Joshua LumpkinCHHI 301-D0124 April 2011
Rise of the Papacy
380, Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity to be the official religion of theRoman Empire. Not long after this, in an effort to normalize Christianity, the bishops establisheda chain of command within its leadership structure that would become known as the Patriarchs,with the bishop of Rome at the top, known as the Pope.
Although it would not be instituted untilthe eleventh century by Pope Gregory VII, the title of pope—a derivative of the Latin wordmeaning “father”—had been used since the early church to refer to bishops in the EasternChurch.
Besides the Pope, the Patriarchs included the bishops of Alexandria, Antioch,Jerusalem, and Constantinople. This standardization of Christianity would be a first stride in the proliferation of authority being vested in the Roman popes, a long-awaited victory after centuriesof Christian persecution.The papacy began with Peter, a disciple of Jesus, who is considered to be the first of theRoman popes, because of the charge given to him by Christ.
Nearly all scholars concede thatPeter visited Rome, and that he likely died there. A notable successor of Peter was Clement,though it is unclear whether or not Clement followed Peter immediately.
What is undeniable isthat throughout the times of the early church, leading up to the end of the fourth century
,Christianity suffered round after round of persecution. It appears that the moment one persecution was being laid to rest, another arose. This created in the hearts of Christians not onlya deep-seated fear of government authority, but a devotion to and an utter reliance upon each
Jerry H. Bentley and Herbert F. Ziegler,
Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past, 2
(New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2003): 318.
J. Van Engen, “Papacy,”
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001): 888.
Justo L. Gonzalez,
The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation
(New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1984): 282.