I got an email from an Orthodox Christian that said:
>>>>>>Also, you refer to the Eastern Orthodox Church as being “almost as old as the Catholic Church.” Since Christianity began in the East, and the patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria were established prior to Rome (the apostle Peter even served, according to some sources, as an auxillary bishop in Antioch) and since those patriarchates sided with the theological views of Constantinople in the disputes that arose between New and Old Rome, wouldn’t it only be fair to view the Eastern Orthodox Church as the oldest body? …And since the Non-Chalcedonian schism predates that of the schism between the four ancient sees and the see of Rome, wouldn’t they also be technically older than the Roman Church?
While the church of Jerusalem is where Christianity began, that church (a Jewish-Christian church) ceased to exist between A.D. 70 and A.D. 130. After A.D. 130, all Jews (including Jewish Christians) were forbidden to enter the city of Jerusalem, which was re-named Aelia Capitolina by the Roman Empire. From this time, the church of Jerusalem consisted of a token body of Gentle Christians, who were answerable to the metropolitan of Caesarea. It was not until the time of Constantine (two centuries later) that Jerusalem was, again, given a place of honorary importance. But, this was because it was a place of pilgrimage. It was not recognized as a patriarchal church until the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), but continued to be under the authority of the metropolitan of Caesarea, which was in-turn answerable to the Patriarch of Antioch. This is what the Council of Nicaea declared (in A.D. 325) in Canon 7, which states:
“Since custom and ancient Tradition have obtained that the Bishop of Aelia (i.e., Jerusalem) be honored, let him have the succession of honor, EXCEPT however the domestic right of the metropolis” [i.e., Caesarea].”
This is meant to follow the previous canon (Canon 6), which defines the patriarchal rights of Alexandria and Antioch BASED ON the recognition of those rights by the Bishop of Rome. Canon 6 reads:
“Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis prevail that the Bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction in all these, since this is the custom of the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise, in Antioch and the other provinces, let the churches retain their privileges.” (Nicaea, Canon 6).
So, the patriarchal authority of Jerusalem is an invention of the Council of Chalcedon. It did not exist before A.D. 451.
The same is true of the so-called patriarchal authority of Constantinople. Despite medieval, state-sponsored legends (which have no basis in fact or ancient history), Byzantium had no connection to Andrew or any Apostle, but was a minor church under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan of Herculea in Thrace, which was in-turn directly answerable to Rome. It was the First Council of Constantinople that first tried to give patriarchal authorty to Byzantium (merely because it was the imperial city). But, both Rome and Alexandria rejected this decree, and it was withdrawn. For, according to Apostolic Tradition, Rome held the primacy for the universal Church, and Alexandria was the Church’s second see, having the primacy in the Eastern Church. This is confessed by all the fathers who address this subject, and most clearly by Pope St. Damasus I, who issued the following decree in A.D. 382 — a decree issued in order to defend Alexandria’s place as the primate in the East, which was usurped by the Byzantines at the Constantinople I the previous year:
“Although all the Catholic churches spread abroad throughout the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of the churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, Who says: “You are Peter …(Matt 16:18-19).” In addition to this, there is also the companionship of the vessel of election, the most blessed Apostle Paul who, along with Peter in the city of Rome in the time of Caesar Nero, equally consecrated the above-mentioned holy Roman Church to Christ the Lord; and by their own presence and by their venerable triumph, they set it at the forefront over the others of all the cities of the world. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church, which has neither stain nor blemish, nor anything like that. The second see is that of Alexandria, consecrated on behalf of the blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an Evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the Apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom. The third see is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Peter, where first he dwelled before he came to Rome, and where the name “Christians” was first applied, as to a new people.” (Decree of Damasus # 3, 382 A.D.)
This is the ancient order –Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, in that order of primacy and authority. It was only in about A.D. 700 –after the Alexandria and Antioch had fallen to the Muslims, that Rome recognized Constantinople to be the primate in the East. Before this time, that claim was consistently denied, both by Rome and by the other patriarchs (although Antioch occassionally accepted the Byzantine claim). No where is this fact more clearly illustrated that in Pope St. Leo the Great’s condemnation of Canon 28 of Chalcedon, which read:
“…we do also enact and decree the same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the one hundred fifty most religious Bishops gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city is honored with the Soveriegnty and the Senate and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome….. (Canon 28, Chalcedon)
However, Pope Leo refused to agree to this canon; and employing a kind of “line item veto,” ordered it struck from the Council documents. In this, Bishop Anatolius of Constantinople writes to Pope Leo, apologizing and explaining how the canon came to be, saying …
“As for those things which the universal Council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favor of the church of Constantinople, let Your Holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet, keeping myself in humility. It was the most reverend clergy of the church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most reverend priests of those parts, who agreed about it. Even so, the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness. Therefore, let Your Holiness know for certain that I did nothing to further the matter, knowing always that I held myself bound to avoid the lusts of pride and covetousness.” —Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Leo, Ep 132 (on the subject of canon 28 of Chalcedon).
So, the matter was settled; and, for the next 6 centuries, all Eastern churches speak of only 27 canons of Chalcedon –the 28th Canon being rendered null and void by Rome’s “line item veto.” This is supported by all the Greek historians, such as Theodore the Lector (writing in 551 A.D.), John Skolastikas (writing in 550 A.D.), Dionysius Exegius (also around 550 A.D.); and by Roman Popes like Pope St. Gelasius (c. 495) and Pope Symmachus (c. 500) –all of whom speak of only 27 Canons of Chalcedon.
As for the church of Antioch, it is true that the Gentile community of Antioch is older that the Gentile community of Rome. However, the church of Rome itself (which started out as a Jewish church) was established by Jewish pilgrims who converted to Christianity on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:9-10), and had Jewish ministers belonging to it that were converted long before St. Paul (see Romans 16:7). What’s more, St. Peter’s first sojourn in Rome took place between A.D. 42 (when he flees Judea –Acts 12:17) and A.D. 49, when Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome because of a riot over someone who the Roman historian Suetonius calls “Chrestus” –a clear mis-hearing of “Christus” (“Christ”). This is why Peter is back in Jerusalem in Acts 15 for the Council of Jerusalem, which took place in A.D. 49. It was only AFTER the council of Jerusalem (see Gal 2) that Peter settled in Antioch and became the first Bishop of Antioch (he was not some kind of “auxillary” bishop, as you state above). But, once Jews were permitted to return to Rome, Peter returned there, and this is where he and St. Paul confronted the arch-heretic Simon Magus, and where they together built up the Roman church as the synthesis of the Jewish Church and the Gentile Church, and where they ended their lives as martyrs. But, Peter himself was the primary authority there –that is, Rome’s actual bishop. So, his bishopric in Rome was longer than (and before) his bishopric in Antioch. All the fathers (e.g. Hippolytus, Eusebius, Jerome, etc.) say this. And, as Damasus says above, this is where the three original (Apostolic) patriarchates came from. In about A.D. 60, Peter left Antioch and returned to Rome. In doing this, he left his disciple St. Evodius in charge of Antioch. St. Evodius was succeeded by St. Ignatius of Antioch. Then, while at Rome, Peter sent his chief disciple St. Mark to Alexandria, to be the first bishop (and his own “legate”) there. And, in doing this, Peter, in essence, “triangulated” the known world. His own see of Rome held the primacy and was the final court of appeal, while administering Europe (and N. Africa) directly. Alexandria would hold the second place and be primate in the East, while administering Eastern Africa, Ethiopia, Arabia, and part of Palestine directly. And Antioch would hold the third place after Alexandria, and would directly administer Asia and the Orient. But, the entire relationship depended on how efficiently a message could be sent from Rome to the East. For, as a glance at a Roman map will show you, the quickest way to dispatch a message to the East was to send it by ship from Rome to Alexandria, and then from Alexandria, up the coast of Palestine to Antioch. This was the original arrangement, and how the very early Church operated. The Byzantines disturbed this original order by trying to equate Church authority with the authority of the imperial government.
Here, one must also appreciate the fact that Byzantine Christianity is not the be-all-end-all of Eastern Christianity. In the Eastern Orthodox Chuch, you have no representation of the Coptic tradition, or the Syrian tradition, or the Maronite (Lebanese) tradition, or the Ethiopian tradition, or the Malankar (Indian) tradition, or the Armenian tradition, or the Chaldean (Persian) tradition. The Catholic Church, however, includes all of these traditions, as well as the Byzantine and the Antiochian traditons, along with those of the West (Roman and Gallican). What’s more, your present Orthodox theology does not even represent the totality of Greek Christianity, but subordinates the Alexandrian Greek tradition to the Antiochian and the Cappadocian Greek traditions. If you accepted your Alexandria heritage, you would not have a problem with the theology of Filioque (properly understood). So, in short, you Eastern Orthodox do not speak for the ENTIRE East, but merely for the Byzantine-Antiochian tradition –that is, part of the East. And, the part of the East that you speak for is not as old as the Apostolic heritage of Rome.
>>>>>>And since the Armenians also broke communion with the church (by that I mean the larger anicient
church) prior to Rome’s separation from it, wouldn’t they also be older?
It is true that, after 1054, Rome (and the rest of Western Europe) ceased to be a part of the cultural heritage of the Byzantine Empire, which was the direct cultural heir of the Roman Empire. But, this has little, if anything, to do with Rome’s Christian heritage and Apostolic Tradition, which is not dependent on the 4th Century innovations of Constantine or his establishment of a Christian Empire, but pre-dates this construct considerably. It was Byzantium that parted ways with Rome, not verse-versa. It was Photius and his imperial agenda that led the Byzantines to ignore and distort their earlier recognition of Roman primacy, etc. Try as you may, it is simply impossible to reconcile your modern, “Photian” views with that of earlier Byzantine fathers like Maximos the Confessor, Theodore the Studite, and others who were clearly “Papists” and who recognized Rome’s full and total orthodoxy (viz. Filioque, etc.).
Apparently, Tertullian did serve as a priest there, and Jerome also visited and served the Pope of Rome; but the former was originally from Carthage, where he also died; and the latter was a monk of Bethlehem, under the jurisdiction of Aelia (Jerusalem) and Caesarea.
As stated above, Tertullian became a Montanist heretic, and so rejected ALL episcopal authority. So, it is not surprising that he does not champion the primacy of Rome. However, he still bears witness to everyone else’s recognition of Roman primacy through his Montanist protestations. If Rome’s primacy was not recognized, why would Tertullian mock Pope Callistus by calling him the “Pontifex Maximus” (that is, the head of the Roman state religion) and the “bishop of bishops”? Also, why can you and I receive the Sacrament of Confession repeatedly today if Rome had no recognized authorty to “bind and loosen”?
As for St. Jerome, …. a) He was not under the authority of Aelia (Jerusalem), but under the authority of Caesarea, which was the metropolitan for Palestine in his day And, Caesarea was answerable to the Patriarch of Antioch, which in turn recognized the primacy of Rome. However, in Jerome’s day, the patriarchate of Antioch was torn by internal schism between two Catholic/Orthodox claimants. Jerome was not sure which one to submit to. And so, he wrote as follows to Pope St. Damasus at Rome:
Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreads the seamless garment of the Lord, ‘woven from the top throughout,’ since the foxes are destroying the vineyard of Christ, and since among broken cisterns that hold no water it is hard to discover ‘the sealed fountain’ and ‘the garden enclosed,’ I think it is my duty to consult the Chair of Peter, and to turn to the church whose faith has been praised by Paul. ….My words are spoken to the successor of the Fisherman, to the disciple of the of the Cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with no one but Your Blessedness, that is with the Chair of Peter. For this I know is the Rock on which the Church is built! This is the house where alone the Paschal Lamb can rightly be eaten. This is the Ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails. (Jerome, Letter 15 –addressed to Pope Damasus I, c. 375 A.D.)
Our Orthodox friend continues
>>>>>>Also, Cyprian of Carthage feuded with Pope Stephen of Rome. Cyprian was supported by all of Asia Minor, all of Africa, all of Greece, all of Arabia, and in general everywhere except the diocese of Rome (although he found supporters there, too). Pope Stephen, on the other hand, threatened excommunication of these churches. Firmilian of Neo-Caesarea, however, beat him to the task and excommunicated him instead on behalf of the entire church. Cyprian was martyred, as you know, but was not in communion with Rome at the time.
It is true that Cyprian conflicted bitterly with Pope Stephen over the issue of heretical Baptism –that is, whether or not heretics who sought communion with the Catholic Church needed to be re-Baptized. Cyprian said that they did; Stephen ruled that they did not need to be re-Baptized. Rather, Stephen taught that there is only “one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins”; just as Stephen’s (that is, Rome’s) position was adopted by the Nicene-Constantinopolitan fathers in the Creed! This is what this Creedal statement refers to.
However, even though Cyprian believed that Pope Stephen was in error, he never excommunicated Pope Stephen, nor did Bishop Firmilian of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Throughout the entire controversy, Cyprian’s position was that all bishops were free to disagree on this matter. So, for Cyprian, the disagreement was about local episcopal soverignty. In other words, Cyprian saw it as a matter of oikonomia and local discipline, and not a matter of fomal doctrine. This is why he was so upset by Pope Stephen’s ruling that anyone who re-Baptizes is to be condemned. But, again, Cyprian NEVER calls Stephen a heretic, and he NEVER breaks communion with Rome. He just believes that Rome is being unjust in this matter, and that Pope Stephen was intruding on Cyprian’s own rights as a bishop.
As for Cyprian’s supporters, Cyprian was not even supported by 100% of his fellow African bishops. Rather, the Mauratanian bishops who attended Cyprian’s council of Carthage followed the same custom as Rome and did not re-Baptize heretics. This is why the council formally states that bishops are “free to disagree” on this matter. And not only that. At the conclusion of the council of Carthage, Cyprian sent legates to Pope Stephen at Rome, asking him to ratify the African decision. Why would he do this if Cyprian and his fellow Africans did not recognize Roman authority? Pope Stephen, however, in an admittedly uncharitable act, refused to receive the African delegation. And THIS is why Cyprian turned to the East, trying to find some support there.
However, Cyprian could not find anyone in the East to support him, that is, aside from Firmilian in Cappadocia. The two Eastern patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch sided with Rome! We know for a fact that Alexandria (in the person of St. Dionysius) accepted the Roman ruling. For, a year after Pope Stephen’s death, Patriarch Dionysius of Alexandria sends a letter to his successor, Pope Sixtus II, asking for his decision on a case in which an Egyptian man, who was formally a heretic but now sought communion with the Church, asked to be re-Baptized because he believed that the heretical Baptism was not performed correctly. Dionysius asks Sixtus if it would be proper to at least re-Baptize this man.
So, Firmilian in Cappadocia was the one and only Eastern bishop who sided with Cyprian against Pope Stephen. And both Cyprian and Firmilian turned out to be wrong! Later bishops of Carthage did not re-Baptize heretics, and St. Basil the Great, Firmilian’s successor in Cappadocian Caesarea, did not re-Baptize heretics.
As for Cyprian and Firmilian and their view of Roman primacy, … Neither of these bishops deny the primacy of Rome. For example, even in criticizing Pope Stephen, Firmilian writes …
“But how great is his (Pope Stephen’s) error, how exceeding his blindness, who says remission of sins can be given in the synagogues of the heretics, not abiding the foundation of the one Church, which was first established by Christ on a Rock, … And here, in this matter, I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of Stephen, that he who so prides himself on the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession of Peter, upon whom the foundations of the Church were laid, introduces many other rocks (the heretics), and sets up the new building of many Churches, while by his own authority he maintains that there is Baptism among them. Stephen, who proclaims that he occupies by succession the Chair of Peter, is moved with no kind of zeal against heretics.” (Firmilian’s Epistle to St. Cyprian, lxxv.)
In essence, Firmilian does not dispute the office that Stephen holds. He merely thinks that Stephen is personally unworthy of this office. As for Cyprian, he was clearly a “Papist” too. Long before his conflict with Stephen, Cyprian wrote as follows to Pope Cornelius at Rome:
“With false bishops appointed for themselves, they (Novatian heretics) dare even set sail and carry their letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the Chair of Peter* and to the principal church, in which sacerdotal unity (priestly unity) has its source; nor do they take thought that these are Romans, whose faith was praised by the Apostle, to whom heretical faith cannot have access.” (Cyp. ad. Cornelius).
For Cyprian, the church of Rome was the “principal church” and the very SOURCE of unity among the bishops. This was because it held the primary “Chair of Peter” –because its bishop succeeded from Peter himself. Indeed, elsewhere, Cyprian calls Rome “the womb and root of the Catholic Church.” And, even during his conflict with Stephen, Cyprian NEVER surrendered this view. For example, in the very midst of the conflict, Cyprian sent a report to Stephen, informing him that Bishop Marcianus of Arles had joined the party of antiPope Novatian. The Pope would certainly have already been informed of this by Bishop Faustinus of Lyon and by the other bishops of Gaul. Yet, Cyprian (while he is clearly no fan of Stephen at this time) urges the Pope, saying ….
“You ought to send very full letters to our fellow-bishops in Gaul, not to allow the obstinate and proud Marcianus any more to insult our fellowship… Therefore send letters to the province and to the people of Arles, by which, Marcianus having been excommunicated, another shall be substituted in his place …for the whole copious body of bishops is joined together by the glue of mutual concord and the bond of unity, in order that if any of our fellowship should attempt to make a heresy and to lacerate and devastate the flock of Christ, the rest may give their aid…For though we are many shepherds, yet we feed one flock.” (Cyprian, Ep. lxviii)
Here, Cyprian is explaining to the Pope why he ventured to interfere, and he attributes to the Pope the power of deposing Marcianus and ordering a fresh election.
So, Cyprian NEVER believed that Rome lacked primal authority or that he was out of communion with Rome.
>>>>>>Neither was the other African, Augustine, when he passed away. Neither was Tertullian (although one could argue that he was a heretic anyway).
Now you’re saying that St. Augustine of Hippo was not in communion with Rome when he died? I’m sorry, Mr. Lawhorn, but that is a ridiculous claim, and you have absolutely no reason for making it. What you are apparently referring to is Augustine’s conflict with Pope Zosimus, who ordered a re-examination of the case against Pelagius (Augustine’s enemy) after Pope Innocent had condemned Pelagianism. But, Zosimus also ended up condemning Pelagianism. And while Augustine was clearly not happy that Zosimus re-opened the case, he and his fellow Africans never broke communion with Rome over it. Also, Pope Zosimus died in A.D. 418. Augustine died in A.D. 430, 12 years later, and LONG after the controversy was resolved.
>>>>>>>Because the majority of the early fathers of the church wrote in Greek and hail from either the Eastern Europe, Asia, or Africa, the Eastern Orthodox Church– which also claims these fathers as saints, decends directly from them, and holds identical theology with them– appears to be the oldest of the two bodies.
Well, as I’ve illustrated above, “appearances” can be deceiving. You are not looking at the totality of history, nor do you maturely appreciate your own Byzantine heritage, which does not represent the entire Greek tradition.
>>>>>>That is to say, its theology is not identical with either the fathers of the East or those early fathers of its own locale, and it appears to be a product of the Eastern Church revised and expanded by novelty.
It is true that the Western Church uses some theological constructs that were not used by the Greek-speaking fathers. But, so what? The Greek-speaking fathers based their philosophical language on that of Plato –a pagan. The Western Church (after the Schism) began to borrow from the philosophical language of Aristotle –another pagan. This is why the Eastern and Western Churches have been unable to properly communicate with each other for so long. But, it is not the theological language that is important, but the substance behind it. And the substance of Catholic theology is 100% Apostolic. The “novelities” that you perceive are in form, not substance.
>>>>>>>>>>I figure that writing anything defending the age of the Copts or the Armenians is unwarranted, since the Eastern Church predates them anyway.
Christians were in Egypt and Armenian long before they were in Byzantium. Also, as I said above, we Catholics have Copts and Armenians in communion with us. It is currently a Church composed of Achaian Greeks, Antiochian Greeks, and Slavs. The rest of the East is missing from your communion, but is represented in the Catholic unity.