The Church of Rome

Well before the end of the second century the Church of Rome was occupying an outstanding place in the total Christian fellowship. This was to be expected. Being in the capital and chief city of the Empire, if it were at all strong it would naturally be regarded with deference by a religious community which was found principally within that Empire.

As we have seen, it appears to have been vigorous before Paul reached it. So important did Paul deem it that he felt it advisable when he had been hoping to come as a free man and not a prisoner to precede his visit by the most carefully thought out and deliberately written letter which we have from him. In addressing the Church of Rome, he declared that the news of its faith was already being "spoken of throughout the whole world." Presumably, since "all roads led to Rome," and the city was extraordinarily cosmopolitan and attracted representatives of most if not all of the many regions and races of the Empire, the Church of Rome would, through its members, have ties with many different portions of the realm. For several generations its language was Greek, the most generally used of the tongues of the Empire, and this would further its widely extended contacts. Although not founded by either, the Church of Rome enjoyed the prestige of the presence of both Peter and Paul, and what appears to be dependable information declares that Rome was the scene of the martyrdom both of the outstanding member of the original Twelve Apostles and of the chief missionary of the early Church. The epistle of Clement which we have already mentioned was written partly to ease a difficult situation in one of Paul's churches, that in the great commercial city of Corinth. It is evidence that the Church of Rome felt a responsibility for the peace of this sister church and that it believed that an expression of its concern would not be regarded at Corinth as an impertinence. It may well have been that it thought of itself as being under similar obligation to other churches. Certainly in the third quarter of the second century Iren^us, Bishop of Lyons, in Gaul, and who, coming from Asia, would not be biased by Roman origin, declared that "it is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this church [i.e., of Rome] on account of its preeminent authority." This does not mean that the Church of Rome had the wide supervisory and directive functions which it later claimed and exercised through its bishops. However, the foundations for that eventual supremacy go back to the first century.

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