Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Philippians - a Problem for “the Church has Always been Catholic” Roman Catholicism

There are two problems, one major and one minor, for a certain stream of Roman Catholicism, in the first verse of Philippians.  There are different streams of Roman Catholicism.  One popular stream of Roman Catholicism tries to assert that "the Church has always been Roman Catholic."  Typically, they would just use "Catholic" but their meaning is that they think their church represents an unchanged version of Christianity.  That's not the only stream of Roman Catholic thought.  There are other Roman Catholic views that would recognize the papacy as a development, as something that didn't exist in the earliest days, but eventually developed.

The two problems are for the first stream.  First, here is the verses.

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Notice that Paul is writing to the Christians at Philippi, an important Roman colony city.  This city has not just a single bishop in a monoepiscopate.  Instead, the city has plurality of bishops.  The monoepiscopacy was a very natural development (and we see it happening even in some Protestant churches), but it is a merely human tradition, not an apostolic tradition.

Likewise, notice that Timothy is the natural successor of Paul.  Timothy is not one of the apostles, but he appears in Philippians as Paul's co-author (Philippians 1:1) and messenger (Philippians 1:1), and Timothy also appears as Paul's co-worker in Romans (Romans 16:21) as Paul's messenger to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17 and 16:10), as a fellow preacher with Paul and Silvanus in Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:19), as Paul's messenger to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2) and from Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:6), as the recipient of two personal epistles of Paul (1 & 2 Timothy), and as the companion of the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 13:23), which is often ascribed to Paul.  Moreover, Timothy is co-author of 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:1), Colossians (Colossians 1:1), 1 Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:1), 2 Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:1), and Philemon (Philemon 1).  Who among the second generation of the church is more noted than Timothy? Certainly not the alleged successor of Peter at Rome, Linus or his alleged successor Anacletus/Cletus.

This is a less direct problem for Roman Catholicism, but it should give pause to folks who think that the Bible reflects an early "Roman Catholic" church. 

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