I had a question that I can't find a straight answer to. I'm looking for information about the Catholic Church's claim to be the "original" form of Christianity. I've read that Catholics believe that St. Peter was given authority by Jesus to start the first church and become the first pope but I seriously doubt this is the case because of the numerous forms of Christianity that flourished within the first century after Jesus' alleged death. They didn't know which set of beliefs was the most accurate then so I doubt a few thousand years later these claims of authority are any more legit today.
With all of the gnostics and other branches of Christianity where does Catholicism fit, and when exactly was it created? I've read a range of dates, from St. Peter (according to the Catholics) to 312 when Emperor Constantine said he had a vision to unite all of Rome under one religion.
Catholicism is the continuous link to the 12 Disciples. It is "original". Even prior to the collecting of the books which were the canon we know as the Bible, The Catholic Church was extant.
Gnostics were heretical sects, often not even Christian at all, but they had a habit of adopting and distorting all doctrines they encountered.
At any rate, all the Heresies of the Gnostics were exposed by St. Irenaeus, who was eventually martyered in the Roman Coliseum.
Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irenaeus
Moreover, as to the Apostolic succession, about the first 23 of 25 Catholic Popes (as I recall) were martyred in Rome, and most terms were limited to 2 years or less, owing to the Martyrdoms of these Popes
The earliest doctrines of the Church were formulated in a document termed THE DIDACHE
. By the 4th Century B.C. St. Augustine, who had previously been a follower of Gnosticism, prior to realizing the falsity of its conflicting doctrines, gradually was swayed to respect Christianity, and after converting, refuted the doctrines of the Gnostics. Thereafter, he authored his "Confessions" and "The City of God" and he articulated thoughts which later became the doctrines of the Catholic Church, some of which still stand today. .