The writings of the Early Church Fathers demonstrate that the true, holy, and universal (catholic) Church of the past provides the basis of the Catholic Church of today.

Note: this does not imply that the modern Catholic Church is the same as the Church of the Early Church Fathers — it is not. Catholic Bishops back then were orthodox and holy; after a while this was no longer the case. The doctrines of apostolic succession and Holy Orders were unknown to the Early Church Fathers.

I wrote these series of articles (see menu sidebar to the left) as a Catholic for Catholics, but I no longer accept Catholic teaching as the authoritative source of truth.I have not attempted to align these articles with my current views.

Protestant anti-Catholicssometimes claim that the church fell into apostasy during the first few centuries. One problem with this claim is that the leaders of the church were developing the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith in response to heresy at the same time that they were teaching those doctrines which these Protestants claim are false doctrines and which are foundational to the Catholic Church. For example, they were developing the doctrines of the Trinity and the inerrancy of scripture, and were formulating the canon of scripture at the same time they were writing about the mass, the Eucharist, Apostolic succession, priestly celibacy, and the papacy.

Most Protestant denominations are based on core doctrines which were formulated by the early church. To these doctrines the various Protestant denominations have added doctrines which were invented by the Protestant Reformers, such as Sola Scriptura (scripture alone); Sola Fide (faith alone); Calvinism; communion and baptism as mere symbols; and many others.

This article demonstrates that the essential doctrines of the Catholic Church were being taught, practiced, and defended by the Early Church Fathers. It is hard to accept the claim by Protestant anti-Catholicsthat these men and the church which they led had already slipped into apostasy in these early centuries of the church.

All the quotations which I have cited were written before and during the time of Augustine. Special mention to John R. Willis, S.J. who edited the Book entitled The Teachings of the Church Fathers which provided the basis for this article (but I have not quoted from this book).


Index ...

The Church

Named the "Catholic Church"
An Institution
Teaching Authority
Church Authority
Unity
Schism
The Catholic Church

Misc Topics

Tradition
Sola Scriptura
The Papacy (Pope)
The Eucharist (Mass)
Justification (Salvation)
Sacraments
Celibacy
Priests
Was Augustine Protestant?

Quotations

Clement (96 A.D.)
Ignatius (108 A.D.)
Justin Martyr (130 - 165 A.D.)
Irenaeus (130 - 202 A.D.)
Papias (115 - 140 A.D.)
Polycarp (155 A.D.)
Tatian (150 - 172 A.D.)
Muratorian Fragment (170 A.D.)
Theophilus of Antioch
       (169 - 193 A.D.)
Tertullian (197 - 206 A.D.)
Clement of Alexandria
       (180 - 215 A.D.)
Hippolytus (Died 236 A.D.)
Cornelius (Martyred 253 A.D.)
Origen (185 - 254 A.D.)
Cyprian (200 - 258 A.D.)
Minucius Felix
       (Between 160 and 300 A.D.)
Firmilian (Died 269 A.D.)
Lactantius (303 - 311 A.D.)
Cyril of Jerusalem (347 A.D.)
Hilary (350 A.D.)
Basil (364 - 379 A.D.)
Jerome (360 - 420 A.D.)
Augustine (386 - 430 A.D.)


The Church is Named the "Catholic Church" ...

This name for the church is not a recent invention as the following quotes demonstrate.

Ignatius (108 A.D.) | Polycarp (155 A.D.) | Irenaeus (180 A.D.) | Muratorian Fragment (170 A.D.) | Lactantius (303 - 311 A.D.) | Cyril (347 A.D.) | Augustine (386 - 430 A.D.)


Even the Protestant Reformers used this term to refer to what we still today call the Catholic Church:

Martin Luther

The pope styles himself a bishop of the catholic church.

The Table-talk of Martin Luther, Of Councils, Para. 516, 1566 A.D.

John Calvin

Your are mistaken in supposing that we desire to lead away the people from that method of worshipping God which the Catholic Church always observed.

Expostulate [disagree] with us, if you can, for the injury which we inflicted on the Catholic Church.

Reply by Calvin to Cardinal Sadolet's Letter, 1539 A.D.

The primacy of the Roman See, from which they undertake to prove that the Catholic Church is to be found only with them.

Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Part 7, Chap. 6, Sect. 1,
Of the primacy of the Romish see, 1599 A.D.

Philip Melancthon

Contrary to the custom of the Church Catholic.

The Confession of Faith, Of Ecclesiastical Power, Article 28, 1530 A.D.

Nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church Catholic.

The Confession of Faith, Of Ecclesiastical Power, Conclusion, 1530 A.D.

Note that none of these passages prove the Catholic view that the Catholic Church is the true representation of the early New Testament church; they merely demonstrate that the term "catholic" (meaning universal) was in use from an early date.


The Church is an Institution ...

Many Protestants claim that the church is the body of Christ and not an institution. The Catholic Church claims it is both.

The following passages indicate that the church is a visible institution with leaders, members, and a mission.

The church is not merely a collection of believers as the body of Christ. The leaders are ordained and there is a succession of ordination from the apostles. Members must submit to their leadership.


The Teaching Authority of the Church ...

The Catholic Church claims that our source of truth is the Catholic Church and that the teaching magisteriumof the Catholic Church provides the correct and true interpretation of scripture.


Church Authority ...

The church is to have authority over matters of truth and over believers.

Augustine (400 A.D.)


Unity ...


Schism ...

The Church Fathers fought against heresy and schism.

Clement (96 A.D.) | Ignatius (108 A.D.) | Jerome (360 - 420 A.D.) | Augustine (393 A.D.) | Tertullian (213 A.D.)


The Catholic Church ...



The Papacy (Pope) ...

The early church recognized the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.

Irenaeus (130 - 202 A.D.) | Muratorian Fragment (170 A.D.) | Cyprian (250 A.D.) | Cornelius (Martyred 253 A.D.) | Jerome (360 - 420 A.D.)


The Eucharist (Mass) ...

The early church believed and practiced the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Ignatius (108 A.D.) | Justin Martyr (130 - 165 A.D.) | Irenaeus (180 A.D.) | Tertullian (207 A.D.) | Basil (364 - 379 A.D.) Cyril of Jerusalem (315 - 386 A.D.) | Jerome (360 - 420 A.D.)


Tradition ...

Tradition is a valid source of Divine Revelation.

Muratorian Fragment (170 A.D.) | Irenaeus (180 A.D.) | Tertullian (207 A.D.) | Basil (364 - 379 A.D.)


Sola Scriptura ...

The Early Church Fathers refuted those who believed in Sola Scriptura.

Ignatius (108 A.D.) | Papais (115 - 140 A.D.) | Irenaeus (180 A.D.) | Tertullian (207 A.D.)


Justification (Salvation) ...

The early church believed and taught that Faith Alone is not sufficient for salvation.

Tatian (150 - 172 A.D.) | Theophilus of Antioch (169 - 193 A.D.) | Clement of Alexandria (180 - 215 A.D.) | Hippolytus (Died 236 A.D.) | Cyril (347 A.D.) |


Sacraments ...

The early church believed and taught the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Tertullian (207 A.D.) | Basil (364 - 379 A.D.)


Celibacy ...

The early church believed that lifelong celibacy [perpetual virginity] was a virtuous practice.

Tertullian (197 - 206 A.D.) | Origen (185 - 254 A.D.) | Minucius Felix (Between 160 and 300 A.D.)


Priests ...

The early church had priests (presbyters) and a division between the priesthood and the laity.

Clement (96 A.D.) | Ignatius (108 A.D.)


Quotations ...

The following quotations from the Church Fathers are in approximate chronological order.

Clement (96 A.D.)
Ignatius (108 A.D.)
Justin Martyr (130 - 165 A.D.)
Irenaeus (130 - 202 A.D.)
Papias (115 - 140 A.D.)
Polycarp (155 A.D.)
Tatian (150 - 172 A.D.)
Muratorian Fragment (170 A.D.)
Theophilus of Antioch
     (169 - 193 A.D.)
Tatian (150 - 172 A.D.)
Tertullian (197 - 206 A.D.)
Clement of Alexandria
     (180 - 215 A.D.)
Hippolytus (Died 236 A.D.)
Cornelius (Martyred 253 A.D.)
Origen (185 - 254 A.D.)
Cyprian (200 - 258 A.D.)
Minucius Felix
     (Between 160 and 300 A.D.)
Lactantius (303 - 311 A.D.)
Cyril of Jerusalem (347 A.D.)
Hilary (350 A.D.)
Basil (364 - 379 A.D.)
Jerome (360 - 420 A.D.)
Augustine (386 - 430 A.D.)


Clement of Rome


The Church is an Institution

Submit yourselves to the presbyters. . . .

The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chap. 57,
Let the Authors of Sedition Submit Themselves

Submission to the church leaders is a sure sign that believers are to be members of this institutional church which is led by the presbyters (bishops and priests).

Schism

It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that such a thing should be heard of as that the most stedfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters.

The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chap. 47

This paragraph doesn't prove Catholic claims. There can be schism without a strong hierarchical institution of ordained bishops.

Priests

[The title:] Let Us Preserve in the Church the Order Appointed by God. . . . The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.

The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chap. 40

There is a division between the laity and the priesthood.

[The title:] The Ordinances of the Apostles, that There Might Be No Contention Respecting the Priestly Office. Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate.

The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chap. 44

He has been using the Old Testament priesthood as a model in his discussion. Now he clearly applies the model to the New Testament church.


Ignatius


108 A.D.

Named the "Catholic Church"

Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapt. 8, Let Nothing Be Done Without the Bishop

He uses the term "Catholic Church" just as we do today. But notice he doesn't say the reverse: "Wherever the Catholic Church is, there is Jesus Christ".

Unity of the Church

As many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church. . . .

Epistle to the Philadelphians, Chap. 3, Para. 1

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery [priests] as ye would the apostles. . . . Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.

Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapt. 8, Let Nothing Be Done Without the Bishop

The assumption here is that the bishop is indeed qualified, just as Jesus Christ was qualified. We should not follow unholy bishops.

Schism

But flee from all abominable heresies, and those that cause schisms, as the beginning of evils.

Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapt. 7, Let Us Stand Aloof from Such Heretics

Note that being a schismatic involves teaching heresy.

If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Epistle to the Philadelphians, Chap. 3, Para. 1

Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. . . . It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast.

Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapt. 8, Let Nothing Be Done Without the Bishop

In order for the bishop to personally administer the Eucharist implies the church was medium sized. This is different than in today's churches with the bishop overseeing millions of people. The role of bishop was never intended to expand as it did.

Sola Scriptura

I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to be proved. But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity.

The Epistle to the Philadelphians, Chap. 8

Ignatius is addressing those who claim they won't believe unless they find it in the scripture (Sola Scriptura). Notice that he seems to believe that the faith (based on tradition) is sufficient proof.

Notice also that these who claim they will believe if they can find it written in the scriptures interpret the scriptures in such a way that they don't find the gospel in the scriptures. This problem of who is qualified to accurately interpret the scriptures is one of the problems with Sola Scriptura; no one can agree. But Ignatius sidesteps all this by stating that the faith which has been passed on by the church is the authority.

The Eucharist (Mass)

Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.

Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapt. 8

If communion were merely a symbol there would be no need for the bishop to administer it.

Priests

While your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles.

Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapt. 6

He very clearly taught that Christianity is to have a priesthood (presbyters).

[The title:] Do Nothing Without the Bishop and Presbyters. . . . Neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters.  . . Do ye, neither presbyter, nor deacon, nor layman, do anything without the bishop.

Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapt. 7

He specifies that there is a laity and that there are bishops and priests (presbyters).


Justin Martyr


130 - 165 A.D.

The Eucharist (Mass)

Those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

First Apology, Chap. 65

Why would they take a portion to people who were absent if they thought communion was merely a symbolic? I have never heard of Protestants doing this.

And this food is called among us Eukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed [baptized unto salvation] with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.

First Apology, Chap. 66, "Of the Eucharist"

He makes several points:


Irenaeus


130 - 202 A.D.

Named the "Catholic Church"

The truth is to be found nowhere else but in the Catholic Church, the sole depository of apostolical doctrine.

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 4, Title, 180 A.D.

The Church is an Institution

All those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church. . . .

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 24, Para. 1. 180 A.D.

In order to join the church it must be an institution. You join the Church via baptism.

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. . . . To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric.

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 3, Para. 3, 180 A.D.

This passage is referring to the succession of leaders of the church in Rome. Later the bishops of the Roman Church would be referred to as Pope.

The blessed apostles . . . committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. . . . To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. . . . In the time of this Clement . . . the Church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians.

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 3, Para. 3, 180 A.D.

This passage is referring to the succession of leaders of the church in Rome. Later the bishops of the Roman Church would be referred to as Pope.

Teaching Authority

It is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth. . . . Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear?

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 4, Para. 1, 180 A.D.

This passages affirms that we are to go to the church when we want to know the truth.

It is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [the one at Rome], on account of its pre-eminent authority.

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 3, Para. 2, 180 A.D.

Certainly the Roman Church has teaching authority if all the other churches should agree with it. And all churches are to have the same teaching. Certainly Protestant denominations do not fit this at all.

Unity of the Church

Who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who . . . cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ.

Against Heresies, Book 4, Chap. 33, Para. 7, 180 A.D.

Schism

He shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons, or any kind of reason which occurs to them, cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies, [positively] destroy it,—men who prate of peace while they give rise to war, and do in truth strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel. For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism.

Against Heresies, Book 4, Chap. 33, Para. 7, 180 A.D.

Tradition

Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna. . . . Having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. . . . Proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,—that, namely, which is handed down by the Church. . . . There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 3, Para. 4, 180 A.D.

Tradition is authoritative .

These doctrines disagree with the Church, and drive into the greatest impiety those who accept them. . . . These doctrines, the presbyters who were before us, and who were companions of the apostles, did not deliver to thee. . . . These things being told me by the mercy of God, I listened to them attentively, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart. And continually, through God's grace, I recall them faithfully.

The Writings of Irenaeus against the Schismatics at Rome,
From Book 5 of Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius, Chap. 20

Sola Scriptura

True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy.

Against Heresies, Book 4, Chap. 33, Para. 8, 180 A.D.

Notice that the scripture is merely one aspect of true knowledge; the Church through her validly-ordained succession of bishops (tradition) also plays a key role.

Certainly Irenaeus didn't intend to include heretics or other unqualified men in his list of valid bishops,nor did he teach the concept of the sacrament of Holy Orders, that the ordination ceremony itself confers sacramental power. The problem is, historically, the bishops did not present a united voice in teaching the true gospel; heresy abounded, and this from so-called validly-ordained bishops.

The Papacy (Pope)

Tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority. . . . The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. . . . To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric.

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 3, Para. 2 & 3, 180 A.D.

This passage is referring to the succession of leaders of the church in Rome who would later be called Popes. Notice that this bishopric of Rome was the one to which the apostles passed-on the authority of the church and the one which was pre-eminent in authority over all the other sees. (Note: the Orthodox Churches don't agree with this assessment of history.) However, neither Peter nor Paul founded the Roman Church — it was already in existence when Paul wrote the letter to the Romans.

The Eucharist (Mass)

How can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life?

Against Heresies, Book 4, Chap. 43, Para. 5, 180 A.D.

Our physical body is spiritually nourished by the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. Communion is not merely symbolic.


Papias


115 - 140 A.D.

Sola Scriptura

If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders,-what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.

The Writings of Papais, From Book 3 of Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius,
Chap. 39, Para. 4, 115–140 A.D.

Papais considered the spoken words (tradition) of trustworthy individuals to have a greater value than the scriptures.


Polycarp


155 A.D.

Named the "Catholic Church"

As soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world . . .

Concerning the Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp, Chap. 8


Muratorian Fragment


170 A.D.

Named the "Catholic Church"

Several others which cannot be received into the catholic Church. . . .

Muratorian Fragment

The term "Catholic Church" is used just as we use it today.

Tradition

These [certain books of the New Testament] are held sacred in the esteem of the Church catholic for the regulation of ecclesiastical discipline. . . . Hermas wrote "The Shepherd" very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the chair of the church of the city of Rome. And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after their time.

Muratorian Fragment

The church determines which books are authoritative and even accepts certain books which were written after the time of the apostles. And the church also determined that no books written after the time of the apostles are to be read in the church service. This is still the practice in the Catholic mass even today. Thus we see that the church has a growing and developing tradition which has authority and which is used to regulate the church.

The Papacy (Pope)

. . . Bishop Pius. . . was occupying the chair of the church of the city of Rome.

Muratorian Fragment

Notice that the Bishop of Rome was occupying what was referred to as the "chair" of the church of Rome. This is the "chair of Peter" or the Pope.


Theophilus of Antioch


169 - 193 A.D.

Justification (Salvation)

To those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek immortality, He will give life everlasting.

To Autolycus, Book 1, Chap. 14

Life everlasting comes from continuing in well-doing. Thus, works play a role in salvation.


Tatian


150 - 172 A.D.

Justification (Salvation)

But the Spirit of God is not with all, but, taking up its abode with those who live justly. . . .

Address of Tatian to the Greeks, Chap. 13

It is necessary to live justly in order for the Spirit of God to live within us. Thus, living justly is necessary for salvation. Faith Alone is not sufficient.


Tertullian


197 - 206 A.D.

The Church is an Institution

All doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches . . . We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs.

The Prescription Against Heretics, Chap. 21, 200 A.D.

Teaching Authority

All doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches—those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles. . . . All doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. . . . We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs.

The Prescription Against Heretics, Chap. 21, 200 A.D.

Unity of the Church

Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed. . . . Now, what that was which they preached—in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them—can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person. . . . It is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches—those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. . . . It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours . . . has its origin in the tradition of the apostles. . . . We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth.

The Prescription Against Heretics, Chap. 21, 200 A.D.

Thus we see that there is a unity in the true church: in doctrine, in leadership, in succession, and in loyalty. Only the Catholic Church can have these. (However, allowing corruption in to the Church has invalidated it all.)

One God, and one baptism, and one church in the heavens.

On Baptism, Chap. 15, 200 A.D.

Certainly there can only be one set of doctrines which the true church teaches.

The apostles . . . went forth into the world and preached the same doctrine of the same faith to the nations. They then in like manner founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches.

The Prescription Against Heretics, Chap. 20, 200 A.D.

Schism

This rule of faith has come down to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older heretics, much more before Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday, will be apparent both from the lateness of date which marks all heresies, and also from the absolutely novel character of our new-fangled Praxeas. In this principle also we must henceforth find a presumption of equal force against all heresies whatsoever—that whatever is first is true, whereas that is spurious which is later in date. But keeping this prescriptive rule inviolate, still some opportunity must be given for reviewing (the statements of heretics), with a view to the instruction and protection of divers persons; were it only that it may not seem that each perversion of the truth is condemned without examination, and simply prejudged; especially in the case of this heresy, which supposes itself to possess the pure truth.

Against Praxeas, Chap. 2, 213 A.D.

For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians. . . . As you are none of mine, what have you to do with that which is mine?

The Prescription Against Heretics, Chap. 37, 200 A.D.

Tradition

It will certainly be quite as evident, that that comes down from the apostles, which has been kept as a sacred deposit in the churches of the apostles. . . . The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to the other Gospels also. . . . That authority of churches which lends support to the tradition of the apostles . . . and proceed straight from those by whom it has been handed on.

Against Marcion, Book 4, Chap. 5, 207 A.D.

Sola Scriptura

But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst Of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,-a man, moreover, who continued stedfast with the apostles. . . . To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine.

The Prescription Against Heretics, Chap. 32, 200 A.D.

Notice the conditions for testing whether a teaching is true:

  1. There is a clear and provable apostolic succession. It works like this: An apostle (or apostles) ordained a bishop. That bishop (or other bishops) ordained a new generation of bishops. And so on . . . , or
  2. The church in question is teaching the true faith and holds correct doctrine (as determined by bishops having apostolic succession).

The Eucharist (Mass)

Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, "This is my body," that is, the figure of my body. . . . Let us cast the tree upon His bread, which means, of course, the cross upon His body.

Against Marcion, Book 4, Chap. 40, 207 A.D.

In refuting Marcion's idea that Jesus never had a physical body, Tertullian admits that Jesus made the bread His body, at least in some sort of symbolic sense. While not fully supporting the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist, this passage seems to indicate that Tertullian believed that communion was more that merely symbolic, and that in some sense the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ in a symbolic way.

Sacraments

All waters, therefore. . . do, after invocation of God, attain the sacramental power of sanctification; for the Spirit immediately supervenes from the heavens, and rests over the waters, sanctifying them from Himself; and being thus sanctified, they imbibe at the same time the power of sanctifying.

On Baptism, Chap. 4, 200 A.D.

In the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit imparts grace to us through visible signs.

Celibacy

Peter alone do I find-through (the mention of) his "mother-in-law" ,-to have been married. Monogamist I am led to presume him by consideration of the Church, which, built upon him, was destined to appoint every grade of her Order from monogamists. The rest, while I do not find them married, I must of necessity understand to have been either eunuchs or continent.

On Monogamy, Chap. 8

He remarks that some church leaders were unmarried and celibate.


Clement of Alexandria


180 - 215 A.D.

Justification (Salvation)

So that when we hear, Thy faith hath saved thee, we do not understand Him to say absolutely that those who have believed in any way whatever shall be saved, unless also works follow. But it was to the Jews alone that He spoke this utterance, who kept the law and lived blamelessly, who wanted only faith in the Lord. No one, then, can be a believer and at the same time be licentious; but though he quit the flesh, he must put off the passions, so as to be capable of reaching his own mansion.

Stromata, Book 6, Chap. 14

Good works are necessary for salvation.


Hippolytus


Died 236 A.D.

Justification (Salvation)

He, in administering the righteous judgment of the Father to all, assigns to each what is righteous according to his works. And being present at His judicial decision, all, both men and angels and demons, shall utter one voice, saying, Righteous is Thy judgment. Of which voice the justification will be seen in the awarding to each that which is just; since to those who have done well shall be assigned righteously eternal bliss, and to the lovers of iniquity shall be given eternal punishment. . . . But the righteous will remember only the righteous deeds by which they reached the heavenly kingdom.

Against Plato, Chap. 3

Good works are necessary for salvation.


Cornelius


Martyred 253 A.D.

The Papacy (Pope)

And to quote their very own words, "We . . . know that Cornelius is bishop [Pope] of the most holy Catholic Church elected by Almighty God, and by Christ our Lord." . . . There is one God; that there is one Christ the Lord whom we have confessed, and one Holy Spirit; and that in the Catholic Church there ought to be one bishop [Pope].

Epistle 45 to Cyprian, Para. 2

Cornelius was the Pope, the bishop of Rome, when he wrote this. He is saying that there should only be one bishop of the Catholic Church. He is referring to what we today call the Pope.


Origen


185 - 254 A.D.

Celibacy

And if any one, on a candid consideration of these things, shall admit that no improvement ever takes place among men without divine help, how much more confidently shall he make the same assertion regarding Jesus, when he compares the former lives of many converts to His doctrine with their after conduct, and reflects in what acts of licentiousness and injustice and covetousness they formerly indulged, until, as Celsus, and they who think with him, allege, "they were deceived," and accepted a doctrine which, as these individuals assert, is destructive of the life of men; but who, from the time that they adopted it, have become in some way meeker, and more religious, and more consistent, so that certain among them, from a desire of exceeding chastity, and a wish to worship God with greater purity, abstain even from the permitted indulgences of (lawful) love.

Against Celsus, Chap. 26

Celibacy is considered a way to increase a person's devotion to God. Origen is using the practice of celibacy as the crown jewel in his argument that the Christian life does result in a change for the better in Christians.


Cyprian of Carthage


200 - 258 A.D.

The Church is an Institution

Whoever is separated from the Church . . . is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ.

Treatise I. On the Unity of the Church, Chap. 6

This unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church. . . . The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole.

Treatise I. On the Unity of the Church, Chap. 5

The bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church. . . . The Church . . . is . . . bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another.

Epistle 68, Para. 8, 254 A.D.

Whosoever now wishes to become a bishop, must needs be made from without; and he cannot have the ordination of the Church who does not hold the unity of the Church.

Epistle 51, Para. 8

Unity of the Church

They are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church.

Epistle 68, Para. 8, 254 A.D.

Cornelius was made bishop . . . by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the suffrage of the people who were then present, and by the assembly of ancient priests and good men. . . . Established by the consent of all of us, whosoever now wishes to become a bishop, must needs be made from without; and he cannot have the ordination of the Church who does not hold the unity of the Church.

Epistle 51, Para. 8

Schism

Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ.

Treatise I. On the Unity of the Church, Chap. 6

The bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church.

Epistle 68, Para. 8, 254 A.D.

The Papacy (Pope)

The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, [he quotes from Matthew 16:18,19 ("thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church"), John 21:16 ("feed my sheep"), and John 20:21-23]. . . . Yet, that He [Jesus] might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity.

Treatise I. On the Unity of the Church, Chap. 4

Cyprian makes several important points:

Clearly Peter is singled out in a unique way as head of the apostles. This is the basis for the Papacy.


Minucius Felix


Between 160 and 300 A.D.

Celibacy

With chaste discourse, and with body even more chaste (divers of us unviolated) enjoy rather than make a boast of a perpetual virginity of a body.

Letter to Octavius, Chap. 31

This translation is a bit mangled. But notice that some [divers] Christians are celibate — Christians honor and esteem the practice of perpetual virginity.


Firmilian


Died 269 A.D.

Unity of the Church

And again, in the Gospel, when Christ breathed on the apostles alone, saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained." Therefore the power of remitting sins was given to the apostles, and to the churches which they, sent by Christ, established, and to the bishops who succeeded to them by vicarious ordination.

Epistle 74 to Cyprian, Para. 16

Many Protestants wrongly claim that the authority and power of the Apostles ended with them. But the early church considered that these gifts were passed-on to succeeding generations of church leaders via ordination.


Lactantius


303 - 311 A.D.

The Catholic Church

It is the Catholic Church alone which retains true worship. . . . All the separate assemblies of heretics call themselves Christians in preference to others, and think that theirs is the Catholic Church, it must be known that the true Catholic Church is that in which there is confession and repentance. . . .

Divine Institutes, Book 4, Chap. 30 —
Of Avoiding Heresies and Superstitions, and What Is the Only True Catholic Church.

Schism

It is the Catholic Church alone which retains true worship. This is the fountain of truth, this is the abode of the faith, this is the temple of God; into which if any one shall not enter, or from which if any shall go out, he is estranged from the hope of life and eternal salvation. . . . The true Catholic Church is that in which there is confession and repentance.

Divine Institutes, Book 4, Chap. 30 —
Of Avoiding Heresies and Superstitions, and What Is the Only True Catholic Church.


Cyril of Jerusalem


347 A.D.

Named the "Catholic Church"

Inquire not simply where the Lord's House is, . . . nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church.

Catecheses, Lecture 18, Para. 26

Unity of the Church

It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men's knowledge.

Catecheses, Lecture 18, Para. 23

The Eucharist (Mass)

Send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him; that He [the Holy Spirit] may make the Bread the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Ghost has touched, is surely sanctified and changed.

Lecture 23, Para. 7

The bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Justification (Salvation)

The root of all good works is the hope of the Resurrection; for the expectation of the recompense nerves the soul to good works. For every labourer is ready to endure the toils, if he sees their reward in prospect; but when men weary themselves for nought, their heart soon sinks as well as their body. A soldier who expects a prize is ready for war, but no one is forward to die for a king who is indifferent about those who serve under him, and bestows no honours on their toils. In like manner every soul believing in a Resurrection is naturally careful of itself; but, disbelieving it, abandons itself to perdition. He who believes that his body shall remain to rise again, is careful of his robe, and defiles it not with fornication; but he who disbelieves the Resurrection, gives himself to fornication, and misuses his own body, as though it were not his own.

Catecheses, Lecture 18, Para. 1

He is talking about salvation. This is evident in the context because of his emphasis on the resurrection. He states that "good works" lead to the resurrection. Therefore, the Protestant doctrine of salvation by Faith Alone is not supported by Cyril of Jerusalem


Hilary of Poitiers


350 A.D.

Teaching Authority

Amid the clash of mutually destructive errors, the Church stands revealed not only by her own teaching, but by that of her rivals.

On the Trinity, Book 7, Chap. 4, 350 A.D.

The Church, ordained by the Lord and established by His Apostles, is one for all; but the frantic folly of discordant sects has severed them from her. And it is obvious that these dissensions concerning the faith result from a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture.

On the Trinity, Book 7, Chap. 4, 350 A.D.

The assumption is that the heretics are simply unable to properly interpret scripture but that the church is.

Schism

The Church, by the light of her doctrine, will so enlighten the world's vain wisdom, that, even though it accept not the mystery of the faith, it will recognise that in our conflict with heretics we, and not they, are the true representatives of that mystery. . . . It is obvious that these dissensions concerning the faith result from a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture.

On the Trinity, Book 7, Chap. 4, 350 A.D.


Basil


364 - 379 A.D.

Teaching Authority

Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in a mystery" by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force.

On the Holy Spirit, Chap. 27, Para. 66, 375 A.D.

Eucharist (Mass)

Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching.

On the Holy Spirit, Chap. 27, Para. 66, 375 A.D.

Tradition

For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Within this extended passage he points out that certain aspects of the temple worship in the Old Covenant were unwritten and that only the Levites had access to the information.

Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which oar fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learnt the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed: to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents.

In the same manner the Apostles and Fathers who laid down laws for the Church from the beginning thus guarded the awful dignity of the mysteries in secrecy and silence, for what is bruited abroad random among the common folk is no mystery at all. This is the reason for our tradition of unwritten precepts and practices, that the knowledge of our dogmas may not become neglected and contemned by the multitude through familiarity. "Dogma" and "Kerugma" are two distinct things; the former is observed in silence; the latter is proclaimed to all the world. One form of this silence is the obscurity employed in Scripture, which makes the meaning of "dogmas" difficult to be understood for the very advantage of the reader.

On the Holy Spirit, Chap. 27, Para. 66, 375 A.D.

The point of all this is that from very early, the Catholic Church accepted the importance of Sacred Tradition. This refutes the argument that the Apostles taught the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

Sacraments

We bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught?

On the Holy Spirit, Chap. 27, Para. 66, 375 A.D.

This passages refers to the Sacrament of Confirmation.


Jerome


360 - 420 A.D.

Schism

When subsequently one presbyter was chosen to preside over the rest, this was done to remedy schism and to prevent each individual from rending the church of Christ by drawing it to himself.

Letter to Evangelus, Para. 1

The Papacy (Pope)

I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter [Pope Damascus, the recipient of this letter]. . . . As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this . . . is the rock on which the church is built! . . . If you think fit enact a decree; and then I shall not hesitate to speak of [the particular heresy he was writing to the Pope about]. . . .

Letter 15, to Pope Damasus, Para. 1, 2 & 4; 376 or 377 A.D.

For similar quotes, read Para. 2 of letter 16 also to Pope Damascus.

A few points about what Jerome believed about the Pope and his authority:

The Eucharist (Mass)

For when the apostle clearly teaches that presbyters are the same as bishops, must not a mere server of tables and of widows be insane to set himself up arrogantly over men through whose prayers the body and blood of Christ are produced?

Letter to Evangelus, Para. 1

In the Eucharist, the priests produce the body and blood of Christ through their liturgical prayer. Communion is not merely symbolic.


Augustine


386 - 430 A.D.

Named the "Catholic Church"

This same is the holy Church, the one Church, the true Church, the catholic Church.

On the Creed: a Sermon to the Catechumens, Para. 14

No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church.

Sermon to the People of Caesarea

For in the Catholic Church. . . . When a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.

Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental, Chap. 4, Proofs of the Catholic Faith

The Church is an Institution

No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church.

Sermon to the People of Caesarea

Certainly if there no salvation apart from the Catholic Church the church must be an institution that we must all join. (Note: the Catholic Church has changed its views on this.)

Church Authority

He [Jesus Christ] has bound His people under the new dispensation together in fellowship by sacraments. . . . As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world. . . . plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful.

Letter to Januarius, Letter 54, Chap. 1, Para. 1, 400 A.D.

The Catholic Church

We believe also in THE HOLY CHURCH, [intending thereby] assuredly the CATHOLIC. For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. But heretics, in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself; while schismatics, on the other hand, in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe. Wherefore neither do the heretics belong to the Church catholic.

Of Faith and the Creed, Chap. 10, 393 A.D.

The Church is called Catholic because it honestly holds the whole truth, of which fragments here and there are found in some heresies.

Letter to Vincentius, Letter 93, Chap. 7, Para. 23, 408 A.D.

The whole truth is contained within the Catholic Church and, as a consequence, the Catholic Church is the true church. (Augustine is comparing clearly heretical groups with the Catholic Church.)

The hot restlessness of heretics stirs questions about many articles of the catholic faith, the necessity of defending them forces us both to investigate them more accurately, to understand them more clearly, and to proclaim them more earnestly.

City of God, Book 16, Chap. 2, 413 - 426 A.D.

Augustine feels the need to defend the articles of the Catholic faith because they are true.

As far, then, as lay in our power, we have used our influence with them, as both your brethren and our own, with a view to their persevering in the soundness of the catholic faith.

Letter to Valentinus, No. 215, Para. 4, 426 A.D.

Let us love our Lord God, let us love His Church: Him as a Father, Her as a Mother. . . . I abandon not God's Church; I am a Catholic. . . . Hold then, most beloved, hold all with one mind to God the Father, and the Church our Mother.

Exposition on the Psalms, No. 89, Para. 41

Schism

For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. But heretics, in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself; while schismatics, on the other hand, in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe. Wherefore neither do the heretics belong to the Church catholic, which loves God; nor do the schismatics form a part of the same.

Of Faith and the Creed, Chap. 10, 393 A.D.

The name itself of Catholic, which, . . . amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.

Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental, Chap. 4, Proofs of the Catholic Faith

The Church is called Catholic because it honestly holds the whole truth, of which fragments here and there are found in some heresies.

Letter to Vincentius, Letter 93, Chap. 7, Para. 23, 408 A.D.