Volume 63, Issue 1, June 2023

Enrico Norelli
Pages 9-45

Dai presbiteri d’Asia agli episcopi di Roma secondo Ireneo di Lione – Parte I

The present contribution is the first half of a two-part study. It deals with a group of so-called «presbyters» (presbyteroi) to whom Irenaeus of Lyons refers as sources in his exstant works. He introduces them as pupils of John, «the disciple of the Lord», whose teaching they were deemed to transmit orally. This is an ideal image of a generation of believers in Jesus intermediate between Jesus’s direct disciples and the believers of further generations who would have no personal connection to Jesus nor to those who had been with him. For one specific saying, Irenaeus mentions as his sources the presbyters as well as Papias of Hierapolis, who had written a work including sayings of Jesus with their interpretation. Papias also claimed that he had received such sayings through «the presbyters», so we have to determine whether Irenaeus knew the presbyter’s traditions only through Papias’s work or also independently from it. Finally, the article compares Irenaeus’s appeal to the presbyters with some passages where Clement of Alexandria referred to presbyters’ teachings in a similar way ten to twenty years after Irenaeus in a different milieu. The second part of this study will examine how Irenaeus used the notion of presbyters in order to support the process that led to establishing a «monepiscopate» in the Roman Church.

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