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Friday, 23 March 2012

Who Was The First Pope?

It's probably not who you think.

From the book Saints and Sinners, by Eamon Duffy, a Catholic and professor of history at the University of Cambridge, and from other reading, I have known for some time that the version of early Church history held by secular historians, who derive their conclusions from historical research and evidence, differs somewhat from that of Vatican histories, which are based primarily on church tradition. When Chris placed a post yesterday on the death of Pope  Shenouda III (the Coptic Pope), I placed this comment, working initially from memory:

Trying to do a little fact -checking, I came up against a surprise:

The first record in history of the term "pope" is assigned to Pope Heraclas of Alexandria in a letter written by the bishop of Rome, Dionysius, to Philemon:

τοῦτον ἐγὼ τὸν κανόνα καὶ τὸν τύπον παρὰ τοῦ μακαρίου πάπα ἡμῶν Ἡρακλᾶ παρέλαβον.[13]

Which translates into:

I received this rule and ordinance from our blessed pope, Heracla
(The reference quoted in this extract as "13" is to  Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica Book VII, chapter 7.7)
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