It was not until 325 AD during the Council of Nicaea that there was any primacy assigned to the Roman see. Julius, the bishop of the Roman see, was not present at this council, but his representatives were given a fourth place rank at the council. Calvin then asks the question, "if Julius had been recognized as the head of the church, why were his delegates relegated to fourth place?" Even 124 years later at the Second Council of Ephesus, the patriarch of Alexandria was over the council, not the patriarch of Rome. This indicates to us that the patriarch of Rome did not hold first place over all other bishops.
At the Council of Chalcedon, the emperor allowed the representatives of Rome to have the highest seat. Leo had requested this position. His reasoning was that the bishops from the East had caused unnecessary conflict at the Council of Ephesus. After this council, the Roman representatives did not hold the top chair at the following councils.
The early church did not recognize the primacy of the bishop of Rome or the Roman see. Cyprian, who was the 3rd century bishop of Carthage, called Cornelius, the bishop of Rome, "brother," "fellow bishop," and "colleague." He gave no indication in his letters that Cornelius held any higher position than any other bishop. At the Council of Carthage, it was decided that no one should ever be called "prince of priests" or "first bishop." The bishop of Rome could be referred to as "bishop of the prime see." Jerome, the 4th-5th century translator of the Bible into Latin, spoke out against the idea of the authority of one bishop over all others.
The late 6th century Gregory the Great was opposed to the title "universal bishop" or "ecumenical bishop." He thought that this was profane, sacrilegious, and the precursor of Antichrist. He said, "The whole church falls from its condition if anyone who is called 'universal' falls." Gregory was highly critical of anyone wishing to gain this or any similar title. He wrote, "No one ever wished to be called by such a name; no one seized upon this presumptuous title lest, by snatching to himself in the pontifical rank the glory of uniqueness, he should seem to deny it to all his brethren."
Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.5-4.7.10