Callistus of Rome

By COGwriter

Who was Callistus of Rome? Was he a pope? Was he faithful to the Bible or human tradition? Did Callistus condone abortion? What type of reputation did he have?

The generally touted Catholic position is that Callistus was the sixteenth pope and that all subsequent leaders of the true church passed through him (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 6). Is that correct?

This article will refer to historical records and Roman Catholic sources to attempt to properly answer those questions.

Certain Claims

While visiting the Vatican in 2004, I purchased a book in its basilica museum bookstore titled The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997). The book states that it is sponsored by the "Pontifical Administration, which has tutelage over the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter".

It makes many statements about the early bishops of Rome including this about Callistus:

16. CALLISTUS, ST. (217-222) He was born in Rome, a scion of the noble Domizii family. After a tumultuous and certainly not edifying life which saw him imprisoned and exiled for common crimes, Callistus finally changed his ways...There was some violent dissent against Callistus regarding ecclesiastical discipline...he died in 235. Before his death he was reconciled with the Church which admitted him among its saints (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 6).

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes about him:

His Acts are spurious, but he is the earliest pope found the fourth-century "Depositio Martirum", and this is good evidence that he was really a martyr, although he lived in a time of peace under Alexander Severus, whose mother was a Christian...

Our chief knowledge of this pope is from his bitter enemies, Tertullian and the antipope who wrote the "Philosophumena", no doubt Hippolytus. Their calumnies are probably based on facts. According to the "Philosophumena" (c. ix) Callistus was the slave of Carpophorus, a Christian of the household of Caesar. His master entrusted large sums of money to Callistus, with which he started a bank in which brethren and widows lodged money, all of which Callistus lost. He took to flight. Carpophorus followed him to Portus, where Callistus had embarked on a ship...

Tertullian (De Exhort. Castitatis, vii) speaks with reprobation of bishops who had been married more than once, and Hippolytus charges Callistus with being the first to allow this, against St. Paul's rule. But in the East marriages before baptism were not counted, and in any case the law is one from which the pope can dispense if necessity arise. Again Callistus allowed the lower clergy to marry, and permitted noble ladies to marry low persons and slaves, which by the Roman law was forbidden; he had thus given occasion for infanticide...

Hippolytus's own Christology is most imperfect, and he tells us that Callistus accused him of Ditheism (Chapman J. Transcribed by Benjamin F. Hull. Pope Callistus I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Bribes, Indulgences, Marriage of the Clergy, Fornication, and Abortion?

In the third century, the theologian Hippolytus reported this background information on Callistus' early life:

Callistus happened to be a domestic of one Carpophorus, a man of the faith belonging to the household of Caesar. To this Callistus, as being of the faith, Carpophorus committed no inconsiderable amount of money, and directed him to bring in profitable returns from the banking business. And he, receiving the money, tried (the experiment of) a bank in what is called the Piscina Publica. And in process of time were entrusted to him not a few deposits by widows and brethren, under the ostensive cause of lodging their money with Carpophorus. Callistus, however, made away with all (the moneys committed to him), and became involved in pecuniary difficulties. And after having practised such conduct as this, there was not wanting one to tell Carpophorus, and the latter stated that he would require an account from him.

Callistus, perceiving these things, and suspecting danger from his master, escaped away by stealth, directing his flight towards the sea. And finding a vessel in Portus ready for a voyage, he went on board, intending to sail wherever she happened to be bound for. But not even in this way could he avoid detection, for there was not wanting one who conveyed to Carpophorus intelligence of what had taken place. But Carpophorus, in accordance with the information he had received, at once repaired to the harbour (Portus), and made an effort to hurry into the vessel after Callistus. The boat, however, was anchored in the middle of the harbour; and as the ferryman was slow in his movements, Callistus, who was in the ship, had time to descry his master at a distance. And knowing that himself would be inevitably captured, he became reckless of life; and, considering his affairs to be in a desperate condition, he proceeded to cast himself into the sea. But the sailors leaped into boats and drew him out, unwilling to come, while those on shore were raising a loud cry. And thus Callistus was handed over to his master, and brought to Rome, and his master lodged him in the Pistrinum (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VII. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Although I have no way to verify that background, The Catholic Encyclopedia stated that "their calumnies are probably based on facts" (their calumnies referring to Hippolytus' and Tertullian's accounts of the above and other negative matters about Callistus). The Catholic Encyclopedia also reports this about Hippolytus:

Hippolytus ... was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era (Kirsch, Johann Peter. St. Hippolytus of Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 12 Jun. 2009 The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Hence apparently it believes at least most of his witness (the Church of Rome also considers that Hippolytus was a saint--his feast day, August 13th).

After Callistus came to Rome, Hippolytus also reported:

Callistus ... a man cunning in wickedness, and subtle where deceit was concerned, (and) who was impelled by restless ambition to mount the episcopal throne. Now this man moulded to his purpose Zephyrinus, an ignorant and illiterate individual, and one unskilled in ecclesiastical definitions. And inasmuch as Zephyrinus was accessible to bribes, and covetous, Callistus, by luring him through presents, and by illicit demands, was enabled to seduce him into whatever course of action he pleased. And so it was that Callistus succeeded in inducing Zephyrinus to create continually disturbances among the brethren, while he himself took care subsequently, by knavish words, to attach both factions in good-will to himself (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VI. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886).

Hence, Callistus' reputation seems to have been called into question.

Hippolytus also reported:

The impostor Callistus, having ventured on such opinions, established a school of theology in antagonism to the Church, adopting the foregoing system of instruction. And he first invented the device of conniving with men in regard of their indulgence in sensual pleasures, saying that all had their sins forgiven by himself...

About the time of this man, bishops, priests, and deacons, who had been twice married, and thrice married, began to be allowed to retain their place among the clergy. If also, however, any one who is in holy orders should become married, Callistus permitted such a one to continue in holy orders as if he had not sinned...

And the hearers of Callistus being delighted with his tenets, continue with him, thus mocking both themselves as well as many others, and crowds of these dupes stream together into his school. Wherefore also his pupils are multiplied, and they plume themselves upon the crowds (attending the school) for the sake of pleasures which Christ did not permit. But in contempt of Him, they place restraint on the commission of no sin, alleging that they pardon those who acquiesce (in Callistus' opinions). For even also he permitted females, if they were unwedded, and burned with passion at an age at all events unbecoming, or if they were not disposed to overturn their own dignity through a legal marriage, that they might have whomsoever they would choose as a bedfellow, whether a slave or free, and that a woman, though not legally married, might consider such a companion as a husband. Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time! And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church! And some, under the supposition that they will attain prosperity, concur with them (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VII. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

So, apparently Callistus lowered standards. I have no way to verify these charges, other than to state that Roman Catholics still consider that Hippolytus is a saint, and a fairly accurate historian. Yet notice the following claim:

Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to moral law (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2271. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 606).

Thus since Callistus condoned abortion, this contradicts the Roman Catholic position that it never condoned abortion from the first century onwards (more on Roman Catholic endorsed abortion can be found in the article Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Church of God?).

Note that even The Catholic Encyclopedia admitted this about Callistus:

...he had thus given occasion for infanticide.

Though they are not clearly admitting that he condoned abortion with that statement.

Notice what Tertullian wrote in the early third century:

In opposition to this (modesty), could I not have acted the dissembler? I hear that there has even been an edict set forth, and a peremptory one too. The Pontifex Maximus — that is, the bishop of bishops — issues an edict: "I remit, to such as have discharged (the requirements of) repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication." O edict, on which cannot be inscribed, "Good deed!" And where shall this liberality be posted up? On the very spot, I suppose, on the very gates of the sensual appetites, beneath the very titles of the sensual appetites. There is the place for promulgating such repentance, where the delinquency itself shall haunt. (Tertullian. On Modesty. Translated by S. Thelwall. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885)

Basically, Tertullian said he was following in the practices of pagan leaders, like the Pontifex Maximus--a title that Roman bishops accepted around 380 A.D.

Because of Callistus’ decrees, Tertullian (who had previously left the fellowship of the Roman Church) sarcastically dubbed him "our good pontifex maximus" (as the following translation renders it). He also believed that Callistus when issuing an edit against the Montantists (psychi below) was personal:

For now I hear a thing so horrible, that I could never be silent in the face of it, viz. that in addition a decree against our pudicity has been issued, and that a mortal one. In fact - our good pontifex maximus, as the bishop of the bishops ... Now this tract against the psychici can even be said to be directed against me, because earlier I was one of them (Tertullian. De Pudicitia, Chapter 1, verses 6,10. Unfinished English translation by Gösta Claesson, 1950-1980. viewed 12/10/07).

Tertullian also seems to be making light of the titled "bishop of bishops" in the above as well as perhaps distancing himself from the Montanists. Now if this tract is when Rome separated from the Montantists, this would have been probably at least 60 years after the Montantists were first denounced by Thraseas and others in Asia Minor.

Here is a Roman Catholic statement about Tertullian:

Among the writings of the Fathers, the following are the principal works which bear on the doctrine of the Church: ST. IRENÆUS, Adv. Hereses in P.G., VII; TERTULLIAN, De Prescriptionibus in P. L ... (Joyce G.H. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. The Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York)

Callistus' behavior looks to be a reason that Tertullian left the communion of the Church of Rome. Yet, despite his leaving, Tertullian still considered by Rome to have been an importance witness of Greco-Roman history and doctrine.

Roman Catholic leaders recognize that Callistus changed prior requirements for acceptable behavior:

The early Church had been very rough on those who committed sins of adultery, murder, and fornication. Hippolytus was enraged by the mercy that Callistus showed to these repentant sinners, allowing them back into communion of the Church after they had performed public penance. Callistus' mercy was also matched by his desire for equality among Church members, manifested by his acceptance of marraiges between free people and slaves. Hippolytus saw all of this as a degradation of the Church, a submission to lust and licentiousness that reflected not mercy and holiness in Callistus but perversion and fraud (Matz T. St. Callistus I.  Copyright 2009 Catholic Online. viewed 06/23/09).

Public penance was not a biblical practice. And the forgiveness of sins for those who publicly gave money would seem quite contrary to Jesus' teachings (Matthew 6:1-5).

In some respects, Callistus marks a major turning point in Roman Catholicism.

The forgiveness of sins resulting in indulgences becomes a major factor in the Protestant Reformation about 13 centuries later. While the idea of a married clergy was not new, the remarriage aspect was--though both of these were later dropped around the fourth century (please see article Was Celibacy Required for Early Bishops or Presbyters?). And of course, fornication is not condoned by any who take the Bible seriously.

But the infanticide charge (abortion) is also quite disturbing (an article of related interest may be Abortion, the Bible, and a Woman's Right to Choose). But this, of course, was changed by later Roman bishops (in spite of current Vatican claims that the position never changed--it also should be noted that some have also reported that Roman Catholic clergy have condoned abortions when embarrassment to the Roman Church could have resulted from certain births).

However, it is of interest to sadly note that this may have been the time of some of the greatest growth among those who professed the Roman version of Christianity.

Callistus Apparently Was the One Who Implemented a Saturday Fast

Marcion of Pontus was denounced by leaders from Asia Minor and Rome as a heretic.

Tertullian reported:

Marcion acquired his very perverse opinions not from a master, but his master from his opinion! … He displayed a hatred against the Jews' most solemn day, He was only professedly following the Creator, as being His Christ, in this very hatred of the Sabbath ...

It is reported:

Marcion who fasted on the Sabbath to show his contempt for the God of the Old Testament whom he considered to be evil.

Fasting on the Sabbath was a practice adopted by the Roman Church, but not the Churches in Asia Minor in the second and third centuries.

The Liber Pontificalis reports :

Callistus I ... He instituted a fast from corn, wine and oil upon the Sabbath day thrice per year, according to the word of the prophet, of a fourth, of a seventh, and of a tenth.

Note that although the footnote to the above cites “Zechariah VIII, 19”, that verse, while mentioning fasts, mentions four and never mentions the Sabbath as a day of fasting. Thus, it appears that Rome probably somewhat followed Marcion’s example here. Over time, Rome did have weekly fasts on the Sabbath as Marcion himself did.

Perhaps it should be noted that Callistus (bishop of Rome from 217-222) was considered to have been corrupt and that he was condemned by Hippolytus both for his corruption, allowing abortion, and for instituting a Saturday fast:

Even today some allow themselves the same audacities : they order fasting on the Sabbath of which Christ has not spoken, dishonoring even the Gospel of Christ.

Actually the truth is that even though Hippolytus is considered to be a saint by the Catholic Church and even "was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era" (St. Hippolytus of Rome, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910), because Hippolytus held to more of a binitarian view of the Godhead, the Roman Catholic Church claims apostolic succession through Callistus instead of Hippolytus.

Should one who allowed abortion and bribed his way into his office be considered a true Christian or or be considered as a true apostolic successor? The very idea that Callistus was a true successor of Peter should be too absurd for any who understand the truth about him to accept.

The True Church Was Anti-Montanist

The Montanists were not rebuked by Bishop Callistus. This shows that he did not feel he had the doctrinal integrity to stand against them. No bishop of Rome was considered to have had universal authority by most professing Christians by Callistus' time.

However, the church leaders in Antioch and Asia Minor took a stand against the Montanists. Serapion of Antioch, Apollonius of Ephesus, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, and Thraseas of Eumenia opposed the Montanist heresies (since Apollinaris of Hierapolis and Thraseas of Eumenia were Quartodecimans, it is likely that Serapion and many other anti-Montanists were as well). Eusebius records that:

This same Apollonius states in the same work that, at the time of his writing, it was the fortieth year since Montanus had begun his pretended prophecy...

Serapion, who, as report says, succeeded Maximinus at that time as bishop of the church of Antioch, mentions the works of Apolinarius against the above-mentioned heresy. And he alludes to him in a private letter to Caricus and Pontius, in which he himself exposes the same heresy, and adds the following words:

"That you may see that the doings of this lying band of the new prophecy, so called, are an abomination to all the brotherhood throughout the world, I have sent you writings of the most blessed Claudius Apolinarius, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia." In the same letter of Serapion the signatures of several bishops are found, one of whom subscribes himself as follows: "I, Aurelius Cyrenius, a witness, pray for your health." And another in this manner: "Aelius Publius Julius, bishop of Debeltum, a colony of Thrace. As God liveth in the heavens, the blessed Sotas in Anchialus desired to cast the demon out of Priscilla, but the hypocrites did not permit him" (Eusebius Book V, Chapters 18-19).

Of the Montanists, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

the date of Thraseas is therefore about 160, and the origin of Montanism must be yet earlier ... We hear of no false doctrines at first ... St. Jerome's account, written in 384 ... describes them as Sabellians in their idea of the Trinity (Chapman J. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Montanists. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

One of the so-called Montanist Oracles was:

"I am the Father and the Son and the Paraclete." (Didymus, De trinitate iii. 41. 1.) (Assembled in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste (1913), 34-105, by Bates College, Lewston (Maine) 01/31/06).

This is one of the first references to a trinitarian view of the Godhead (the other earliest one was from the heretic Valentinus). The paraclete is a term used to signify the Holy Spirit (it is from the Greek term parakletos).

For his trinitarian views, Callistus was denounced as a heretic:

Callistus corroborated the heresy of these Noetians, but we have already carefully explained the details of his life. And Callistus himself produced likewise a heresy, and derived its starting-points from these Noetians,--namely, so far as he acknowledges that there is one Father and God, viz., the Creator of the universe, and that this (God) is spoken of, and called by the name of Son, yet that in substance He is one Spirit. For Spirit, as the Deity, is, he says, not any being different from the Logos, or the Logos from the Deity; therefore this one person, (according to Callistus,) is divided nominally, but substantially not so. He supposes this one Logos to be God, and affirms that there was in the ease of the Word an incarnation. And he is disposed (to maintain), that He who was seen in the flesh and was crucified is Son, but that the Father it is who dwells in Him. Callistus thus at one time branches off into the opinion of Noetus, but at another into that of Theodotus, and holds no sure doctrine. These, then, are the opinions of Callistus (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book X, Chapter XXIII. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

It should be noted that Hippolytus and others must have considered the above trinitarian position of Callistus still a heresy in the early third century.

Since the true Church of God is binitarian and Callistus disapproved of that, it is logical that any affiliated with it would have opposed any trinitarian teachings. Roman leaders seemed to be tolerant of the Montanists until sometime after Serapion and others in Asia Minor condemned them (Rome finally condemned the Montanists, but not for this doctrine, and not by Zephyrinus).

Newsweek Reports About Callistus

Newsweek had a special edition titled Mysteries of the Faith. And one article titled Sinners and Saints concerned the mystery that someone such as Callistus became the Bishop of Rome.

Here are excerpts from that article:


Around the year 190 in Rome, a Christian named Carpophrus set up a bank for his fellow Chrstians, particularly widows, who needed a safe place to keep their limited funds. Carpophorus had a Christian slave named Callixtus who had experience managing money, so he entrusted the administration of the bank to him.

Callixtus's investment decisions were disastrous. Worse still, he had a habit of helping himself to the bank's funds. In short order, all the money was gone. Roman Christians who thought they were financially secure suddenly found themselves destitute. As for Callixtus, he booked passage on the first ship heading out to sea.

Carpophorus caught up with Callixtus at the town of Portus. Carpophorus hired a boatman to ferry him out to Callixtus's ship. As the little boat drew close, Callixtus recognized the man aboard as his master. In desperation, he dived into the sea and tried to swim to safety. Carpophorus shouted to the sailors not to let Callixtus get away. The crew leapt into their own small boats, fished Callixtus out of the water, and handed him over to Carpophorus.

Back in Rome, Carpophorus sentenced Callixtus to hard labor. The embezling slave was chained to a gristmill, where he turned the massive stone wheel day after day. It was brutal, exhausting, mind-numbing work.

Then rescue came from an unexpected quarter. The ruined depositors from Carpophorus's bank begged him to release Callixtus, arguing that the slave might be persuaded to recover at least some fo the money he had squandered.

Callixtus was barely out of his chains when he got into fresh trouble. On Saturday morning, he barged into Rome's synagogue, disrupted the Sabbath service, and demanded money from the Jewish congregation...

The Jews charged Callixtus with disturbing the peace and desecrating a holy place. For good measure, they said they suspected that Callixtus was a member of that outlawed sect known as Christians. By now, Carpophorus was in the courtroom, too, and he swore that his slave was no Christian. Technically, of course, Carpophorus was lying since Callixtus had been baptized. But in terms of Callixtus's conduct, no one could describe it as Christ-like. Fuscianus settled the case quickly: The slave Callixtus was to be scourged, then transported to the island of Sardinia to work in the mines. Turning the gristmill had been bad, but slaving in the mines was a virtual death sentence...

Back in Rome, Carpophorus, the penniless Christians, and the Jews of the city found some satisfaction in the knowledge that the troublesome Callixtus at last was getting what he deserved. But then, yet another unforeseen event occurred.

Marcia, the mistress of the emperor, Commodus, was a Christian...Marcia asked Pope Victor I to prepare a list of these living martys so she could arrange for their release. He named every Christian prisoner he could think of, but he purposely omitted Callixtus.

Marcia sent an elderly eunuch named Hyacinthus with a letter to the governor of Sardinia asking him, as a personal favor to her, to release the men named on the list. Naturally, the governor was not about to refuse the emperor's mistress.

As Hyacinthus collected all the Christians for the journey home. Callixtus ran forward, dropped to his knees, and, weeping, begged Hyacinthus to take him, too. The old man probably knew Callixtus's reputation, but he could not leave him in the mines to die. And so Callixtus returned to Rome.

Carpophorus was furious to see his slave again, and Victor was horrified that the scoundrel Callixtus was back in the city...

In 199, Pope Victor died, and Zephyrinus was elected pope. One of the pope's first acts was to ordain Callixtus a deacon, then put him in charge of a Christian cemetery on the Appian Way. Today that cemetery is known as the Catacomb of St. Callixtus...

Callixtus...pope...He decreed that Christians who committed fornication or adultery, even Christians who had fallen into heresy, could be restored to full communion with the Catholic Church once they had confessed their sins and done penance...

Hippolytus...denied that Callixtus' election was valid and had his followers elect him pope. Hippolytus became the first antipope...The split between Catholics faithful to Callixtus and...who followed Hippolytus was not healed during Callixtus' lifetime.

(Craughwell Thomas J. Sinners and Saints. Newsweek, pp. 53-56)

It should be pointed out that the term "pope" was actually not used in the second and third centuries. The proper title then was "Bishop of Rome".

It remains my view that the Church of Rome would have traced itself through Hippolytus and not Callixtus as the "Bishop of Rome" if it had not modified its view on the Godhead in the fourth century. But since it did, that appears why Callixtus has been cited as successor and Hippolytus as an antipope.

Was He A Pope?

Technically, Callistus was not a pope. The Catholic leaders in Rome did not take that title until after Siricius of the late fourth century. Nor did he, unlike his predecessor Bishop Victor, try to act like one. This shows that the idea that all of professing Christendom from the time of Linus until at least the early third century accepting the rule of a "Roman bishop" is false.

This is essentially confirmed by the fact that the successor to Zephyrinus, Callistus (bishop from 217-222), had so much opposition that the first "anti-pope", Hyppolitus (also spelled Hippolytus), was elected in the time of Callistus (Lopes, p.6). It is not likely that any would have then elected an "anti-pope" if they felt that the proper bishop inherited the cathedra from Peter through Linus, etc. Furthermore, it is of interest to note that even today, the first "anti-pope" is considered to be a saint by the Roman Catholics, hence they must of felt he was a true Christian leader.

And all of this shows that there were no popes, as we now understand both the title and the position, until at least sometime in the later third century.

Was Callistus Peter's Spiritual Successor?

Recall that even The Catholic Encyclopedia admitted this about Callistus:

According to the "Philosophumena" (c. ix) Callistus … He obtained great influence over the ignorant, illiterate, and grasping Zephyrinus by bribes. We are not told how it came about that the runaway slave (now free by Roman law from his master, who had lost his rights when Callistus was condemned to penal servitude to the State) became archdeacon and then pope... Again Callistus allowed the lower clergy to marry, and permitted noble ladies to marry low persons and slaves, which by the Roman law was forbidden; he had thus given occasion for infanticide (Chapman J. Transcribed by Benjamin F. Hull. Pope Callistus I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Obviously this is a charge the corrupt Callistus attempted to buy the office--and since he was trying to, he violated the warning from the Apostle Peter against Simon Magus first who tried to buy the gift of God for money (a term now called "simony'). Notice what Peter said to Simon Magus:

"Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity"(Acts 8:20-23).

Yet Callistus is part of the claimed “apostolic successors” of this same Peter according to the Roman Catholic Church.

Should one who allowed abortion and bribed his way into his office be considered a true Christian or should it be those faithful in Asia Minor be considered as true apostolic successors?

I believe that the records of early church history show that Polycarp of Smyrna was the true and most influential leader of the Church of God after the last apostle (John) died, most who claim to be Roman Catholic believe that Linus, then eventually Bishop Callistus, was the actual successor. Conclusions tend to depends on how one views tradition and the Bible, and in the case of Callistus, whether he would be the type of person God would have wanted in the succession.


There was a Roman Catholic bishop named Callistus. There is no evidence that he ever overturned tradition to favor the Bible. He apparently was the least honest and most compromising of the early leaders considered to be the bishops of Rome. His legacy is disturbing.

Despite his support for abortion, charges of simony (paying bribes for ecclesiastical office), and other forms of immorality, the Church of Rome chose to claim apostolic succession through Callistus and not Hippolytus.

Because of certain Montanist heresies he would not address, that also suggests he held a non-biblical view of Christianity. That is not acceptable to those of us in the Church of God, but does seem to be sufficient for many of those who accept that and other unbiblical doctrines.

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