Reviews - What do customers think about From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church?
Balanced and Scholarly Mar 11, 2008
Fr. Sullivan's approach is not one of dogmatic polemic. Instead, he is candid about where the case for apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic church is weak. At the same time, he is clear at where the case is quite strong. His homework and scholarly detail is meticulous and challenging. Yet, despite the depth of study, Fr. Sullivan's text is immensely approachable and entertaining. This is the source for thinking through this important topic and no library of ecclesiology (Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox) is complete without this concise but thorough study of apostolic succession.
REFUTES IDEA OF EARLY MULTIPLE STRANDS OF CHRISTIANITY Mar 11, 2005
Sullivan is a fine writer, unlike most theologians. That's one good point. The other is that Sulllivan tackles the notion that early christianity was a jumble of ideas, not a single strand. It's not possible to believe, as some thologians have argued, that early christianity was riven by gnostic and other ideas. Not after reading Sullivan's close examination of early church growth and beliefs. Sullivan's chapters on Paul's letters alone should refute shuch ideas, his close detailing of the pastoral care Paul gave to each church. This book needs to be widely read.
An essentail and impressive read Sep 30, 2003
I picked up this book expecting not to like it, and actually started to heavily enjoy it from the start. Sullivan looks very closely and critically at the writings of the New Testament, and the church fathers of the late-first through the mid-third century , attempting to discover the development of the Church as an organization. Sometimes I could not believe the words I was reading are written by a Roman Catholic. Sullivan is not affraid to say the rhetoric of many Roman Catholic scholars that one often hears is wrong... though he ultimately agrees with the final conclusions of the Roman Catholic Church.
One will find Sullivan's scholarhip and conclusions to be extremely tight, and difficult to argue with. Though, he essentially says some of his conclusions can only be accepted by faith... that is: the post New Testament development of the Church in the second and third centuries to have been divinely guided by the Spirit.
He tries to prove this saying, "We have just as good reason for believing that the Spirit guided the church in recognizing its bishops as successors of the apostles and authoritative teachers of the faith as we have for believing that the Spirit guided it in discerning the books that comprise the New Testament." (p. 230) A powerful argument, but ultimately, only one that can be accepted by faith. Many scholars would say the books that make up New Testament canon were well accepted by consensus of the faithful at large well before the bishops decided it in formal councils.
Ultimately though, I personally believe the fundamental flaw which the author makes is the assumption that the apostolic office faded out of existance after the intial apostles and their apostolic co-workers died. Many Pentecostals/Charismatics (such as myself) would strongly disagree with Sullivan, and would say that the New Testament points to a continuation of the apostolic office (Ephesians 4:11-13) well beyond that of the first century (Many would say it continues to exist today). If apostles would continue to exist, then, one cannot properly say that bishops replaced the apostles and their co-workers. I would be highly interested to see what Sullivan would think of this point of contention... one that he is probably aware of.
Overall, this book will probably become a classic in the study of Ecclesiology... and rightfully so.
Stimulating Nov 13, 2002
Because I am a Lutheran clergyman, it is predictable that I disagree with Father Sullivan about what it means for the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" to be both catholic and apostolic. Therefore, I disagree with Father Sullivan regarding his conclusions about the nature of the episcopacy and the validity of the Eucharist outside of Roman Catholic communities.
Nevertheless, Father Sullivan's research is scrupulously honest, even when honesty demands that he disagree with popular Catholic beliefs. He presents his opponents' arguments gently and with great kindness. His arguments and conclusions are reasonable. Perhaps most importantly, his discussion is intellectually and spiritually stimulating.
Whether you agree or disagree with the Roman Catholic position on these issues, read Father Sullivan's work. You will struggle with its rich content. You will grow because of that struggle.