Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter XXXII.—None of the Heretics Claim Succession from the Apostles. New Churches Still Apostolic, Because Their Faith is that Which the Apostles Taught and Handed Down. The Heretics Challenged to Show Any Apostolic Credentials.

But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records 2181 of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs 2182 ] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,—a man, moreover, who continued stedfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit 2183 their registers: 2184 as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. 2185 In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive 2186 something of the same kind. For after their blasphemy, what is there that is unlawful for them (to attempt)? But should they even effect the contrivance, they will not advance a step. For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles, will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man; because, as the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory, so the apostolic men would not have inculcated teaching different from the apostles, unless they who received their instruction from the apostles went and preached in a contrary manner. To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof 2187 by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine. 2188 Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two 2189 tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith. 2190



Origines, “the originals” (Dodgson).


Ille. A touch of irony occurs in the phrase “primus ille episcopus.”






[Linus and Cletus must have died or been martyred, therefore, almost as soon as appointed. Our author had seen these registers, no doubt.]




Probabuntur. Another reading is provocabuntur, “will be challenged.” [Not to one particular See, but to all the Apostolic churches: Quod ubique.]


Pro consanguinitate doctrinæ.


That is, the succession of bishops from the apostles, and the identity of doctrine with the apostolic.



Next: Present Heresies (Seedlings of the Tares Noted by the Sacred Writers) Already Condemned in Scripture.  This Descent of Later Heresy from the Earlier Traced in Several Instances.