What is Apostolic Succession?

Bill Duer's picture

Apostolic Succession

I have no personal agenda to support by exchanging points of view (arguing). I would like to respond to your sentence "For many of us, the legitimacy and validation of what we are all doing comes right from the biblical writers....". In as much as most of the New Testament was "put together" by Church leaders more than a hundred years after John, the last to die. I would suggest your position is based purely on Faith, not a recognizing of the the completeness and authority of the Books or the lack thereof, as is now accepted as the "final" version. Now, a position which I find as mostly defensible by Christians is relying purely on the words of Jesus Christ and not of the Apostles who followed after the Resurrection. Each had his own "agenda", Peter remaining true to his Jewish lineage and Paul the Greek Jew. As we know from Acts, there was a considerable difference between many of the original church workers as to what Christianity was and what was to be taught to Jews and Gentiles. Such Differences exist to today. PreReformation Christians (Catholic et al ) and Post-Reformation Christians, that is those who might be best described as Protestant et al.
On the other hand, it only seems to make sense, reading the writings of the early Christian Fathers (See the history of the Church by Eusebius), that from the very beginning it was recognized that there was an early need for an organization to defend the Church from the Gnostics, mystery religions, and others from all sides in Rome. For an organization to function there had to be a leader and there are quite a number of reliable records to document who those leaders were from the earliest days during the last days of Peter and Paul. These leaders were spoken to by Paul as Bishops. There was a Bishop in almost every population center from North Africa to Greece to Rome in what is now Italy.
It just so happens that the Bishops of Rome were most close to the emperors and looked to as the Bishop with the
greatest authority to make day to day decisions. The first Roman Bishop received his authority from the leaders of
the new Church and he became what we now refer to as the pope. Since that time the pope has had the authority to name other notable church leaders as bishops as well. And each Bishop had the authority to consecrate other bishops as well. It is the tracing of this lineage back to the first bishop of Rome that results in apostolic succession. I have a list somewhere in my files of such a list which has grown over 2000 years to be quite a few pages of length. Jesus himself felt the need to have a select group of apostles to whom he gave authority not given to any other person. Roman Catholics apparently see apostolic succession as carrying on the work of Jesus in a manner he chose himself. This is of course all documented in the New Testament, especially Hebrews. Excuse my paraphrasing of history but I believe the basic points offered can be substantiated by historical records.
All this being said, the failings of the various Popes as documented in the history of the Church led to the Reformation and ultimately to a belief system similar to that which you seem to hold.
Thank you for reading and I welcome any critique or questioning of the points I tried to make. I am an old man and
tend to make slips especially when I am trying to rely on my memory of past reading. Nothing I have said is meant to
any way to challenge any other person as to their belief systems.