Just wondering in what year the first historical record of the Church in Rome, against the wishes of other churches, that she should impose her tradition on them?

Note: I am simply looked for the first factual recorded date in history. I am not making an inquiry into whether the church in Rome had a right, or not, to do so.

  • "Impose" seems like an inherently subjective standard, and the answers reflect that there is strong disagreement, as well as misunderstanding, about what that means. I'm voting to close as opinion-based. Sep 24, 2015 at 19:43
  • @BearinaStudebaker I could be persuaded, but at some point there must have been conflict between Rome and a different city, and Rome appealed to its status as Peter's city in order to win the argument. "Impose" might not be the best word, but I think it captures this idea. I vaguely recall learning about an event like this in church history; I'd have to look it up, however. Sep 24, 2015 at 21:06

3 Answers 3


I'm frankly dumbfounded. Unless I'm reading wrongly, @Mike has asked this question, and then provided his own answer.

To answer your question, though it hardly seems necessary since you knew your answer before asking your question, before "the church in the city of Rome" tried "to impose a tradition on other churches", whatever that means, other churches were querying the church of Rome for guidance. Pope St. Clement (+AD 96) wrote to the church of Corinth in response to complaints from its leadership. The presbyters and bishop of Corinth had been deposed and chased out of the city and they wrote to Rome asking its bishop to validate their authority as appointees of the apostles. And this happened perhaps while St. John was still even alive.

It is wise, when wondering how Rome started "imposing traditions other churches," to remember that while Rome had armies, the church of Rome had none. How, precisely, is the Bishop of Roman supposed to have imposed anything on anyone?

The appeal to Rome is always an appeal to moral authority. Even in the heyday of her power, the Church of Rome and the Papal States were by-and-large reliant on other nations' for their military protection. When patriarchs in Constantinople and bishops in North Africa ask for the support of the Pope, they are not asking for his armies - at his most militarized he had precious few - they are asking for his endorsement.

  • @Mike, you would profit to ask how the situation arose that bishops or presbyters in Corinth wanted Rome involved, rather than asking why Rome pushed its supposed weight around.
    – Ryan Haber
    Sep 17, 2012 at 5:20
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    -1 I would not consider one church writing to another, or seeking guidance from another as imposing anything on anyone.
    – Mike
    Sep 17, 2012 at 5:33
  • That's my point, Mike. The church of Rome can't impose its will on anybody. How would it do so? The fact that other churches looked to Rome for advice shows they felt it had moral authority. That is the question you should be asking.
    – Ryan Haber
    Sep 30, 2012 at 5:08

The authority of Rome may have been presumed because of the time St Paul spent there. He died AD 64/5 and probably some of the Corinthians who heard him teach were still alive when they wrote to Rome.

At least four of Paul's doctrinal letters were written from Rome and it seems to be where his days ended, though there is some doubt. Many scholars agree that St Paul's letters were the first to be recognized as inspired by the early church, and certainly no other writings rise to the level of his prison epistles.

There seems to have been a flourishing Christian community in Rome (see Romans 16 and Philippians) and possibly the Corinthians thought some of Paul's adherents would give an answer to their questions.

  • Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Nov 28, 2013 at 1:54

The earliest record I have been able to find was between 189-199 AD. This occurred when a dispute over what day the celebration of Easter should occur. This happened betwwen the Christians at Rome and those from the province of Asia. Victor, the bishop of Rome decided to act dictatorial actually trying to excomminicate whole churches over an extremely non essential matter, naturally greatly offending other bishops.

Victor called a meeting of Italian bishops at Rome, which is the earliest Roman synod known. He also wrote to the leading bishops of the various districts, urging them to call together the bishops of their sections of the country and to take counsel with them on the question of the Easter festival. Letters came from all sides: from the synod in Palestine, at which Theophilus of Caesarea and Narcissus of Jerusalem presided; from the synod of Pontus over which Palmas as the oldest presided; from the communities in Gaul whose bishop of Irenaeus of Lyons; from the bishops of the Kingdom of Osrhoene; also from individual bishops, as Bakchylus of Corinth. These letters all unanimously reported that Easter was observed on Sunday.  Victor, who acted throughout the entire matter as the head of Catholic Christendom, now called upon the bishops of the province of Asia to abandon their custom and to accept the universally prevailing practice of always celebrating Easter on Sunday. In case they would not do this he declared they would be excluded from the fellowship of the Church.

This severe procedure did not please all the bishops. Irenaeus of Lyons and others wrote to Pope Victor; they blamed his severity, urged him to maintain peace and unity with the bishops of Asia, and to entertain affectionate feelings toward them. Irenaeus reminded him that his predecessors had indeed always maintained the Sunday observance of Easter, as was right, but had not broken off friendly relations and communion with bishops because they followed another custom. (Catholic Encyclopedia as posted here)

So it seems around 90-100 years after the last Apostle died, did the the first historical record appear when church of Rome tried to impose its tradition on other churches who resisted that attempt. This was around the year 195 AD.

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    @PeterTurner - what did he do (besides thinking) that turned into unwanted influence or pushiness over other churches. If this happened earlier I can revise my answer accordingly. My answer is only the earliest I could find. I have no skin in the game on the actual year.
    – Mike
    Aug 31, 2012 at 13:55
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    He wrote In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels.
    – Peter Turner
    Aug 31, 2012 at 14:00
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    @PeterTurner - Am trying to figure out when churches started to externally feel pressure from Rome as exerting real claimed power on Christianity regions. One single church rebuking another single church that may have been falling away does not seem significant enough. Whether Rome actually had this authority, or not, is off topic. When did this corinthian thing happen anyway? It is very interesting!
    – Mike
    Aug 31, 2012 at 14:28
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    This doesn't sound at all like an answer to the question you asked. This sounds exactly like ongoing stuff between Protestant churches today and not a case of unwarranted authority from the Roman church we eventually opposed.
    – Caleb
    Aug 31, 2012 at 17:40
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    @Caleb - i am not ure i understand your comment. I am just trying to find the earliest record when Rome imposed itself on others. I added bold where Rome actually threatened excommunication. This does not have to be any different from protestant agression on another church. I just want to verify where the long practice started, so i can trace its development into what finally was rejected by protestants. This also proves such 'authority' was not acknowledged, even over a trifling matter, as several bishops rebuked the Roman bishop for his obviou arrogance.
    – Mike
    Sep 1, 2012 at 1:27

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