Pope Joan and the Error of Baptist Church Successionism

It has been confidently asserted, by some modern members of the Romish communion, that the story, concerning pope Joan, is a mere fiction, invented by Protestants to blacken the infallible Church.

In opposition to which insinuation, I here insert the following extract, copied, verbatim, by my own hand, from that scarce and curious old book, entitled, The Nuremburgh Chronicle: which was printed at Nuremburgh, in the year of our Lord 1493; in a Popish city, by Popish printers, and compiled by Popish hands, no less than four and twenty years before the first dawn of the Reformation.

The reader will find the following succinct history of this famous female pope in the above work on page 169.

Translation of the Text

Joan of English descent, but said to have been born at Mentz, obtained the Popedom by sinister arts: for, she palmed herself upon the world as a man when, in reality, she was a woman. In her youth, she accompanied a learned lover of her’s, to Athens: and there, by attending the lectures of the best literary professors, she made so great a progress in erudition, that, on her arrival in Rome, she had few equals and no superiors, in all kinds of theological knowledge.

By her learned lectures, and by her masterly disputatious, she acquired so much esteem and authority, that, on the death of Leo, she was, by universal consent (as Martinus affirms), created Pope.

Some time after her elevation to the pontifical dignity, she became criminally familiar with one of her domestics; and pregnancy was the consequence. She took care, by every precaution, to conceal this circumstance, as long as possible until, at last, as she was walking [in public procession] to the Lateran Church [in Rome], she was suddenly seized with labour-pains, and brought forth her infant, in that part of the street which lies between the Theatre and the Church of St. Clement. She died on the spot; having held the Popedom two years, one month, and four days.

Some writers affirm, that, to this very day, [1493], whenever the pope walks in procession to the Lateran Church, he constantly goes thither by another way, to avoid reviving the memory of the above mentioned detestable event; and that, in order to prevent a similar imposition the new elected Pontiff is properly examined, by the junior deacon, at the time of his holiness’s first enthronement in St. Peter’s chair; the seat whereof is perforated for that purpose.
(Translated by Augustus Toplady)

Thus far the Nuremburgh Chronicle. To which I add the following indisputable particulars.

1. This said Mrs. Joan (who called herself John VIII) was successor, in the popedom, to Leo IV. who died, A.D. 855, and she herself was succeeded by Benedict III.

2. Not only do many grave Roman Catholic historians assert the fact; but the fact
itself has also exercised the wits of more than a few ingenious poets of that communion.

Witness the following epigrammatic verse:

Papa pater patrum peperit papissa papellum.

Not to mention those lines of Mantuan, who was himself a Carmelite friar, and who represents pope Joan and her lover hanging in the ante-chamber of hell:

Hic pendebat adhuc, sexum mentita virilem,
Faemina, cui trilici Phrygiam diademate mitram
Suspendebat apex; et pontificlLs adulter.

3. The statue of this she-pope remained, in the cathedral church of Sienna, so low down, as until about the year 1677: when it was demolished, in order to stifle all memory of an incident so disasterous and dishonourable to the holy see.

The Reader should be apprized, that a wooden print, representing the said lady and her child, was inserted originally, and still remains, in the Nuremburgh Chronicle abovementioned.

Was not at least this pope the Whore of Babylon?

The above information is trivia, in so far as the true Church is concerned.

What do we have to do with those without?

The reason for printing it is to make another point entirely, i.e, There are those who pride themselves upon a serial succession of their denominational order from their present form and constitution all the way back to Christ and the church He set up in the earth. Instead of their view producing humility, it creates a spirit of boasting; and this boasting upon a thoroughly false premise.

The Romish Religious Order claims its perpetuity back to “St. Peter” and from thence to Christ. In the center of its arrogant claim lies the above historical episode; along with many others too numerous to print.

When anyone, including Predestinarian Old School Baptists [or those who call themselves primitive or landmark baptists], begin to look at any claims they may suppose themselves to possess based upon who preceded them in succession, they had best be careful they do not claim more than they wish to own!

The church of Jesus Christ cannot be traced through man — not even “good” men; but it is found IN Christ.

The Church is His body; bone of His bone and one with Him. They were united to Him in His Seed-Substance before the world was ever formed; the life which produced them into His heavenly kingdom is spiritual, or divine, or eternal life – the same which was for them IN Him in divine election; their experimental union with and in Him is by that very life; and thus they are mere members of a great body, a household, a family, the Church.

This “Church” is ONE in both TIME and SPACE.

It is, as salt, sprinkled throughout the ages of man, and “in every nation, tribe, kinsman, tongue,” etc. Those who have gone on before are still IN THE CHURCH; and those who are here now are IN THE CHURCH.

The church still has the same original apostles and they, through their words, still judge the twelve spiritual tribes of Israel — every member of the church is judged according to the same rule of the Gospel they have bequest to us.

There has never been but one true church founded upon the earth. To trace one’s serial succession from another body of people, there must be an assumption that the body of people became extinct.

The church never has, nor ever will, cease to exist. Those who go out of it to establish a “true church” in succession of it “went out that it might be manifest that they were not of us.”

For, “doubtless if they had been of us, they would have remained with
us” – to paraphrase the apostle John.

When these religious historians attempt to trace their “links” or “ties” to some body of people they assume to be the “true church”, they are proving conclusively that they are on the outside of it; and any “linkage” they find invariably must be of one who has either been excluded from her or else departed from her.

In any regard, those “links” are as the She-Pope above. They only create an arrogancy which leads to a bigotted position, and a legalistic, rather than experimental, claim on religion.

By Stanley Phillips

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