The nature of Roman primacy and the extent of the teaching and jurisdictional authority of the pope have long been areas of misunderstanding and disagreement between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches of the East. Just as the Petrine office of the Roman pontiff admits of historical unfolding, so, too, do differing theological accounts of this office, and the period of the fourth-century Arian controversy marks a significant stage in the development of both.
D. Vincent Twomey’s Apostolikos Thronos exposes two divergent Eastern accounts of Roman primacy in the writings of the rival fourth-century bishops Eusebius of Caesarea and Athanasius of Alexandria. In the first part, Twomey examines successive versions of Eusebius’ Church History, and he shows how Eusebius comes to replace his earlier apostolic ecclesiology with a novel imperial ecclesiology tied to Constantine’s embrace of Christianity, a shift that both reflects and contributes to a lasting change in the consciousness of the East toward the See of Rome. The second part explores the perspective on Roman primacy found in Athanasius’ historical and apologetic works, penned in response to his deposition from the See of Alexandria, which reveal how Athanasius preserves the traditional apostolic ecclesiology of the early Eusebius and also displays a deepening theological appreciation for the preeminence of the church and bishop of Rome, anticipating later articulations of the theology of the papacy.
Vincent Twomey, S.V.D., earned his Ph.D. in theology at the University of Regensburg under the supervision of Joseph Ratzinger. He is Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at St. Patrick’s Pontifical University, Maynooth, where in 1986 he co-founded the Patristic Symposium to promote patristic studies in Ireland. Fr. Twomey previously held teaching positions at the Regional Seminary in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and at the Divine Word Missionaries Faculty of Theology at St. Gabriel’s in Mödling, Austria. He also served as Visiting Professor at the University of Fribourg and Visiting Scholar at Seton Hall University. He is the former editor of the Irish Theological Quarterly and the co-editor of several volumes of the proceedings of the International Patristic Conference, Maynooth.
“Missing from the last half century’s flood of scholarship on the fourth century has been a detailed reflection on the ecclesiological visions implicit in the alliances and relationships that are so important in the Trinitarian controversies. Fr. Twomey’s rich volume forces upon us a vital series of questions and a compellingly argued thesis. From his detective work emerges the possibility that an inchoate vision of the Apostolic See’s preeminence was a concrete reality in the early fourth century. Fr. Twomey’s argument has great import both for how we envisage the early growth of the papacy and for the vital and continuing dialogue between the Churches of East and West. This compelling text deserves the attention of all interested in these questions.”
— Lewis Ayres —
“It gives me great pleasure to see Fr. Twomey’s book republished under its new title. I read the book with great interest shortly after its publication in 1982, and I was impressed by both the cogency of its arguments and the clarity of its presentation of dense and difficult material. Not all historians will agree with his conclusions about Eusebius’ ‘original ecclesiology’ and the implication that aspects of ‘Eusebianism’ survive into later Chalcedonian Orthodox rejection of the ‘Petrine Ministry’ of Rome. Such is the nature, however, of groundbreaking historical works. I hope that in this new edition Fr. Twomey’s book will receive the attention it so fully deserves.”
— William J. Tighe —
“This new edition of Fr. Twomey’s Apostolikos Thronos is much to be welcomed. It is a work that has helped me to see how the primacy of the Bishop of Rome was understood in the patristic era, a matter that John Henry Newman regarded as crucial for the witness of Christian unity. Fr. Twomey’s analysis of the changing perspective in Eusebius’ Church History is especially noteworthy—the danger of linking the Church’s mission too closely to the structures of the earthly city is as real today as it was in the fourth century.”
— Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson —
Ordinary Emeritus of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
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