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C. The transformation of the episcopal office in the Church into an apostolic office. The history of the remodeling of the conception of the Church.130130Hatch, Organisation of the early Christian Church, 1883. Harnack, Die Lehre der zwölf Apostel, 1884. Sohm, Kirchenrecht, Vol. I. 1892.
I. It was not sufficient to prove that the rule of faith was of apostolic origin, i.e., that the Apostles had set up a rule of faith. It had further to be shown that, up to the present, the Church had always maintained it unchanged. This demonstration was all the more necessary because the heretics also claimed an apostolic origin for their regulæ, and in different ways tried to adduce proof that they alone possessed a guarantee of inheriting the Apostles’ doctrine in all its purity.131131Marcion was the only one who did not claim to prove his Christianity from traditions inasmuch as he rather put it in opposition to tradition. This disclaimer of Marcion is in keeping with his renunciation of apologetic proof, whilst, conversely, in the Church the apologetic proof, and the proof from tradition adduced against the heretics, were closely related. In the one case the truth of Christianity was proved by showing that it is the oldest religion, and in the other the truth of ecclesiastical Christianity was established from the thesis that it is the oldest Christianity, viz., that of the Apostles. An historical demonstration was first attempted by the earliest of the old Catholic Fathers. They pointed to communities of whose apostolic origin there could be no doubt, and thought it could not reasonably be denied that those Churches must have preserved apostolic Christianity in a pure and incorrupt form. The proof that the Church had always held fast by apostolic Christianity depended on the agreement in doctrine between the other communities and these.132132See Tertullian, de præscr. 20, 21, 32. But Irenæus as well as Tertullian felt that a special demonstration was needed to show that the Churches founded by the Apostles had really at all times faithfully preserved their genuine teaching. General considerations, as, for instance, the notion that Christianity would otherwise have temporarily perished, or “that one event among many is as good as none; but when one and the same feature is found among many, it is not an aberration but a tradition” (“Nullus inter multos eventus unus est . . . quod apud multos unum invenitur, non est erratum sed traditum”) and similar ones which Tertullian does not fail to mention, were not sufficient. But the dogmatic conception that the ecclesiæ (or ecclesia) are the abode of the Holy Spirit,133133This theory is maintained by Irenæus and Tertullian, and is as old as the association of the ἁγία ἐκκλησία and the πνεῦμα ἅγιον. Just for that reason the distinction they make between Churches founded by the Apostles and those of later origin is of chief value to themselves in their arguments against heretics. This distinction, it may be remarked, is clearly expressed in Tertullian alone. Here, for example, it is of importance that the Church of Carthage derives its “authority” from that of Rome (de præscr. 36). was incapable of making any impression on the heretics, as the correct application of this theory was the very point in question. To make their proof more precise Tertullian and Irenæus therefore asserted that the Churches guaranteed the incorruptness of the apostolic inheritance, inasmuch as they could point to a chain of “elders,” or, in other words, an “ordo episcoporum per successionem ab initio decurrens,” which was a pledge that nothing false had been mixed up with it.134134Tertull., de præscr. 32 (see p. 19). Iren., III. 2. 2: “Cum autem ad eam iterum traditionem, quæ est ab apostolis, quæ per successiones presbyterorum in ecclesiis custoditur, provocamus eos, etc.” III. 3. 1: “Traditionem itaque apostolorum in toto mundo manifestatam in omni ecclesia adest perspicere omnibus qui vera velint videre, et habemus annumerare eos, qui ab apostolis instituti sunt episcopi in ecclesiis et successiones eorum usque ad nos . . . valde enim perfectos in omnibus eos volebant esse, quos et successores relinquebant, suum ipsorum locum magisterii tradentes . . . traditio Romanæ ecclesiæ, quam habet ab apostolis, et annuntiata hominihus fides per successiones episcoporum perveniens usque ad nos.” III. 3. 4, 4. 1: “Si de aliqua modica quæstione disceptatio esset, nonne oporteret in antiquissimas recurrere ecclesias, in quibus apostoli conversati sunt . . . quid autem si neque apostoli quidem scripturas reliquissent nobis, nonne oportebat ordinem sequi traditionis, quam tradiderunt iis, quibus committebant ecclesias?” IV. 33. 8: “Character corporis Christi secundum successiones episcoporum, quibus apostoli eam quæ in unoquoque loco est ecclesiam tradiderunt, quæ pervenit usque ad nos, etc.” V. 20. 1: “Omnes enim ii valde posteriores sunt quam episcopi, quibus apostoli tradiderunt ecclesias.” IV. 26. 2: “Quapropter eis, qui in ecclesia sunt, presbyteris obaudire oportet, his qui successionem habent ab apostolis; qui cum episcopatus successione charisma veritatis certum secundum placitum patris acceperunt.” IV. 26. 5: “Ubi igitur charismata domini posita sunt, ibi discere oportet veritatem, apud quos est ea quæ est ab apostolis ecclesiæ successio.” The declaration in Luke X. 16 was already applied by Irenæus (III. praef.) to the successors of the Apostles. This thesis has quite as many aspects as the conception of the “Elders,” e.g., disciples of the Apostles, disciples of the disciples of the Apostles, bishops. It partly preserves a historic and partly assumes a dogmatic character. The former aspect appears in the appeal made to the foundation of Churches by Apostles, and in the argument that each series of successors were faithful disciples of those before them and therefore ultimately of the Apostles themselves. But no historical consideration, no appeal to the “Elders” was capable of affording the assurance sought for. Hence even in Irenæus the historical view of the case had clearly changed into a dogmatic one. This, however, by no means resulted merely from the controversy with the heretics, but was quite as much produced by the altered constitution of the Church and the authoritative position that the bishops had actually attained. The idea was that the Elders, i.e., the bishops, had received “cum episcopatus successione certum veritatis charisma,” that is, their office conferred on them the apostolic heritage of truth, which was therefore objectively attached to this dignity as a charism. This notion of the transmissibility of the charism of truth became associated with the episcopal office after it had become a monarchical one, exercising authority over the Church in all its relations;135135For details on this point see my edition of the Didache, Proleg., p. 140. As the regula fidei has its preparatory stages in the baptismal confession, and the New Testament in the collection of writings read in the Churches, so the theory that the bishops receive and guarantee the apostolic heritage of truth has its preparatory stage in the old idea that God has bestowed on the Church Apostles, prophets, and teachers, who always communicate his word in its full purity. The functions of these persons devolved by historical development upon the bishop; but at the same time it became more and more a settled conviction that no one in this latter period could be compared with the Apostles. The only true Christianity, however, was that which was apostolic and which could prove itself to be so. The natural result of the problem which thus arose was the theory of an objective transference of the charisma veritatis from the Apostles to the bishops. This notion preserved the unique personal importance of the Apostles, guaranteed the apostolicity, that is, the truth of the Church’s faith, and formed a dogmatic justification for the authority already attained by the bishops. The old idea that God bestows his Spirit on the Church, which is therefore the holy Church, was ever more and more transformed into the new notion that the bishops receive this Spirit, and that it appears in their official authority. The theory of a succession of prophets, which can be proved to have existed in Asia Minor, never got beyond a rudimentary form and speedily disappeared. and after the bishops had proved themselves the strongest supports of the communities against the attacks of the secular power and of heresy.136136This theory must have been current in the Roman Church before the time when IrenHus wrote; for the list of Roman bishops, which we find in Irenæus and which he obtained from Rome, must itself be considered as a result of that dogmatic theory. The first half of the list must have been concocted, as there were no monarchical bishops in the strict sense in the first century (see my treatise: “Die ältesten christlichen Datirungen und die Anfänge einer bischöflichen Chronographic in Rom.” in the report of the proceedings of the Royal Prussian Academy of Science, 1892, p. 617 ff.). We do not know whether such lists were drawn up so early in the other churches of apostolic origin (Jerusalem?). Not till the beginning of the 3rd century have we proofs of that being done, whereas the Roman community, as early as Soter’s time, had a list of bishops giving the duration of each episcopate. Nor is there any evidence before the 3rd century of an attempt to invent such a list for Churches possessing no claim to have been founded by Apostles. In Irenæus and Tertullian, however, we only find the first traces of this new theory. The old notion, which regarded the Churches as possessing the heritage of the Apostles in so far as they possess the Holy Spirit, continued to exercise a powerful influence on these writers, who still united the new dogmatic view with a historical one, at least in controversies with the heretics. Neither Irenæus, nor Tertullian in his earlier writings,137137We do not yet find this assertion in Tertullian’s treatise “de præscr.” asserted that the transmission of the charisma veritatis to the bishops had really invested them with the apostolic office in its full sense. They had indeed, according to Irenæus, received the “locum magisterii apostolorum” (“place of government of the Apostles”), but nothing more. It is only the later writings of Tertullian, dating from the reigns of Caracalla and Heliogabalus, which show that the bishop of Rome, who must have had imitators in this respect, claimed for his office the full authority of the apostolic office. Both Calixtus and his rival Hippolytus described themselves as successors of the Apostles in the full sense of the word, and claimed for themselves in that capacity much more than a mere guaranteeing of the purity of Christianity. Even Tertullian did not question this last menticned attribute of the bishops.138138Special importance attaches to Tertullian’s treatise “de pudicitia,” which has not been sufficiently utilised to explain the development of the episcopate and the pretensions at that time set up by the Roman bishop. It shows clearly that Calixtus claimed for himself as bishop the powers and rights of the Apostles in their full extent, and that Tertullian did not deny that the “doctrina apostolorum” was inherent in his office, but merely questioned the “potestas apostolorum.” It is very significant that Tertullian (c. 21) sneeringly addressed him as “apostolice” and reminded him that “ecclesia spiritus, non ecclesia numerus episcoporum.” What rights Calixtus had already claimed as belonging to the apostolic office may be ascertained from Hippol. Philos. IX. 11. 12. But the introduction to the Philosophoumena proves that Hippolytus himself was at one with his opponent in supposing that the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, had received the attributes of the latter: Τὰς αἱρέσεις ἕτερος οὐκ ἐλέγξει, ἢ τὸ ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ παραδοθὲν ἅγιον πνεῦμα, οὗ τυχόντες πρότεροι οἱ ἀπόστολοι μετέδοσαν τοῖς ὀρθῶς πεπιστευκόσιν ὧν ἡμεῖς δίαδοχοι τυγχάνοντες τῆς τε ἀυτῆς χάριτος μετέχοντες ἀρχιερατείας τε καὶ διδασκαλίας καὶ φρουροὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας κελογισμένοι ὀυκ ὀφθαλμῷ νυστάζομεν, ὀυδὲ λόγον ὀρθὸν σιωπῶμεν, κ.τ.λ. In these words we have an immense advance beyond the conception of Irenæus. This advance, of course, was first made in practice, and the corresponding theory followed. How greatly the prestige and power of the bishops had increased in the first 3rd part of the 3rd century may be seen by comparing the edict of Maximinus Thrax with the earlier ones (Euseb., H. E. VI. 28; see also the genuine Martyr. Jacobi, Mariani, etc., in Numidia c. to [Ruinart, Acta mart. p. 272 edit. Ratisb.]): “Nam ita inter se nostræ religionis gradus artifex sævitia diviserat, ut laicos clericis separatos tentationibus sæculi et terroribus suis putaret esse cessuros” that is, the heathen authorities also knew that the clergy formed the bond of union in the Churches). But the theory that the bishops were successors of the Apostles, that is, possessed the apostolic office, must be considered a Western one which was very slowly and gradually adopted in the East. Even in the original of the first six books of the Apostolic Constitutions, composed about the end of the 3rd century, which represents the bishop as mediator, king, and teacher of the community, the episcopal office is not yet regarded as the apostolic one. It is rather presbyters, as in Ignatius, who are classed with the Apostles. It is very important to note that the whole theory of the significance of the bishop in determining the truth of ecclesiastical Christianity is completely unknown to Clement of Alexandria. As we have not the slightest evidence that his conception of the Church was of a hierarchical and anti-heretical type, so he very rarely mentions the ecclesiastical officials in his works and rarest of all the bishops. These do not at all belong to his conception of the Church, or at least only in so far as they resemble the English orders (cf. Pæd. III, 12. 97, presbyters, bishops, deacons, widows; Strom. VII. 1. 3; III. 12. 90, presbyters, deacons, laity; VI. I3. 106, presbyters, deacons; VI. 13. 107, bishops, presbyters, deacons; Quis dives 42, bishops and presbyters). On the other hand, according to Clement, the true Gnostic has an office like that of the Apostles. See Strom. VI. 13. 106, 107: ἔξεστιν οὖν καὶ νῦν ταῖς κυριακαῖς ἐνασκήσαντας ἐντολαῖς κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τελείως βιώσαντας καὶ γνωστικῶς εἰς τῆν ἐκλογὴν τῶν ἀποστόλων ἐγγραφῆναι. οὗτος πρεσβύτερός ἐστι τῷ ὄντι τῆς ἐκκλησίας καὶ δίακονος ἀληθὴς τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ βουλήσεως. Here we see plainly that the servants of the earthly Church, as such, have nothing to do with the true Church and the heavenly hierarchy). Strom. VII. 9, 52 says: the true Gnostic is the mediator with God. In Strom. VI. 14. 108; VII. 12. 77 we find the words: ὁ γνωστικὸς οὗτος συνελόντι ἐιπεῖν τὴν ἀποστολικὴν ἀπουσίαν ανταναπληροῖ, κ.τ.λ. Clement could not have expressed him-self in this way if the office of bishop had at that time been as much esteemed in the Alexandrian Church, of which he was a presbyter, as it was at Rome and in other Churches of the West (see Bigg l.c. l01). According to Clement the Gnostic as a teacher has the same significance as is possessed by the bishop in the West; and according to him we may speak of a natural succession of teachers. Origen in the main still held the same view as his predecessor. But numerous passages in his works and above all his own history shew that in his day the episcopate had become stronger in Alexandria also, and had begun to claim the same attributes and rights as in the West (see besides de princip. praef. 2: “servetur ecclesiastica prædicatio per successionis ordinem ab apostolis tradita et usque ad praesens in ecclesiis permanens: illa sola credenda est veritas, quæ in nullo ab ecclesiastica et apostolica discordat traditione” — so in Rufinus, and in IV. 2. 2: τοῦ κανόνος τῆς Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ κατὰ διαδοχὴν τ. ἀποστόλων ὀυρανίου ἐκκλησίας). The state of things here is therefore exactly the same as in the case of the apostolic regula fidei and the apostolic canon of scripture. Clement still represents an earlier stage, whereas by Origen’s time the revolution has been completed. Wherever this was so, the theory that the monarchical episcopate was based on apostolic institution was the natural result. This idea led to the assumption — which, however, was not an immediate consequence in all cases — that the apostolic office, and therefore the authority of Jesus Christ himself, was continued in the episcopate: “Manifesta est sententia Iesu Christi apostolos suos mittentis et ipsis solis potestatem a patre sibi datam permittentis, quibus nos successimus eadem potestatex ecclesiam domini gubernantes et credentium fidem baptizantes (Hartel, Opp. Cypr. I. 459). Cyprian found the theory already in existence, but was the first to develop it definitely and to eradicate every remnant of the historical argument in its favour. The conception of the Church was thereby subjected to a further transformation.
(2) The transformation of the idea of the Church by Cyprian completed the radical changes that had been gradually taking place from the last half of the second century.139139See Rothe, Die Anfänge der christlichen Kirche und ihrer Verfassung, 1837. Kestlin, Die Katholische Auffassung von der Kirche in ihrer ersten Ausbildung in the Deutsche Zeitschrift für christliche Wissenschaft und christliches Leben, 1855. Ritschl, Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche,” 2nd ed., 1857. Ziegler, Des Irenäus Lehre von der Autorität der Schrift, der Tradition und der Kirche, 1868. Hackenschmidt, Die Anfänge des katholischen Kirchenbegriffs, 1874. Hatch-Harnack, Die Gesellschaftsverfassung der christlichen Kirche im Alterthum, 1883. Seeberg, Zur Geschichte des Begriffs der Kirche, Dorpat, 1884. Söder, Der Begriff der Katholicität der Kirche und des Glaubens, 1881. O. Ritschl, Cyprian von Karthago und die Verfassung der Kirche, 1885. (This contains the special literature treating of Cyprian’s conception of the Church). Sohm, l.c. In order to understand them it is necessary to go back. It was only with slowness and hesitation that the theories of the Church followed the actual changes in her history. It may be said that the idea of the Church always remained a stage behind the condition reached in practice. That may be seen in the whole course of the history of dogma up to the present day.
The essential character of Christendom in its first period was a new holy life and a sure hope, both based on repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ and brought about by the Holy Spirit. Christ and the Church, that is, the Holy Spirit and the holy Church, were inseparably connected. The Church, or, in other words, the community of all believers, attains her unity through the Holy Spirit. This unity manifested itself in brotherly love and in the common relation to a common ideal and a common hope.140140See Hatch, l.c. pp. 191, 253. The assembly of all Christians is realised in the Kingdom of God, viz., in heaven; on earth Christians and the Church are dispersed and in a foreign land. Hence, properly speaking, the Church herself is a heavenly community inseparable from the heavenly Christ. Christians believe that they belong to a real super-terrestrial commonwealth, which, from its very nature, cannot be realised on earth. The heavenly goal is not yet separated from the idea of the Church; there is a holy Church on earth in so far as heaven is her destination.141141See vol. I. p. 150 f. Special note should be given to the teachings in the Shepherd, in the 2nd Epistle of Clement and in the Διδαχή. Every individual congregation is to be an image of the heavenly Church.142142This notion lies at the basis of the exhortations of Ignatius. He knows nothing of an empirical union of the different communities into one Church guaranteed by any law or office. The bishop is of importance only for the individual community, and has nothing to do with the essence of the Church; nor does Ignatius view the separate communities as united in any other way than by faith, charity, and hope. Christ, the invisible Bishop, and the Church are inseparably connected (ad Ephes. V. 1; as well as 2nd Clem. XIV.), and that is ultimately the same idea as is expressed in the associating of πνεῦμα and ἐκκλησία. But every individual community is an image of the heavenly Church, or at least ought to be. Reflections were no doubt made on the contrast between the empirical community and the heavenly Church whose earthly likeness it was to be (Hermas); but these did not affect the theory of the subject. Only the saints of God, whose salvation is certain, belong to her, for the essential thing is not to be called, but to be, a Christian. There was as yet no empirical universal Church possessing an outward legal title that could, so to speak, be detached from the personal Christianity of the individual Christian.143143The expression “Catholic Church” appears first in Ignatius (ad Smyrn. VIII. 2): ὅπου ἄν φανῇ ὁ ἐπίσκοπος, ἐκεῖ τὸ πλῆθος ἔστω· ὥστερ ὅπου ἄν ῇ Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς, ἐκεῖ ἡ καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία. But in this passage these words do not yet express a new conception of the Church, which represents her as an empirical commonwealth. Only the individual earthly communities exist empirically, and the universal, i.e., the whole Church, occupies the same position towards these as the bishops of the individual communities do towards the Lord. The epithet “καθολικός” does not of itself imply any secularisation of the idea of the Church. All the lofty designations which Paul, the so-called Apostolic Fathers, and Justin gathered from the Old Testament and applied to the Church, relate to the holy community which originates in heaven and returns thither.144144The expression “invisible Church” is liable to be misunderstood here, because it is apt to impress us as a mere idea, which is certainly not the meaning attached to it in the earliest period.
But, in consequence of the naturalising of Christianity in the world and the repelling of heresy, a formulated creed was made the basis of the Church. This confession was also recognised as a foundation of her unity and guarantee of her truth, and in certain respects as the main one. Christendom protected itself by this conception, though no doubt at a heavy price. To Irenæus and Tertullian the Church rests entirely on the apostolic, traditional faith which legitimises her.145145It was thus regarded by Hegesippus in whom the expression “ἡ ἕνωσις τῆς ἐκκλησίας” is first found. In his view the ἐκκλησία is founded on the ὁρθὸς ζόγος transmitted by the Apostles. The innovation does not consist in the emphasis laid upon faith, for the unity of faith was always supposed to be guaranteed by the possession of the one Spirit and the same hope, but in the setting up of a formulated creed, which resulted in a loosening of the connection between faith and conduct. The transition to the new conception of the Church was therefore a gradual one. The way is very plainly prepared for it in 1 Tim. III. 15: οἶκος θεοῦ ἐκκλησία, στύλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς αληθείας. But this faith itself appeared as a law and aggregate of doctrines, all of which are of equally fundamental importance, so that their practical aim became uncertain and threatened to vanish (“fides in regula posita est, habet legem et salutem de observatione legis”).
The Church herself, however, became a union based on the true doctrine and visible in it; and this confederation was at the same time enabled to realise an actual outward unity by means of the apostolic inheritance, the doctrinal confession, and the apostolic writings. The narrower and more external character assumed by the idea of the Church was concealed by the fact that, since the latter half of the second century, Christians in all parts of the world had really united in opposition to the state and “heresy”, and had found compensation for the incipient decline of the original lofty thoughts and practical obligations in the consciousness of forming an œcumenical and international alliance. The designation “Catholic Church” gave expression to the claim of this world-wide union of the same faith to represent the true Church.146146The oldest predicate which was given to the Church and which was always associated with it, was that of holiness. See the New Testament; Barn. XIV. 6; Hermas, Vis. I. 3, 4; I. 6; the Roman symbol; Dial. 119; Ignat. ad Trall. inscr.; Theophil., ad Autol., II. 14 (here we have even the plural, “holy churches”); Apollon. In Euseb., H. E. V. 18. 5; Tertull., adv. Marc. IV. 13; V. 4; de pudicit. 1; Mart. Polyc. inscr.; Alexander Hieros. in Euseb., H. E. VI. 11. 5; Clemens Alex.; Cornelius in Euseb., VI. 43. 6; Cyprian. But the holiness (purity) of the Church was already referred by Hegesippus (Euseb., H. E. IV. 22. 4) to its pure doctrine: ἐκάλουν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν παρθένον· οὔπω γὰρ ἔφθαρτο ἀκοαῖς ματαίαις. The unity of the Church according to Hegesippus is specially emphasised in the Muratorian Fragment (line 55); see also Hermas; Justin; Irenæus; Tertullian, de præscr. 20; Clem. Alex., Strom. VII. 17. 107. Even before Irenæus and Tertullian the universality of the Church was emphasised for apologetic purposes. In so far as universality is a proof of truth, “universal” is equivalent to “orthodox.” This signification is specially clear in expressions like: ἡ ἐν Σμύρνῃ καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία (Mart. Polyc. XVI. 2). From Irenæus, III. 15, 2, we must conclude that the Valentinians called their ecclesiastical opponents “Catholics.” The word itself is not yet found in Irenæus, but the idea is there (sec I. 10. 2; II. 9. 1, etc., Serapion in Euseb., H. E. V. 19: πᾶσα ἡ ἐν κόςμῳ ἀδελφότης). Καθολικός is found as a designation of the orthodox, visible Church in Mart. Polyc. inscr.: αἱ κατὰ πάντα τόπον τῆς ἁγίας καὶ καθολικῆς ἐκκλησίας παροικίαι; 19. 2;16. 2 (in all these passages, however, it is probably an interpolation, as I have shown in the “Expositor” for Dec. 1885, p. 410 f.); in the Muratorian Fragment 61, 66, 69; in the anonymous writer in Euseb., H. E. V. 16. 9. in Tertull. frequently, e.g., de præscr. 26, 30; adv. Marc. III. 22: IV. 4; in Clem. Alex., Strom. VII. 17. 106, 107; in Hippol. Philos. IX. 12; in Mart. Pionii 2, 9, 13, 19; in Cornelius in Cypr., epp. 49. 2; and in Cyprian. The expression “catholica traditio” occurs in Tertull., de monog. 2, “fides catholica” in Cyprian ep. 25, “κανὼν καθολικός;” in the Mart. Polyc. rec. Mosq. fin. and Cypr. ep. 70. 1, “catholica fides et religio” in the Mart. Pionii 18. In the earlier Christian literature the word καθολικός occurs in various connections in the following passages: in fragments of the Peratae (Philos. V. 16), and in Herakleon, e.g., in Clement, Strom. IV. 9. 71; in Justin, Dial., 81, 102; Athenag., 27; Theophil., I. 13; Pseudojustin, de monarch. 1, (καθολ. δόξα); Iren., III. 11, 8; Apollon. in Euseb., H. E. IV. 18. 5, Tertull., de fuga 3; adv. Marc. II. 17; IV. 9; Clement, Strom., IV. 15. 97; VI. 6.47; 7. 57; 8. 67. The addition “catholicam” found its way into the symbols of the West only at a comparatively late period. πᾶσαι αἱ ἐκκλησίαι, ἐκκλησίαι κατὰ πᾶσαν πόλιν, ἐκκλησίαι αἱ ἐν κόσμῳ, αἱ ὑφ᾽ οὐράνου, etc. This expression corresponds to the powerful position which the “great Church” (Celsus), or the “old” Church (Clemens Alex.) had attained by the end of the second century, as compared with the Marcionite Church, the school sects, the Christian associations of all kinds, and the independent Christians. This Church, however, was declared to be apostolic, i.e., founded in its present form by Christ through the Apostles. Through this idea, which was supported by the old enthusiastic notion that the Apostles had already proclaimed the Gospel to all the world, it came to be completely forgotten how Christ and his Apostles had exercised their ministry, and an empirical conception of the Church was created in which the idea of a holy life in the Spirit could no longer be the ruling one. It was taught that Christ received from God a law of faith, which, as a new lawgiver, he imparted to the Apostles, and that they, by transmitting the truth of which they were the depositaries, founded the one Catholic Church (Iren. III. 4. I). The latter, being guardian of the apostolic heritage, has the assurance of possessing the Spirit; whereas all communities other than herself, inasmuch as they have not received that deposit, necessarily lack the Spirit and are therefore separated from Christ and salvation.147147Very significant is Tertullian’s expression in adv. Val. 4: “Valentinus de ecclesia authenticæ regulæ abrupit,” (but probably this still refers specially to the Roman Church). Hence one must be a member of this Church in order to be a partaker of salvation, because in her alone one can find the creed which must be recognised as the condition of redemption.148148Tertullian called the Church mother (in Gal. IV. 26 the heavenly Jerusalem is called “mother”); see de orat. 2: “ne mater quidem ecclesia præteritur”, de monog. 7; adv. Marc. V. 4 (the author of the letter in Euseb., H. E. V. 2. 7, I. 45, had already done this before him). In the African Church the symbol was thus worded soon after Tertullian’s time: “credis in remissionem peccatorum et vitam æternam per sanctam ecclesiam” (see Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole, 2nd ed. p. 29 ff.) On the other hand Clement of Alexandria (Strom. VI. 16. 146) rejected the designation of the Church, as “mother”: μήτηρ δέ οὐχ, ὥς τινες ἐκδεδώκασιν, ἡ ἐκκλησία, ἀλλ᾽ ἡ θεία γνώσις καὶ ἡ σοφία (there is a different idea in Pæd. I. 5. 21 and 6. 42: μήτηρ παρθένος· ἐκκλησίαν ἐμοὶ φίλον ἀυτὴν καλεῖν). In the Acta Justini c. 4 the faith is named “mother.” Consequently, in proportion as the faith became a doctrine of faith, the Catholic Church interposed herself as an empiric power between the individual and salvation. She became a condition of salvation; but the result was that she ceased to be a sure communion of the saved and of saints (see on this point the following chapter). It was quite a logical proceeding when about the year 220 Calixtus, a Roman bishop, started the theory that there must be wheat and tares in the Catholic Church and that the Ark of Noah with its clean and unclean beasts was her type.149149Hippol. Philos. IX. 12 p. 460. The departure from the old idea of the Church appears completed in this statement. But the following facts must not be overlooked: — First, the new conception of the Church was not yet a hierarchical one. Secondly, the idea of the union and unity of all believers found here magnificent expression. Thirdly, the development of the communities into one solid Church also represents the creative power of the Christian spirit. Fourthly, through the consolidation effected in the Church by the rule of faith the Christian religion was in some measure preserved from enthusiastic extravagancies and arbitrary misinterpretation. Fifthly, in consequence of the regard for a Church founded on the doctrine of faith the specific significance of redemption by Christ, as distinguished from natural religion and that of the Old Testament, could no longer be lost to believers. Sixthly, the independence of each individual community had a wide scope not only at the end of the second but also in the third century.150150The phraseology of Irenæus is very instructive here. As a rule he still speaks of Churches (in the plural) when he means the empirical Church. It is already otherwise with Tertullian, though even with him the old custom still lingers. Consequently, though the revolution which led to the Catholic Church was a result of the situation of the communities in the world in general and of the struggle with the Gnostics and Marcion in particular, and though it was a fatal error to identify the Catholic and apostolic Churches, this change did not take place without an exalting of the Christian spirit and an awakening of its self-consciousness.
But there was never a time in history when the conception of the Church, as nothing else than the visible communion of those holding the correct apostolic doctrine, was clearly grasped or exclusively emphasised. In Irenæus and Tertullian we rather find, on the one hand, that the old theory of the Church was still to a great extent preserved and, on the other, that the hierarchical notion was already making its appearance. As to the first point, Irenæus frequently asserts that the Spirit and the Church, that is, the Christian people, are inseparable; that the Spirit in divers ways continually effects whatever she needs; that she is the totality of all true believers, that all the faithful have the rank of priests; that outside the holy Church there is no salvation, etc.; in fact these doctrines form the very essence of his teaching. But, since she was also regarded as the visible institution for objectively preserving and communicating the truth, and since the idea of the Church in contradistinction to heresy was necessarily exhausted in this as far as Irenæus was concerned, the old theories of the matter could not operate correctively, but in the end only served to glorify the earthly Catholic Church.151151The most important passages bearing on this are II. 31. 3: III. 24. 1 (see the whole section, but especially: “in ecclesia posuit deus universam operationem spiritus; caius non sunt participes omnes qui non concurrunt ad ecclesiam . . . ubi enim ecclesia, ibi et spiritus dei, et ubi spiritus dei, illic ecclesia et omnis gratia”); III. 11.8: στύλος καὶ στήριγμα ἐκκλησίας τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καὶ πνεῦμα ζωῆς: IV. 8.1: “semen Abrahæ ecclesia”., IV. 8.3: “omnes iusti sacerdotalem habent ordinem”; IV. 36.2: “ubique præclara est ecclesia; ubique enim sunt qui suscipiunt spiritum”; IV. 33.7: ἐκκλησία μέγα καὶ ἔνδοξον σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ; IV. 26. 1 sq.: V. 20. 1.: V. 32.: V. 34.3., “Levitæ et sacerdotes sunt discipuli omnes domini.” The proposition that truth is only to be found in the Church and that she and the Holy Spirit are inseparable must be understood in Irenæus as already referring to the Catholic Church in contradistinction to every other calling itself Christian.152152Hence the repudiation of all those who separate themselves from the Catholic Church (III. 11. 9; 24. 1: IV. 26. 2; 33. 7). As to the second point, it cannot be denied that, though Irenæus desires to maintain that the only essential part of the idea of the Church is the fact of her being the depository of the truth, he was no longer able to confine himself to this (see above). The episcopal succession and the transmission to the bishops of the magisterium of the Apostles were not indeed of any direct importance to his idea of the Church, but they were of consequence for the preservation of truth and therefore indirectly for the idea of the Church also. To Irenæus, however, that theory was still nothing more than an artificial line; but artificial lines are really supports and must therefore soon attain the value of foundations.153153On IV. 33. 7 see Seeberg, l.c., p. 20, who has correctly punctuated the passage, but has weakened its force. The fact that Irenaeus was here able to cite the “antiquus ecclesiæ status in universo mundo et character corporis Christi secundum successiones episcoporum”, etc., as a second and independent item alongside of the apostolic doctrine is, however, a proof that the transition from the idea of the Church, as a community united by a common faith, to that of a hierarchical institution was already revealing itself in his writings. Tertullian’s conception of the Church was essentially the same as that of Irenæus; but with the former the idea that she is the outward manifestation of the Spirit, and therefore a communion of those who are spiritual, at all times continued to operate more powerfully than with the latter. In the last period of his life Tertullian emphasised this theory so vigorously that the Antignostic idea of the Church being based on the “traditio unius sacramenti” fell into the background. Consequently we find nothing more than traces of the hierarchical conception of the Church in Tertullian. But towards the end of his life he found himself face to face with a fully developed theory of this kind. This he most decidedly rejected, and, in doing so, advanced to such a conception of ecclesiastical orders, and therefore also of the episcopate, as clearly involved him in a contradiction of the other theory — which he also never gave up — viz., that the bishops, as the class which transmits the rule of faith, are an apostolic institution and therefore necessary to the Church.154154The Church as a communion of the same faith, that is of the same doctrine, is spoken of in de præscr. 20; de virg. vol. 2. On the other hand we find the ideal spiritual conception in de bapt. 6: “ubi tres, id est pater et filius et spiritus sanctus, ibi ecclesia, quæ trium corpus est”; 8: “columba s. spiritus advolat, pacem dei adferens, emissa de cœlis, ubi ecclesia est arca figurata”; 15: “unus deus et unum baptismum et una ecclesia in cœlis”; de pænit. 10: “in uno et altero ecclesia est, ecelesia vero Christus”; de orat. 28: “nos sumus veri adoratores et veri sacerdotes, qui spiritu orantes spiritu sacrificamus;” Apolog. 39; de exhort. 7: “differentiam inter ordinem et plebem constituit ecclesiæ auctoritas et honor per ordinis consessum sanctificatus. Adeo ubi ecclesiastici ordinis non est consessus, et offers et tinguis et sacerdos es tibi solus. Sed ubi tres, ecclesia est, licet laici” (the same idea, only not so definitely expressed, is already found in de bapt. 17); de monog. 7: “nos autem Iesus summus sacerdos sacerdotes deo patri suo fecit . . . vivit unicus pater noster deus et mater ecclesia, . . certe sacerdotes sumus a Christo vocati”: 12; de pudic. 21: “nam et ipsa ecclesia proprie et principaliter ipse est spiritus, in quo est trinitas unius divinitatis, pater et filius et spiritus sanctus. Illam ecclesiam congregat quam dominus in tribus posuit. Atque ita exinde etiam numerus omnis qui in hanc fidem conspiraverint ecclesia ab auctore et consecratore censetur. Et ideo ecclesia quidem delicta donabit, sed ecclesia spiritus per spiritalem hominem, non ecclesia numerus episcoporum”; de anima 11, 21. Contradictions in detail need not surprise us in Tertullian, since his whole position as a Catholic and as a Montanist is contradictory.
From the disquisitions of Clement of Alexandria we see how vigorous the old conception of the Church, as the heavenly communion of the elect and believing, still continued to be about the year 200. This will not appear strange after what we have already said as to Clement’s views about the rule of faith, the New Testament, and the episcopate. It is evident that his philosophy of religion led him to give a new interpretation to the original ideas. Yet the old form of these notions can be more easily made out from his works than from those of Irenæus.155155The notion that the true Gnostic can attain the same position as the Apostles also preserved Clement from thrusting the ideal conception of the Church into the background. Up to the 15th Chapter of the 7th Book of his great work, the Stromateis, and in the Pædagogus, Clement simply speaks of the Church in the sense of the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Shepherd of Hermas. She is a heavenly formation, continued in that which appears on earth as her image. Instead of distinguishing two Churches Clement sees one, the product of God’s will aiming at the salvation of man — a Church which is to be on earth as it is in heaven, and of which faith forms the subjective and the Logos the objective bond of union. But, beginning with Strom. VII. 15 (see especially 17), where he is influenced by opposition to the heretics, he suddenly identifies this Church with the single old Catholic one, that is, with the visible “Church” in opposition to the heretic sects. Thus the empirical interpretation of the Church, which makes her the institution in possession of the true doctrine, was also completely adopted by Clement; but as yet he employed it simply in polemics and not in positive teachings. He neither reconciled nor seemingly felt the contradiction in the statement that the Church is to be at one and the same time the assembly of the elect and the empiric universal Church. At any rate he made as yet no unconditional acknowledgment of the Catholic Church, because he was still able to attribute independent value to Gnosis, that is, to independent piety as he understood it.156156Some very significant remarks are found in Clement about the Church which is the object of faith. See Pæd. I. 5. 18, 21; 6. 27: ὡς γὰρ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐργον ἐστὶ καὶ τοῦτο κόσμος ὀνομάζεται, οὕτω καὶ τὸ βούλημα αὐτοῦ ἀνθρώπων ἐστὶ σωτηρία, καὶ τοῦτο ἐκκλησία κέκληται — here an idea which Hermas had in his mind (see Vol. I., p. 180. note 4) is pregnantly and excellently expressed. Strom. II. 12. 55; IV. 8. 66: εἰκὼν τῆς οὐρανίου ἐκκλησίας ἡ ἐπίγειος, διόπερ εὐχόμεθα καὶ ἐπί γῆς γενέσθαι τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ; IV. 26. 172: ἡ ἐκκλησία ὑπὸ λόγου ἀπολιόρκητος ἀτυράννητος πόλις ἐπὶ γῆς, θέλημα θεῖον ἐπὶ γῆς, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ; VI. 13. 106, 107; VI. 14. 108: ἡ ἀνωτάτω ἐκκλησία, καθ᾽ ἥν ὁι φιλόσοφοι συνάγονται τοῦ Θεοῦ; VII. 5. 29: πῶς οὐ κυρίως τὴν ἐις τιμὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ κατ᾽ ἐπίγνωσιν ἁγίαν γενομένην ἐκκλησίαν ιἑρὸν ἂν ἔιποιμεν Θεοῦ τὸ πολλοῦ ἄξιον . . . ὀυ γὰρ νῦν τὸν τόπον, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἄθροισμα τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν ἐκκλησίαν καλῶ; VII. 6. 32; VII. I. 68: ἡ πνευμαρικὴ ἐκκλησία. The empirical conception of the Church is most clearly formulated in VII. 17. 107; we may draw special attention to the following sentences: φανερὸν οἶμαι γεγενῆσθαι μίαν εἶναι τὴν ἀληθῆ ἐκκλησίαν τὴν τῷ ὄντι ἀρχάιαν, εἰς ἥν ὁι κατὰ πρόθεσιν δίκαιοι ἐγκαταλέγονται, ἑνὸς γὰρ ὄντος τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ ἑνὸς τοῦ κυρίου . . . τῇ γοῦν τοῦ ἑνὸς φύσει συγκληροῦται ἐκκλησία ἡ μία, ἣν εἰς πολλὰς κατατέμνειν βιάζονται αἱρέσεις. Consequently, as regards the conception of the Church, the mystic Gnosis exercised the same effect as the old religious enthusiasm from which in other respects it differs so much.157157It may, however, be noted that the old eschatological aim has fallen into the background in Clement’s conception of the Church. The hierarchy has still no significance as far as Clement’s idea of the Church is concerned.158158A significance of this kind is suggested by the notion that the orders in the earthly Church correspond to those in the heavenly one; but this idea, which afterwards became so important in the East, was turned to no further account by Clement. In his view the “Gnostics” are the highest stage in the Church. See Bigg, l.c., p. l00. At first Origen entirely agrees with Clement in regard to this conception. He also starts with the theory that the Church is essentially a heavenly communion and a holy communion of believers, and keeps this idea constantly before him.159159De princip. IV. 2. 2: ἡ οὐράνιος ἐκκλησία; Hom. IX. in Exod. c. 3: “ecclesia credentium plebs”; Hom. XI. in Lev. c. 5; Hom. VI. in Lev. c. 5; ibid. Hom. IX.: “omni ecclesiæ dei et credentium populo sacerdotium datum.”: T.XIV. in Mt. c. 17: c. Cels. VI. 48: VI. 79; Hom. VII. in Lk.; and de orat. 31 a twofold Church is distinguished (ὥστε εἶναι ἐπι τῶν ἁγίων συναθροιζομένων διπλῆν ἐκκλησίαν τὴν μὲν ἀνθρώπων, τὴν δὲ ἀγγέλων). Nevertheless Origen does not assume two Churches, but, like Clement, holds that there is only one, part of which is already in a state of perfection and part still on earth. But it is worthy of note that the ideas of the heavenly hierarchy are already more developed in Origen (de princip. I. 7). He adopted the old speculation about the origin of the Church (see Papias, fragm. 6; 2 Clem. XIV.). Socrates (H. E. III. 7) reports that Origen, in the 9th vol. of his commentary on Genesis, compared Christ with Adam and Eve with the Church, and remarks that Pamphilus’ apology for Origen stated that this allegory was not new: ὀυ πρῶτον Ὠριγένην ἐπὶ ταύτην τὴν πραγματείαν ἐλθεῖν φασίν, ἀλλὰ τὴν τῆς ἐκκλησίας μυστικὴν ἑρμηνεῦσαι παράδοσιν. A great many more of these speculations are to be found in the 3rd century. See, e.g., the Acts of Peter and Paul 29. When opposing heretics, he also, like Clement, cannot help identifying her with the Catholic Church, because the latter contains the true doctrine, though he likewise refrains from acknowledging any hierarchy.160160De princip. IV. 2. 2; Hom. III. in Jesu N. 5: “nemo tibi persuadeat; nemo semetipsum decipiat: extra ecclesiam nemo salvatur.” The reference is to the Catholic Church which Origen also calls τὸ ὅλον σῶμα τῶν συναγωγῶν τῆς ἐκκλησίας. But Origen is influenced by two further considerations, which are scarcely hinted at in Clement, but which were called forth by the actual course of events and signified a further development in the idea of the Church. For, in the first place, Origen saw himself already compelled to examine closely the distinction between the essence and the outward appearance of the Church, and, in this process, reached results which again called in question the identification of the Holy Church with the empiric Catholic one (see on this point the following chapter). Secondly, in consequence of the extraordinary extension and powerful position attained by the Catholic Church by the time of Philip the Arabian, Origen, giving a new interpretation to a very old Christian notion and making use of a Platonic conception,161161Hermas (Sim. I.) has spoken of the “city of God” (see also pseudo-Cyprian’s tractate “de pascha computus”); but for him it lies in Heaven and is the complete contrast of the world. The idea of Plato here referred to is to be found in his Republic. arrived at the idea that she was the earthly Kingdom of God, destined to enter the world, to absorb the Roman Empire and indeed all mankind, and to unite and take the place of the various secular states.162162See c. Cels. VIII. 68-75. This magnificent idea, which regards the Church as κόσμος τοῦ κόσμου,163163Comment. in Joh. VI. 38. denoted indeed a complete departure from the original theory of the subject, determined by eschatological considerations; though we must not forget that Origen still demanded a really holy Church and a new polity. Hence, as he also distinguishes the various degrees of connection with the Church,164164Accordingly he often speaks in a depreciatory way of the ὄχλος τῆς ἐκκλησίας (the ignorant) without accusing them of being unchristian (this is very frequent in the books c. Cels., but is also found elsewhere). we already find in his theory a combination of all the features that became essential parts of the conception of the Church in subsequent times, with the exception of the clerical element.165165Origen, who is Augustine’s equal in other respects also, and who anticipated many of the problems considered by the latter, anticipated prophetically this Father’s view of the City of God — of course as a hope (c. Cels. viii. 68 f.). The Church is also viewed as τὸ κατὰ Θεον πολίτευμα in Euseb., H. E. V. Præf. § 4, and at an earlier period in Clement.
3. The contradictory notions of the Church, for so they appear to us, in Iremeus and Clement and still more in Tertullian and Origen, need not astonish any one who bears in mind that none of these Fathers made the Church the subject of a theological theory.166166This was not done even by Origen, for in his great work “de principiis” we find no section devoted to the Church. Hence no one as yet thought of questioning the old article: I believe in a holy Church.” But, at the same time, actual circumstances, though they did not at first succeed in altering the Church’s belief, forced her to realise her changed position, for she had in point of fact become an association which was founded on a definite law of doctrine and rejected everything that did not conform to it. The identifying of this association with the ideal Church was a matter of course,167167It is frequently represented in Protestant writers that the mistake consisted in this identification, whereas, if we once admit this criticism, the defect is rather to be found in the development itself which took place in the Church, that is, in its secularisation. No one thought of the desperate idea of an invisible Church; this notion would probably have brought about a lapse from pure Christianity far more rapidly than the idea of the Holy Catholic Church. but it was quite as natural to take no immediate theoretical notice of the identification except in cases where it was absolutely necessary, that is, in polemics. In the latter case the unity of faith and hope became the unity of the doctrine of faith, and the Church was, in this instance, legitimised by the possession of the apostolic tradition instead of by the realising of that tradition in heart and life. From the principle that had been set up it necessarily followed that the apostolic inheritance on which the truth and legitimacy of the Church was based, could not but remain an imperfect court of appeal until living authorities could be pointed to in this court, and until every possible cause of strife and separation was settled by reference to it. An empirical community cannot be ruled by a traditional written word, but only by persons; for the written law will always separate and split. If it has such persons, however, it can tolerate within it a great amount of individual differences, provided that the leaders subordinate the interests of the whole to their own ambition. We have seen how Irenæus and Tertullian, though they in all earnestness represented the fides catholica and ecclesia catholica as inseparably connected,168168Both repeatedly and very decidedly declared that the unity of faith (the rule of faith) is sufficient for the unity of the Church, and that in other things there must be freedom (see above all Tertull., de orat., de bapt., and the Montanist writings). It is all the more worthy of note that, in the case of a question in which indeed the customs of the different countries were exceedingly productive of confusion, but which was certainly not a matter of faith, it was again a bishop of Rome, and that as far back as the 2nd century, who first made the observance of the Roman practice a condition of the unity of the Church and treated non-conformists as heterodox (Victor; see Euseb., H. E. V. 24). On the other hand Irenæus says: ἡ διαφωνία τῆς νηστέιας τὴν ὁμόνοιαν τῆς πίστεως συνίστησι. were already compelled to have recourse to bishops in order to ensure the apostolic doctrine. The conflicts within the sphere of the rule of faith, the struggles with the so-called Montanism, but finally and above all, the existing situation of the Church in the third century with regard to the world within her pale, made the question of organisation the vital one for her. Tertullian and Origen already found themselves face to face with episcopal claims of which they highly disapproved and which, in their own way, they endeavoured to oppose. It was again the Roman bishop169169On Calixtus see Hippolyt., Philos. IX. 12, and Tertull., de pudic. who first converted the proposition that the bishops are direct successors of the Apostles and have the same “locus magisterii” (“place of government”) into a theory which declares that all apostolic powers have devolved on the bishops and that these have therefore peculiar rights and duties in virtue of their office.170170See on the other hand Tertull., de monog., but also Hippol., l.c. Cyprian added to this the corresponding theory of the Church. In one decisive point, however, he did not assist the secularising process which had been completed by the Roman bishop, in the interest of Catholicity as well as in that of the Church’s existence (see the following chapter). In the second half of the third century there were no longer any Churches, except remote communities, where the only requirement was to preserve the Catholic faith; the bishops had to be obeyed. The idea of the one episcopally organised Church became the main one and overshadowed the significance of the doctrine of faith as a bond of unity. The Church based on the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, the vicegerents of God, is herself the legacy of the Apostles in virtue of this her foundation. This idea was never converted into a rigid theory in the East, though the reality to which it corresponded was not the less certain on that account. The fancy that the earthly hierarchy was the image of the heavenly was the only part that began to be taken in real earnest. In the West, on the other hand, circumstances compelled the Carthaginian bishop to set up a finished theory.171171Cyprian’s idea of the Church, an imitation of the conception of a political empire, viz., one great aristocratically governed state with an ideal head, is the result of the conflicts through which he passed. It is therefore first found in a complete form in the treatise “de unitate ecclesiæ” and, above all, in his later epistles (Epp. 43 sq. ed. Hartel). The passages in which Cyprian defines Church as “constituta in episcopo et in clero et in omnibus credentibus” date from an earlier period, when he himself essentially retained the old idea of the subject. Moreover, he never regarded those elements as similar and of equal value. The limitation of the Church to the community ruled by bishops was the result of the Novatian crisis. The unavoidable necessity of excluding orthodox Christians from the ecclesiastical communion, or, in other words, the fact that such orthodox Christians had separated themselves from the majority guided by the bishops, led to the setting up of a new theory of the Church, which therefore resulted from stress of circumstances just as much as the antignostic conception of the matter held by Irenæus. Cyprian’s notion of the relation between the whole body of the Church and the episcopate may, however, be also understood as a generalisation of the old theory about the connection between the individual community and the bishop. This already contained an œcumenical element, for, in fact, every separate community was regarded as a copy of the one Church, and its bishop therefore as the representative of God (Christ). According to Cyprian, the Catholic Church, to which all the lofty predictions and predicates in the Bible apply (see Hartel’s index under “ecclesia”), is the one institution of salvation outside of which there is no redemption (ep. 73. 21). She is this, moreover, not only as the community possessing the true apostolic faith, for this definition does not exhaust her conception, but as a harmoniously organised federation.172172We need only quote one passage here — but see also epp. 69. 3, 7 sq.: 70. 2: 73. 8–ep. 55. 24: “Quod vero ad Novatiani personam pertinet, scias nos primo in loco nec curiosos esse debere quid ille doceat, cum foris docent; quisquis ille est et qualiscunque est, christianus non est, qui in Christi ecclesia non est.” In the famous sentence (ep. 74. 7; de unit. 6): “habere non potest deum patrem qui ecclesiam non habet matrem,” we must understand the Church held together by the sacramentum unitatis, i.e., by her constitution. Cyprian is fond of referring to Korah’s faction, who nevertheless held the same faith as Moses. This Church therefore rests entirely on the episcopate, which sustains her,173173Epp. 4. 4: 33. 1: “ecclesia super episcopos constituta”; 43. 5: 45. 3: “unitatem a domino et per apostolos nobis successoribus traditam”; 46. 1: 66. 8: “scire debes episcopum in ecclesia esse et ecclesiam in episcopo et si qui cum episcopo non sit in ecclesia non esse”; de unit. 4. because it is the continuance of the apostolic office and is equipped with all the power of the Apostles.174174According to Cyprian the bishops are the sacerdotes κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν and the iudices vice Christi. See epp. 59. 5: 66. 3 as well as c. 4: “Christus dicit ad apostolos ac per hoc ad omnes præpositos, qui apostolis vicaria ordinatione succedunt: qui audit vos me audit.” Ep. 3. 3: “dominus apostolos, i. e., episcopos elegit”; ep. 75. 16. Accordingly, the union of individuals with the Church, and therefore with Christ, is effected only by obedient dependence on the bishop, i.e., such a connection alone makes one a member of the Church. But the unity of the Church, which is an attribute of equal importance with her truth, because this union is only brought about by love,175175That is a fundamental idea and in fact the outstanding feature of the treatise “de unitate”. The heretics and schismatics lack love, whereas the unity of the Church is the product of love, this being the main Christian virtue. That is the ideal thought on which Cyprian builds his theory (see also epp. 45. 1: 55. 24: 69. 1 and elsewhere), and not quite wrongly, in so far as his purpose was to gather and preserve, and not scatter. The reader may also recall the early Christian notion that Christendom should be a band of brethren ruled by love. But this love ceases to have any application to the case of those who are disobedient to the authority of the bishop and to Christians of the sterner sort. The appeal which Catholicism makes to love, even at the present day, in order to justify its secularised and tyrannical Church, turns in the mouth of hierarchical politicians into hypocrisy, of which one would like to acquit a man of Cyprian’s stamp. primarily appears in the unity of the episcopate. For, according to Cyprian, the episcopate has been from its beginning undivided and has continued to be so in the Church, in so far as the bishops are appointed and guided by God, are on terms of brotherly intercourse and exchange, and each bishop represents the whole significance of the episcopate.176176Ep. 43. 5: 55. 24: “episcopatus unus episcoporum multorum concordi numerositate diffusus”; de unit. 5: “episcopatus unus est, cuius a singulis in solidum pars tenetur.” Strictly speaking Cyprian did not set up a theory that the bishops were directed by the Holy Spirit, but in identifying Apostles and bishops and asserting the divine appointment of the latter he took for granted their special endowment with the Holy Spirit. Moreover, he himself frequently appealed to special communications he had received from the Spirit as aids in discharging his official duties. Hence the individual bishops are no longer to be considered primarily as leaders of their special communities, but as the foundation of the one Church. Each of these prelates, however, provided he keeps within the association of the bishops, preserves the independent right of regulating the circumstances of his own diocese.177177Cyprian did not yet regard uniformity of Church practice as a matter of moment — or rather he knew that diversities must be tolerated. In so far as the concordia episcoporum was consistent with this diversity, he did not interfere with the differences, provided the regula fidei was adhered to. Every bishop who adheres to the confederation has the greatest freedom even in questions of Church discipline and practice (as for instance in the baptismal ceremonial); see ep. 59. 14: “Singulis pastoribus portio gregis est adscripta, quam regit unusquisque et gubernat rationem sui actus domino redditurus”; 55. 21: “Et quidem apud antecessores nostros quidam de episcopis istic in provincia nostra dandam pacis mœchis non putaverunt et in totem pænitentiæ locum contra adulteria cluserunt, non tamen a co-episcoporum suorum collegio recesserunt aut catholicæ ecclesiæ unitatem ruperunt, ut quia apud alios adulteris pax dabatur, qui non dabat de ecclesia separaretur.” According to ep. 57. 5 Catholic bishops, who insist on the strict practice of penance, but do not separate themselves from the unity of the Church, are left to the judgment of God. It is different in the case referred to in ep. 68, for Marcion had formally joined Novatian. Even in the disputed question of heretical baptism (ep. 72. 3) Cyprian declares to Stephen (See 69. 17: 3. 26; Sententiæ episc., præfat.): “qua in re nec nos vim cuiquam facimus aut legem damus, quando habeat in ecclesiæ administratione voluntatis suæ arbitrium liberum unusquisque præpositus, rationem actus sui domino redditurus.” It is therefore plain wherein the unity of the episcopate and the Church actually consists; we may say that it is found in the regula, in the fixed purpose not to give up the unity in spite of all differences, and in the principle of regulating all the affairs of the Church “ad originem dominicam et ad evangelicam adque apostolicam traditionem” (ep. 74. 10). This refers to the New Testament, which Cyprian emphatically insisted on making the standard for the Church. It must be taken as the guide, “si in aliquo in ecclesia nutaverit et vacillaverit veritas”; by it, moreover, all false customs are to be corrected. In the controversy about heretical baptism, the alteration of Church practice in Carthage and Africa, which was the point in question — for whilst in Asia heretical baptism had for a very long time been declared invalid (see ep. 75. 19) this had only been the case in Carthage for a few years — was justified by Cyprian through an appeal to veritas in contrast to consuetudo sine veritate. See epp. 71. 2, 3: 73. 13, 23: 74. 2 sq.: 9 (the formula originates with Tertullian; see de virg. vel. 1-3). The veritas, however, is to be learned from the Gospel and words of the Apostles: “Lex evangelii”, “præcepta dominica”, and synonymous expressions are very frequent in Cyprian, more frequent than reference to the regula or to the symbol. In fact there was still no Church dogmatic, there being only principles of Christian faith and life, which, however, were taken from the Holy Scriptures and the regula. But it also follows that the bishops of those communities founded by the Apostles themselves can raise no claim to any special dignity, since the unity of the episcopate as a continuation of the apostolic office involves the equality of all bishops.178178Cyprian no longer makes any distinction between Churches founded by Apostles, and those which arose later (that is, between their bishops). However, a special importance attaches to the Roman see, because it is the seat of the Apostle to whom Christ first granted apostolic authority in order to show with unmistakable plainness the unity of these powers and the corresponding unity of the Church that rests on them; and further because, from her historical origin, the Church of this see had become the mother and root of the Catholic Church spread over the earth. In a severe crisis which Cyprian had to pass through in his own diocese he appealed to the Roman Church (the Roman bishop) in a manner which made it appear as if communion with that Church was in itself the guarantee of truth. But in the controversy about heretical baptism with the Roman bishop Stephen, he emphatically denied the latter’s pretensions to exercise special rights over the Church in consequence of the Petrine succession.179179The statement that the Church is “super Petrum fundata” is very frequently made by Cyprian (we find it already in Tertullian, de monog.); see de habitu virg. 10; Epp. 59. 7: 66. 8: 71. 3: 74. 11: 73. 7. But on the strength of Matth. XVI. he went still farther; see ep. 43. 5: “deus unus est et Christus unus et una ecclesia et cathedra una super Petrum domini voce fundata”; ep. 48. 3 (ad Cornel.): “communicatio tua, id est catholicæ ecclesiæ unitas pariter et caritas”; de unit. 4: “superunum ædificat ecclesiam, et quamvis apostolis omnibus post resurrectionem suam parem potestatem tribuat, tamen ut unitatem manifestaret, unitatis eiusdem originem ab uno incipientem sua auctoritate disposuit”; ep. 70. 3: “una ecclesia a Christo domino nostro super Petrum origine unitatis et ratione fundata” (“with regard to the origin and constitution of the unity” is the translation of this last passage in the “Stimmen aus Maria Laach,” 1877, part 8, p. 355; but “ratio” cannot mean that); ep. 73. 7: “Petro primum dominus, super quem ædificavit ecclesiam et unde unitatis originem instituit et ostendit, potestatem istam dedit.” The most emphatic passages are ep. 48. 3, where the Roman Church is called “matrix et radix ecclesiæ catholicæ” (the expression “radix et mater” in ep. 45. I no doubt also refers to her), and ep. 59. 14: “navigare audent et ad Petri cathedram atque ad ecclesiam principalem, unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est, ab schismaticis et profanis litteras ferre nec cogitare eos esse Romanos, quorum fides apostolo prædicante laudata est (see epp. 30. 2, 3: 60. 2), ad quos perfidia habere non possit accessum.” We can see most clearly from epp. 67. 5 and 68 what rights were in point of fact exercised by the bishop of Rome. But the same Cyprian says quite naïvely, even at the time when he exalted the Roman cathedra so highly (ep. 52. 2), “quoniam pro magnitudine sua debeat Carthaginem Roma præcedere.” In the controversy about heretical baptism Stephen like Calixtus (Tertull., de pudic. I) designated himself, on the ground of the successio Petri and by reference to Matth. XVI., in such a way that one might suppose he wished to be regarded as “episcopus episcoporum” (Sentent. epist. in Hartel I., p. 436). He expressly claimed a primacy and demanded obedience from the “ecclesiæ novellæ et posteræ” (ep. 71. 3). Like Victor he endeavoured to enforce the Roman practice “tyrannico terrore” and insisted that the unitas ecclesiæ required the observance of this Church’s practice in all communities. But Cyprian opposed him in the most decided fashion, and maintained the principle that every bishop, as a member of the episcopal confederation based on the regula and the Holy Scriptures, is responsible for his practice to God alone. This he did in a way which left no room for any special and actual authority of the Roman see alongside of the others. Besides, he expressly rejected the conclusions drawn by Stephen from the admittedly historical position of the Roman see (ep. 71.3): “Petrus non sibi vindicavit aliquid insolenter aut adroganter adsumpsit, ut diceret se principatum tenere et obtemperari a novellis et posteris sibi potius oportere.” Firmilian, ep. 75, went much farther still, for he indirectly declares the successio Petri claimed by Stephen to be of no importance (c. 17), and flatly denies that the Roman Church has preserved the apostolic tradition in a specially faithful way. See Otto Ritschl, 1.c., pp. 92 ff., 110-141. In his conflict with Stephen Cyprian unmistakably took up a position inconsistent with his former views as to the significance of the Roman see for the Church, though no doubt these were ideas he had expressed at a critical time when he stood shoulder to shoulder with the Roman bishop Cornelius. Finally, although Cyprian exalted the unity of the organisation of the Church above the unity of the doctrine of faith, he preserved the Christian element so far as to assume in all his statements that the bishops display a moral and Christian conduct in keeping with their office, and that otherwise they have ipso facto forfeited it.180180See specially epp. 65, 67, 68. Thus, according to Cyprian, the episcopal office does not confer any indelible character, though Calixtus and other. bishops of Rome after him presupposed this attribute. (For more details on this point, as well as with regard to the contradictions that remain unreconciled in Cyprian’s conception of the Church, see the following chapter, in which will be shown the ultimate interests that lie at the basis of the new idea of the Church).
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