"In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity..." St Augustine
Pope Benedict XVI came to visit the USA. That makes me think yet AGAIN about the witness of unity among Christians. We are not a good one. If over 20,000 denominations are claiming knowing the absolute truth... well...
It's not that hard to find out, where it all started, who made the "schisms" and how the first fathers of the church reacted, disciplined, prayed and encouraged the church to stay as one.
The theories of unity within the Protestant denominations are not clear, but almost all founders of 20,000 denominations claim that they have found the truth (I mean, you don't want to follow someone's teaching if he has no clue, or partial a clue about what he believes or you don't want to throw yourself into something that you are not sure is the objective truth; no one wants to waste their life). I am not a theologian, so this is not proof of anything, but common sense should tell us that one is 1and not 20,000.
I am reading lately a lot about the first church, church fathers, papacy, heresies. The more I read, the more questions I have.
The most significant source for these findings would be in the documents written by the church fathers. The Bible was not "announced" yet, although different congregations had access to the Old Testament and some writings which later were included in the New Testament. But not all believers had that opportunity and not all read the letters Paul or Peter. That's why the writings of the church fathers are so important. They show us the life of an early church, local problematic disputes, theological as well as moral, relations to other local churches, admonitions to holiness and love. Naturally, the more people, cultures, traditions were incorporated into Christianity, the more views, points of relevancy and ideas they brought. Who would decide what was right, what was wrong?
Read the church fathers and find out. Tons of info on the Internet,
As for the popes. It seems that from early on, the Roman bishop was the one to look for guidance and primacy.
The early Church historian J. N. D. Kelly, a Protestant, writes,
"[W]here in practice was [the] apostolic testimony or tradition to be found? . . . The most obvious answer was that the apostles had committed it orally to the Church, where it had been handed down from generation to generation. . . . Unlike the alleged secret tradition of the Gnostics, it was entirely public and open, having been entrusted by the apostles to their successors, and by these in turn to those who followed them, and was visible in the Church for all who cared to look for it" (Early Christian Doctrines, 37).
Your Total "Christian Denominations" Count for today is 39723
so that they may be one as we are one