True Apostolic succession is the passing down of correct apostolic doctrine, which is in the canonical Scriptures. The only way to know what the apostles taught is to go back to their writings, “the holy and God-breathed Scriptures”. The early church in first 3-4 centuries called the doctrinal content “the rule of faith”. True apostolic succession is not on fallible people (presbyters, bishops, pastors) as people holding an ecclesiastical office, (in a magical sense or ex opere operato sense based on their office), but rather on those ministers holding to the “the faith once for all time delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). It is “the faith” / the content of doctrine – if held to in subsequent generations, that is the key.
Roman Catholic apologists like to emphasize the tradition of the early church, and claim that other unwritten oral apostolic traditions that Paul mentions in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, are brought out later in church history. The problem is, the main early church fathers, when they explicate what “the tradition of the apostles”, or “the faith” or “the preaching” or “the rule of faith” is, the content is all Biblical content. It is all doctrinal points that are in Scripture, and based on and outlined from the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19, organized around The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these are very similar in content to the early creeds such as the Apostles Creed, and the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed.
Nowhere do these early fathers mention anything that Rome has deemed as dogmatic centuries later in these passages. There is nothing about a Pope, or Marian dogmas or piety (except…
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