Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Wrinkle in the Complexity of the Roman Church at the Beginning of the Third Century

Photius Bibliotheca 48 makes a very explicit statement that has confused scholars ever since saying that Gaius of Rome not only was the contemporary of these two pontiffs but also was as a presbyter ordained by them "bishop of the nations." The citation of Photius reads:

τουτον τον Γαιον πρεσβυτερον φασι γεγενησθαι της κατα Ρωμην εκκλησιας επι Ουικτορος και Ζεφυρινου των αρχιερεων, χειροτονηθηναι δε αυτον και εθνων επισκοπον

This Gaius is said to have been a presbyter of the church at Rome during the episcopate of Victor and Zephyrinus, and to have been ordained bishop of the nations.

While it has puzzled scholars for generations I cannot help but think that this is a reference to some sort special office akin to the later Papacy - a bishop of bishops - an office which was quickly taken away. At the very least, it demonstrates how confusing and complex the real history of the period really was.

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