Zakharov Georgii

“Apostolic” and “Imperial” discourse in the development of the Roman Primacy in the 4th century

Zakharov Georgii (2015) " “Apostolic” and “Imperial” discourse in the development of the Roman Primacy in the 4th century ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia II : Istoriia. Istoriia Russkoy Pravoslavnoy Tserkvi, 2015, vol. 65, pp. 9-26 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturII201565.9-26


The article is devoted to the evolution of the Roman primacy in the 4th century. The Christianization of the Empire accelerated the process of regional consolidation of the episcopate, but did not lead to the emergence of specific «imperial ecclesiology». At the same time in the 4th century, traditional apostolic ecclesiology has maintained its position both in the West and the East. We can distinguish two different types of the apostolic ecclesiology: locally-historical (the doctrine of St. Irenaeus and Tertullian) and universally-hierarchical (the concept of St. Cyprian of Carthage). The first can be fi nd in the works of pope Julius, St. Athanasius and in the letter of the council of Constantinople (382), the second — in the texts of St. Basil the Great and Palladius of Ratiara. At the same time on the council of Serdica (343) Western bishops supported the new “Roman” ecclesiological model. They proclaimed the Roman See as the Chair of Peter the only center of catholic communion and invested it with special legal prerogatives. In fact, this model was the result of ecclesiological synthesis of two early conceptions of apostolicity: the idea of apostolic origins of the Roman Church was connected with the idea of the primacy of Peter as the basis of the Church’s unity. In the future, this conception was adopted by the bishop of Rome. Pope Damasus I (366–384), developing the doctrine of the Roman See as sedes apostolica, actually put principle of Roman primacy above the principle of synodal consensus. Eastern bishops did not support this interpretation of the church order, defending the autonomy of the Eastern Churches. They proclaimed Constantinople New Rome, in fact, denying the uniqueness of the status of the Church of Rome.


Roman Church, Roman primacy, apostolicity, Roman Empire, Arian controversy, ecclesiology, canon law, council of Serdica, Julius I, Liberius, Damasus I.


1. Zaharov G. E. 2014 “Bogoslovskaja pozicija Rimskoj cerkvi v arianskih sporah” (Theological Position of Roman Church in Arian Controversies), in Communio et traditio: Kafolicheskoe edinstvo Cerkvi v rannehristianskij period, Moscow, 2014, pp. 29–45.
2. Zaharov G. E. «…Ibo nadlezhit byt' i raznomyslijam mezhdu vami»: Jekkleziologicheskaja problematika v istorii arianskih sporov (“No Doubt There Have to be Differences among You”: Ecclesiological Problems in the History of Arian Controversies), Moscow, 2014.
3. Zaharov G. E. Illirijskie cerkvi v jepohu arianskih sporov (IV — nachalo V v.) (Illyrian Churches in Time of Arian Controversies (IV — Begin of V Cent.)), Moscow, 2014.
4. Zaharov G. E. 2014 “Obraz Konstantinopolja v tvorenijah svt. Grigorija Bogoslova” (Image of Constantinople in Works of St. Gregorius Theologian), in Vestnik Universiteta Dmitrija Pozharskogo, 2014, vol. 1, pp. 244–251.
5. Zaharov G. E. 2015 “Rimskoe pervenstvo i razvitie instituta cerkovnogo sobora v jepohu arianskih sporov” (Rome Primacy and Development of Institue of Church Council in Time of Arian Controversies), in Vestnik PSTGU. Serija II: Istorija. Istorija Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Cerkvi, 2015, vol. 1/62, pp. 7–25.
6. Mattei P. 2013 “Afrikanskie sobory v jepohu sv. Kipriana Karfagenskogo” (African Councils in Time of St. Cyprian of Cartago), in XXIII Ezhegodnaja bogoslovskaja konferencija PSTGU: Materialy, Moscow, 2013, pp. 242–249.
7. Mattei P. 2012 “Rimskij primat v vosprijatii afrikanskih hristian: predystorija, soderzhanie i istoricheskie sledstvija” (Rome Primacy in Perception of African Christians: Prehistory, Content and Historical Consequences), in Vestnik PSTGU. Serija II: Istorija. Istorija Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Cerkvi, 2012, vol. 4/47, pp. 40–61.
8. Petr (L’Juil'e), arhiep. Pravila pervyh chetyreh Vselenskih soborov (Rules of First Four Ecumenical Councils), Moscow, 2005.
9. Blaise A. Dictionnaire latin-français des auteurs chrétiens, Turnhout, 1954.
10. Basdevant-Gaudemet B. 2006 “Les évêques de la chrétienté et l’évêque de Rome du milieu du IIIе au milieu du Vе siècle”, in Basdevant-Gaudemet B. Église et Autorités. Études d’histoire du droit canonique medieval, Limoges, 2006, pp. 25–49.
11. Batiffol P. Cathedra Petri: études d’histoire ancienne de l’Eglise, Paris, 1938.
12. Dagron G. 1968 “L’empire romain d’Orient au IVe siècle et les traditions politiques de l’hellénisme. Le témoignage de Thémistios”, in Travaux et mémoires, vol. 3, Paris, 1968, pp. 1–242.
13. Dvornik F. Byzance et la primauté romaine. Paris, 1964.
14. Falbo G. Il primato della Chiesa di Roma alla luce dei primi quattro secoli, Roma, 1989.
15. Hess H. The Early Development of Canon Law and the Council of Serdica, Oxford, 2002.
16. Lanne D. E. 1961 “Églises locales et patriarcats à l’époque des grands conciles”, in Irénikon, 1961, vol. 34, pp. 292–321.
17. Le Guillou M. J. 1976 “Principe apostolique et principe imperial: quelques réflexions sur le sens de la primauté romaine aux premiers siècles”, in Istina, 1976, vol. 21, pp. 142–153.
18. Maccarrone M. Romana ecclesia — cathedra Petri, vol. 1. Roma, 1991.
19. Marot H. 1957 “Les conciles romains des IVе et Vе siècles et le développement de la primauté”, in Istina, 1957, vol. 4, pp. 435–462.
20. Pietri Ch. Roma Christiana. Recherches sur l’Eglise de Rome, son organisation, sa politique, son idéologie de Miltiade à Sixte III (311–440), Roma, 1976.
21. Reutter U. Damasus, Bischof von Rom (366–384). Leben und Werk, Tübingen, 2009.
22. Schatz K. La primauté du Pape. Son histoire, des origines à nos jours, Paris, 1992.
23. Twomey V. Apostolikos Thronos: The Primacy of Rome as Reflected in the Church History of Eusebius and the Historico-Apologetical Writings of Saint Athanasius the Great, Münster, 1982.
24. Waarden J., van. 2014 “Priscillian of Avila’s Liber ad Damasum and the Inability to Handle a Conflict”, in Geljon A. C., Roukema R. (eds.) Violence in Ancient Christianity: Victims and Perpetrators, Leiden, 2014 (Vigiliae Christianae Supplements, vol. 125), pp. 132–150.

Information about the author

Zakharov Georgii