Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

So, the Holy Spirit gets the Apostles kicked out of Jerusalem so that the real job of building the church can begin. The Apostles and disciples scatter throughout the Roman Empire and beyond taking the message of the Good News far and wide.

The Apostles are credited with founding four churches that became known as Apostolic Sees (aka Patriarchates). What is an Apostolic See? At its simplest definition it is a community founded by an Apostle whom other churches looked towards for guidance and resolutions to disputes (and there were many). These original churches were Jerusalem (33 AD), Alexandria (42 AD), Antioch (45 AD), and Rome (58-61 AD)1. The Sees were given official authority over their areas by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD: Rome to Europe west of Macedonia; Antioch from Macedonia thru Asia (modern day Middle East thru to India); Jerusalem covered Israel, Judea, Samaria, and Syria; Alexandria from the Arabian Peninsula thru Northern Africa. Traditionally these churches claim to be “founded”2 by the following Apostles:

  • Jerusalem was the privy of James the Just (James, brother of Jesus) who led the church in Jerusalem until his death in 62 AD. James was stoned by the Sanhedrin in a period between Roman procurators so Rome could not object to the stoning.
  • Alexandria was led by Mark the Evangelist from 42 AD until 68 AD. Mark was killed by a crowd of Alexandrian non-Christians who placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he died.
  • Antioch’s first bishop was Peter, having first arrived in 45 AD. He stayed on for several years, leaving Antioch for Rome3 around 55 AD.
  • Rome tries to lay claim to both Peter and Paul, the New Testament does place Paul in Rome on several occasions, the first of which was in 58-61 AD, and this is the date that is typically associated with Rome’s first visitation by an Apostle. Paul runs the church from his prison cell and is considered to be Rome’s first bishop.

We are going to end this with one final Apostolic visitation, one that under normal circumstances would have created an additional Apostolic See – in India. The Apostle Thomas went far afield, taking his ministry into India, the exact route is a matter of debate, possibly two visitations, one in each route. The first route is into Syria, then through modern Iraq (Baghdad) into Pakistan, ending in northern India. The second route (or voyage) takes Thomas into Alexandria then by boat to Sri Lanka and southern India (Kerala and Chennai). Thomas was followed by Timothy, the disciple of Paul, who continued Thomas’ work of introducing Jesus’ teachings to India. Had things been different a separate Apostolic See might have been appointed in India, as it was the church of India was placed under the authority of the Patriarchate of Antioch.


NOTES:

  1. The dates given are for the first Apostolic visitation to the city, Christian communities already existed before the Apostle’s visit. The date for Rome is Paul’s first visit, there is no factual evidence of Peter being in Rome prior to his imprisonment.
  2. Founded typically meant that these were the Apostles who were the first bishops of their respective churches. Whether they actually were or not is lost to history as few actual records were kept.
  3. I will not get into the arguments as to whether Peter ever did make it to Rome, there are arguments on both sides and I don’t believe this is anything that can actually be resolved.

Comments on: "A History of Christianity – The Apostolic Sees" (1)

  1. I have never looked into the meaning of “see” in this sense. And I certainly didn’t know there was more than a “papal see” in Rome! Thanks for the cool history lesson! It’s pretty cool to get this glimpse into our history. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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