I devoted the final week of my New Testament class to two patristic texts: 1 Clement, which is the first clear articulation of apostolic succession, and selections from book 3 of Irenaeus’s Against All Heresies, which starts to incorporate the Gospels into the self-legitimation narrative of apostolic succession. I thought it was fitting that after going through the content of the New Testament, we would then take a look at the beginnings of the emergence of its form as a canon. (We were also still working through Schüssler Fiorenza’s Revelation: Vision of a Just World, but we mainly discussed her method of rhetorical criticism rather than her specific comments on Revelation — that proved to be a useful counterpoint to the patristic stuff, more than I would’ve anticipated.)
Knowing that I would address the notion of apostolic succession as the context in which the New Testament canon found its usefulness, on the day we discussed the Pastoral Epistles, I did a presentation over the entire New Testament, looking at every passage that seemed to refer to leadership within the Christian community. As a lapsed Catholic convert, I knew that the biblical case for apostolic succession was less than 100% clear, but assumed that I’d find a decent amount that pointed in that direction. What I found instead was virtually nothing — certainly nothing that lines up with 1 Clement’s claim that the apostles appointed the first convert in every city as the bishop.
Some random highlights: Read the rest of this entry »