The Results Of The Crisis

The internal crisis, or the conflict with heresy, led the Church to

perfect its organization, and, as a result, the foundation was laid for

such a development of the episcopate that the Church was recognized as

based upon an order of bishops receiving their powers in succession from

the Apostles. Just what those powers were and how they were transmitted

were matters left to a later age to determine. (V. infra, ยงยง 50, 51.)
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(a) Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., IV, 26:2, 5. (MSG, 7:1053.)

That Irenaeus, writing about 175, could appeal to the episcopal

succession as commonly recognized and admitted, and use it as a

basis of unity for the Church, is generally regarded as evidence

of the existence of a wide-spread episcopal organization at an

early date in the second century. Possibly the connection of

Irenaeus with Asia Minor, where the episcopal organization

admittedly was earliest, diminishes the force of the argument. The

reference to the "charisma of truth," which the bishops were said

to possess, was to furnish later a theoretical basis for the

authority of bishops assembled in council.

Ch. 2. Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the

Church, those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the

Apostles; those who together with the succession of the episcopate have

received the certain gift [charisma] of the truth according to the good

pleasure of the Father; but also to hold in suspicion others who depart

from the primitive succession and assemble themselves together in any

place whatsoever.

Ch. 5. Such presbyters does the Church nourish, of whom also the prophet

says: "I will give thy rulers in peace, and thy bishops in righteousness"

[cf. Is. 60:17]. Of whom also the Lord did declare: "Who, then, shall be

a faithful steward, good and wise, whom the Lord sets over His household,

to give them their meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his

Lord when he cometh shall find so doing" [Matt. 24:45 f.]. Paul, then,

teaching us where one may find such, says: "God hath placed in the Church,

first, Apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers" [I Cor. 12:28].

Where, then, the gifts of the Lord have been placed there we are to learn

the truth; namely, from those who possess the succession of the Church

from the Apostles, and among whom exists that which is sound and blameless

in conduct, as well as that which is unadulterated and incorrupt in


(b) Tertullian, De Praescriptione, 32. (MSL, 2:52.)

In Tertullian's statement as to the necessity of apostolic

succession, the language is more precise than in Irenaeus's. Bishop

and presbyter are not used as interchangeable terms, as would

appear in the passage in Irenaeus. The whole is given a more legal

turn, as was in harmony with the writer's legal mind.

But if there be any heresies bold enough to plant themselves in the midst

of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down

from the Apostles, because they were in the time of the Apostles, we can

say: Let them produce the originals of their churches; let them unfold the

roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning

in such manner that that first bishop of theirs shall be able to show for

his ordainer or predecessor some one of the Apostles or of apostolic men--a

man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the Apostles. For in this

manner the apostolic churches transmit their registers; 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. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise

exhibit their several worthies, whom, as having been appointed to their

episcopal places by the Apostles, they regard as transmitters of the

apostolic seed.