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The Early Church & Apostolic Succession

Many, for some reason, downplay the Early Church and their positions on matters of the Faith. They ignore this era of the Church either actively or by ignorance of its documentation.


Today there are many varying interpretations of Scripture outside of the Catholic Church and many claw at Scripture trying to figure what is and what isn't the correct way to interpret passages. It should be to the Early Church, those closest to the Apostles in the life of the Church, that we should be able to look to see what direct effects and perceptions of the teachings of the Apostles were. In doing so on this topic of Apostolic Succession we will see here that the early Faithful recognized the importance, existence, and necessity of apostolic succession as well.



St. Cyprian of Carthage:


“[T]he Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with [the heretic] Novatian, she was not with [Pope] Cornelius. But if shewas with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop [of Rome], Fabian, by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatianis not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way” (Letters 69 [75]:3 [A.D. 253]).




Tertullian:


“[The apostles] founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived thetradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original forits classification. Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive Church, [founded] by the apostles, from which they all [spring]. In this way, all are primitive, and all are apostolic, while they are all proved to be one in unity [...]


But if there be any [heresies] which are bold enough to plant [their origin] in the midst of the apostolic age, that theymay thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [their first] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; asalso the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter” (Demurrer Against the Heretics 20, 32 [A.D. 200]).




St. Augustine of Hippo:


“[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keepsme here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The successionof priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here” (Against the Letter of Mani Called“The Foundation” 4:5 [A.D. 397]).



St. Ireneaus:


“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know thetruth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, menwho neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).


“But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shallconfound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two mostglorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained theapostolic tradition [...] The true knowledge is the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world, and the manifestation of the body of Christ according to the succession of bishops, by which succession the bishops have handed down the Church which is found everywhere” (ibid., 3:3:2, 4:33:8).


"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. 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. ( Book IV, XXVI, 2)



St. Hegesipus:


When I had come to Rome, I [visited] Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And after Anicetus [died], Soter succeeded, and after him Eleutherus. In each succession and in each city there is a continuance of that which is proclaimed by the law, the prophets, and the Lord” (Memoirs, cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:22 [A.D. 180]).



Origen


"[T]hrough His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, what appears to us, who observe things by a right way of understanding, to be the standard and discipline delivered to the apostles by Jesus Christ, and which they handed down in succession to their posterity, the teachers of the holy Church" (On First Principals 4:8 [A.D. 225]).



St. Pope Clement I:


Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointedtheir earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die,other approved men should succeed totheir ministry” (Letter to the Corinthians42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).



This is the established and Divinely designed standards set by God with Moses (as we cover in The True Church is Apostolic), carried on by the Apostles, kept by the Early Church, and remain persisting to present day by which the Faithful may use to determine where the authority on Faith and Morals can be found and where the Truth lies in factuality. It is truly visible and not hidden beneath a bush. The True Church is visibly Apostolic.

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