The Papacy

The Monarchial Episcopate

by Mark Bonocore


Aside from this, Mr, White attempts to remind us again and again that 1 Clement to the Corinthians does not attribute its authorship to Clement of Rome (4th Bishop of Rome) himself, but is written in the name of the church of Rome, and so supposedly cannot be used to argue for a 1st Century Roman bishop. For example, White writes:

Remember that the title is traditional: the epistle does not give a name of the writer(s).

Well, that's very true, Mr. White. Yet, neither does the Gospel of Matthew. So, are you saying that the Apostle Matthew didn't write it? Also, neither do the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John. So, are you saying that we should doubt that Mark, Luke, and John wrote those Gospels? If not, Mr. White, then upon what basis do you dispute the authorship of 1 Clement?

Indeed. As with 1 Clement, the Apostolic authorship of the 4 Gospels rests **totally** upon very early and reliable oral Tradition; and we find historical documentation of the Traditional authorship for **both** 1 Clement **and** the 4 Gospels presented in the **very same** early sources. For example, the strongest early documentation we possess for the authorship of the 4 Gospels comes to us from the aforementioned St. Ireneaus of Lyon (writing in about 180 A.D.), in which he says:

"Matthew also issued among the Hebrews a written Gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were evangelizing in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the Law and the Prophets; and one Christ the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics. (Against the Heresies 3, 1:1 --180 A.D.)

And this **same** St. Ireneaus of Lyon, in the very **same** book (Against the Heresies), also speaks of 1 Clement to the Corinthians, writing:

"The blessed Apostles (Peter & Paul), then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, **in the third place from the Apostles**, CLEMENT was allotted the **bishopric**. This man, as he had seen the blessed Apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the Apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their Traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the Apostles. ***In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful epistle to the Corinthians***, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the Tradition which it had lately received from the Apostles ... To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus ..." (Against the Heresies 3)

Here, please note a couple things: First of all, St. Ireneaus speaks of the authorship of 1 Clement while tracing the succession of monarchial Roman bishops from the Apostles (a historical reality that Mr. White does not acknowledge). Secondly, St. Ireneaus clearly says that the epistle in question was dispatched by the Roman church with Clement acting as its bishop.

Now, Mr. White will no doubt call all this "anachronism" or perhaps, as his very thesis suggests, accuse St. Ireneaus and his fellow 2nd Century defenders of the monarchial episcopate of 'fabricating history.' Yet, Mr. White cannot do this without also calling into question the authorship of the Gospels themselves!

Indeed. When it comes to the authorship of 1 Clement, there is **not one** ancient source which disputes that St. Clement of Rome is the epistle's author or that speaks of the epistle apart from St. Clement's office as monarchial bishop of Rome. For example, even the ancient Corinthians themselves who, if anyone, should know who to thank for restoring their threatened unity, always spoke of St. Clement as both the epistle's author and primate of the Roman city-church. For example, in about 170 A.D., ten years before Ireneaus wrote his Against the Heresies, we have St. Dionysius of Corinth writing to St. Soter, Bishop of Rome, to thank him for issuing a letter of instruction. And, of this letter, he says:

"Today we kept the Holy Day, the Lord's Day (Sunday), and on it we read your letter (i.e., Soter of Rome's epistle). And we shall ever have it with us to give us instruction, EVEN AS THE FORMER ONE WRITTEN THROUGH CLEMENT." (Dionysius Epistle to Pope Soter in Eusebius H.E.)

So, here again, we see 1 Clement attributed to St. Clement of Rome himself, who is equated with St. Soter as the monarchial bishop of Rome. And so, if Mr. White wishes to dispute the authorship of 1 Clement or St. Clement's role as a monarchial leader of the 1st Century church of Rome, I challenge him to produce one shed of ancient evidence which, in any way, denies these things. Which is something he will never do, because he cannot. The unanimous witness of the ancient Church is clear.

Mark Bonocore
Catholic Apologist
August 27, 2002