Tuesday 4 July 2006


Bob Thiel responded to the Heavy Canon Fire posting by protesting loudly: "As far as those "mythical COG leaders of the apostolic age"--these leaders were NOT mythical. There is more information about some of them than there are about most of the early leaders in the Apostolic Succession lists of the Romans and especially the Orthodox."

Clicking across to Bob's list of apostolic COG leaders was enlightening. He starts off with the usual suspects: Peter, Paul, James & John. Uh huh. Well, let's be clear, every Christian sect claims these figures as their own.

Then Bob pulls together a list of early church luminaries who, in his view, are authentic COG Christians. They include Papias, Polycarp, Melito of Sardis and some more obscure names.

I realize that this won't be the most riveting subject for most readers, so to cut to the quick, there is absolutely no evidence that any of these characters championed COG distinctives such as the Sabbath (though Bob tries to prove otherwise.) The best he can do is demonstrate that they were 'Quartodecimans', keeping Easter on the Passover dates. Big deal, so did the entire Eastern Church at that time. Bob spins this by writing: Easter was not observed by the second century Christians in Asia Minor, such as Polycarp. He and others observed Passover.

No Bob. They kept Easter on the Passover dates.

Let's have a quick look at Polycarp. He was a bishop in Turkey. Bob desperately wants to COGgize him because he was, according to tradition, a disciple of John. That tradition is preserved by a bloke called Tertullian who was anything but a model of COG Christianity, and Irenaeus, another very unCOG-like character. Why would these Catholic apologists lend credibility to Polycarp if he was, in their view, a heretical COG leader?

Polycarp trekked his way to Rome to discuss the aforementioned dating of Easter with the Pope, and they parted amicably as brothers, agreeing to disagree. Bob concedes as much when he quotes Irenaeus: And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus (the Pope) conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect.

Does this sound like a COG leader?
Notice that Polycarp celebrated the Lord's Supper (eucharist) in Rome with the Pope's blessing. That'd be like Rod Meredith celebrating the mass in Saint Peters with Ratzinger looking on.

Apart from a letter addressed to the Philippian church, a few nice little anecdotes and a heroic tale of martyrdom, that's it! That's what we know about Polycarp.

So, how does Bob manage to shoe-horn him into the fictive pre-history of COGism? Beats me, and I've read his rather long treatise on the subject. According to Bob he even kept the Sabbath; here's his third proof:

His church reported about the him and the Sabbath.

And now a little more from that treatise. You can judge its lucidity for yourself.

Polycarp is unique among any claimed to be a direct successor to any of the apostles. He is the only possible second century direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that there was a letter written to him while he was alive. He is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that to have written any document that we still possess to this day (there is a letter claimed to have been written by Clement of Rome, however, it does not say that he wrote it, nor is Clement considered to be the direct successor of any apostle--the Roman Catholic Church claims that Linus was Peter's direct successor; there are also letters written by Ignatius of Antioch, but the two Antiochian Churches I am aware of claim that Evodius, not Ignatius, was Peter's direct successor). Polycarp is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that to have any document written about him within a few weeks of his death.

Anyone who can make sense of that paragraph deserves an advanced diploma in reading comprehension.


Anonymous said...

Gavin, as you may recall, a few months ago at XCG, I took a pretty close look at Bob Thiel's claims about St. Polycarp of Smyrna. The silence of Bob Thiel's reply was deafening.

Anonymous said...

2 Timothy 1:15 If all in Asia have left Paul, might it be inferred that they have left his teachings, as well? Therefore, they would no longer be living as Judeans, or be Christians who also live like a Jews. No wonder by the close of the first century so many competing ideologies and ways of doing things appear in the record.