authoritatively identified.

    B. I agree that “consensus is what emerges after the testimony of each see.” Such consensus is always sufficient for identifying the tradition. What I dispute is that it is always necessary for identifying the tradition; if it were always necessary, then the dissent of some occupants of said sees from orthodoxy would preclude identifying the tradition. Now I maintain, as a Catholic, that the definitive judgment of Rome is also sufficient for identifying the tradition. That affirmation is compatible with affirming that consensus is also sufficient; for unilateral Roman judgment is not always necessary, and in controversial cases would be imprudent .

    C. The cases of Vigilius and Honorius have been discussed extensively not only by you and me but by the Fathers of Vatican I as well. They did not regard those cases as counterexamples to what they defined, else they would not have passed the definitions they did. Your intermittent attempts to show that Vigilius and Honorius are counterexamples all the same requires premising that you understand the relevant definitions better than they did. Such silliness does not contribute to rational discussion,

    Once the fog and the strawmen are removed, your argument boils down to saying that the Catholic Church’s idea of the development of doctrine, especially as it pertains to her own authority, is private judgment because the other patriarchal sees do not share it. As I’ve said before, that is pure question-begging. If Catholicism is true, then it is quite possible that sees other than Rome could be united in error on this or that point.


  78. neochalcedonian says:

    “To appeal to doctrinal content that is unique to one church or even one see is to elevate innovation and reject tradition. This is why the apparatus of development is so essential to the Catholic position since it is an implicit admission that it cannot justify its position based on the rules which the tradition handed on in identifying itself. ”


  79. Please excuse a rather uncivil thought but the last point of the post that “shows Rome as simply private judgement write large” recalls to mind a thought that if Rome is not right then it is the world’s largest cult with its self-proclaimed infallible leader. The following quotes from the Catholic Catechism sum this up: ‘For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.” “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals” What cultic leader could want more? What keeps the Pope from overstepping the boundaries? Tradition. Any major innovation would cause a major loss of credibility.

    This is not an argument against Roman Catholicism as such but an observation from the logic of the post.

    Also, another thought. From this statement: “as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church” does this mean what it says? I understand that the whole Church is the Church militant and the Church triumphant (using terms not-necessarily Orthodox but I think make the point). If the Pope has such power over the whole Church, what does Christ do? He seems to have been made redundant, or more likely there would be no need for the Pope as defined. If the power is only over the Church militant then this means that there are two Churches that of the militant and that of the triumphant. Thus, negating the logic of having one Pope for one Church. Also, If this is the case then the Orthodox understanding of the whole Church manifested in each diocese is different from what could be the Roman Catholic. Orthodox teaching is that the whole Church, Triumphant and Militant is manifested in each local Church, which worships with all during the Liturgy. If the Pope only leads the church militant then surely he can only worship as the church militant and this worship is separate from that of the church triumphant. It seems that to argue that there is a need for one Church on Earth to be manifested with one Pope limits the undivided reality of the Church to its earthly presence. The Orthodox understanding of the Episcopate, I think manifests the full mystery of the Church much better by limiting the territories of the Bishops thus enabling the manifestation of the full universality of the Church because the limit precisely means that the universality of the Church is not to be found only in its earthly oneness but also in its heavenly. By defining one earthly Church one can lose the heavenly because the universal oneness on earth satisfies universality and doesn’t lift the mind to find a higher sense of the universality of the Church. The Vincentian Canon also affirms this when it considers universality, antiquity and consent; the teaching of the past but living Fathers are still relevant today as then; Peter is truly still speaking to use today as he did then.

    Anyway, just thoughts off the cuff that could do with some treatment and sorry if it is drifting off thread, especially the latter thought.

  80. Joseph P Farrell says:

    Photius (Daniel) Jones has been sort of keeping me abreast of posts on this blog from time to time, and today I thought I’d check it out. I’m frankly sort of amazed that so much attention has been paid to things I wrote 20 years ago and that I thought would never see the light of day.

  81. Jim says:

    Can I assume this is your answer to me also?

    I did not invoke the canon in terms of what every individual Christian professes. […] The VC refers I believe to the deposit of tradition made in specific churches founded by the Apostles-Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Ephesus

    Vincent says as much. I almost brought this up on a prior thread:

    Yet in the investigation of this ancient consent of the holy Fathers we are to bestow our pains not on every minor question of the Divine Law, but only, at all events especially, where the Rule of Faith is concerned. – Vincent

    It is on the fact of Apostolic Succession then that the identification of the deposit in the churches is built. And this was St. Vincent’s and St. Ireneaus’ point.

    This makes an easy shortcut. Like Irenaus, you want to say, “do you want to know what the Apostolic Deposit is? Just look to the churches planted by those Apostles.” But Irenaus didn’t (nor Tertullian, who borrowed the exact same argument) have anything larger than the simple “Rule of Faith” in mind – the baptismal confession itself – when they wrote. It’s not like they both didn’t TELL US what they meant. You’ve inverted his efforts. He attempted to prove that the “Rule of Faith” was apostolic – so he traced THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL principles planted in the churches by the Apostles. Which is what they were – since they were the very Baptismal formula in the independent churches themselves. I find no reference to him (or Tertullian) doing the converse – claiming that everything that is held there was Apostolically deposited, as you seem to.

    Irenaus used the fact that succession happens in the normal course of the life of a local church, to TRACE the “Rule of Faith” to the Apostles. The absurdity of doing that NOW (other than the gap of 1900 years as opposed the 100 or so he was dealing with) is this view of Succession wasn’t even Irenaus’ and was clearly not part of that “Deposit.”

    Apostolic Succession, defined in terms of the diocesional Episcopate requires that a bishop is of a different kind than a mere presbyter (and not simply primus inter pares as Anglicanism maintains) since he has the unique authority to ordain.

    Let’s assume we completely ignore that the Scripture really only defines one office (other than deacon) where this requires two. Let’s assume we can ignore that Ignatius is clearly referring to the head of a congregation (as opposed to a diocese – as in what would be analogous to a teaching elder in a Presbyterian setting) when he uses the term “bishop.” Let’s assume we ignore the fact that the Didache clearly teaches the scriptural mandate to manage the two essentially distinct offices – that of Bishop/Elder and Deacon. Let’s ignore the fact that this was EXPANDED to include the office of Bishop in the Apostolic Constitutions (would that be development of doctrine?). Let’s assume we can ignore the fact that Clement of Rome conflates “bishop” and “presbyter.” Let’s assume that we can ignore the fact that that Alexandrian bishops for the first three centuries of the church’s existence were appointed by their presbytery from among their own numbers. The fact still remains that Irenaeus and Tertullian clearly refer to the PRESBYTERY as the sine qua non of their conception of succession while using the President of the Presbytery as a convenient ‘tracer function’ or shorthand – and all of this to identify the simple DOCTRINE implied by the baptismal confession which took form (in Rome) in the Apostle’s Creed.

    You want (it seems) to extend the “Apostolic Deposit” to the full content, Faith and Practice, of the current Orthodox church (or to what the Orthodox and Rome have in common). But, reading the Father’s, the content of this deposit can only be this in the extreme infinitesimal limit – not that frequent appeal to this “Deposit” wasn’t made by all sides of almost every dispute, even in the first three centuries.

    The application of the rule does not seek to identify the content of the faith apart from the Church, but rather on the basis that said sees are the church.

    And like I said, if you actually turn to the Father’s on exactly what was “deposited,” you’d be hard pressed to point to anything specific apart from Scripture, Baptism (in general), Eucharist (in general), and the Rule of Faith (again, loosely the content of Apostle’s Creed – which was actually tied to Baptism anyway).

    As a matter fact, one wonders (but doesn’t need to too hard) if a rather straightforward case couldn’t be built that would show that the Nestorian churches are far more likely to have universal consent prior to Chalcedon. As Theodoret says:

    ”the hypostatical union we altogether reject, as outlandish and foreign to the divine Scriptures and the Fathers who have interpreted them

    In fact, it should be clear to anyone that’s studied the Trinity in Justin, Cyprian, Novatian, Origen, etc., if Vincent’s dictum were applied at Nicea, we would not have Nicean Orthodoxy. Consubstantiality – yes, Nicea – no.

    As I think you said, the application of Vincent’s dictum is vastly more affected by preconceived notions than Protestant interpretations of scripture.

    This was the point of having ecumenical councils in which those sees were represented and in part the basis on which various sees could press their case that what some individual or group was teaching was innovation.

    Of course it is. That’s why one of the councils that has the clear right to the name “General,” having twice as many Bishops in attendance then Nicea, you (in hindsight I might add) reject. The “Council of Ariminum/Seleucia.” If that council cannot be considered “General” what objective measure do you apply?

    Jim the diseased barbarian ogre gadfly

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