From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church

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Luke named Judas and Silas "leading men among the brethren - hgoumenouj en toij adelfoij " Acts 15, Activity of Stephen after his election among "seven", his sermon, his arrest and his speech in Sanhedrim reminds the first steps of activity of apostle Peter.

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Murder of Stephen and dispersion of the others "seven" have created a task for the apostles to restore the broken organization of the Jerusalem church. Mentioned with James brothers might be "hegumens" of the Jerusalem church. Peter probably, has gone to the Antioch , but maybe through the Antioch to Rome. The establishment of presbyters hegumens in Jerusalem has taken place before the beginning of Paul's missionary activity and before of foundation of the Antiochian church.

While creating of local churches, Paul and Barnabas reproduced precisely the order established in the Jerusalem church by apostles. The evidence of Luke about ordination of presbyters by them is related to their way back. Then, after churches got a little stronger, they ordained other presbyters. They preferred the term "presbyters" to the term "hegumens", since the latter might cause misunderstanding in the medium of former pagans [8].

A service of presidents in Eucharistic assembly "was created" at once with "creation" of local churches by apostles.

Apostles, celebrating the first Eucharist, were the first presidents of the first local church. The distinction between apostle Peter and other apostles as well as the further distinction between the first presbyter and others presbyters, was only that the eldest ones occupied the central place in Eucharistic assembly. At the same time, absence of the special term should not mislead - from the very beginning, from apostle Peter, the certain person, the eldest apostle, and later, bishop—presbyter, gave thanks in Eucharistic assembly and simultaneously headed church.

On the basis of one evidence Acts 20, 11 we know, that in Troada apostle Paul has headed Eucharistic assembly.

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James at the end of session summarized the debates and has offered the resolution. In the Epistle to the Galatians apostle Paul says, that at the first visiting Jerusalem he met with apostle Peter and nobody else, except for James, brother of the Lord 1,19 , i. All of them together offered him to clean according to the Law Acts 21, In the same Epistle to the Galatians apostle Paul tells us about the arrival of envoys messengers from James 2, III Epistle according to John testifies about the existence of the first or the eldest presbyters in churches outside Palestine. It means, that Diotrephes was really taking priority in church. His authority in the church which he headed, was so great, that he might act against Elder and criticize his instructions. His orders were executed by all or almost all members of the church. It is not necessary to think, that Diotrephes operated independently: he acted at the church assembly and with his consent.

The reason for this powerlessness of Elder was that he has the power on the local churches only when he is really inside the church. Elder praised him for what he makes for brothers and wanderers, and for staying faithful to him. The duty of hospitality laid on presbyters [10]. The third person mentioned in the Epistle, namely Demetrius, was either a presbyter in the church of Diotref , having courage to go against him, or a president of any other church. In apostolic time there existed much more uniformity, than later.

Irenaeus of Lyons wrote that in all churches, differing from each other by language and nationality, one faith, one tradition and one organization were kept intact Adversus haereses I, X, 2. Speaking about that apostles delivered in bishops and deacons from the first believers, Clement adds, that they have established the law, that others accept service after death of the persons put by them. Clement distinguishes "offered the gifts" one from others presbyters.

This distinction Clement makes between presbyters, confirms that among discharged of ministry there was the first the eldest presbyter. Clement and Ignatius Theophorus are separated by a small time interval. For Ignatius bishop is the only and a constant president of Eucharistic assembly.

Church History 3: The Successors of the Apostles

Special function of the eldest presbyter, offering gifts, is designated by Clement, as episcopacy episkoph. Undoubtedly, the same order was kept in apostolic time. Therefore application of the term " episkopoj " to the eldest presbyter is quite possible in the lips of Clement. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Apostle Peter simultaneously unites himself and distinguishes from presbyters.

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A church mind of the first two or three centuries perceived a word "fellow-presbyter" in the same way. In the third century this expression is applied to bishops that testifies about its vitality, since bishop of III century is far from corresponding to the eldest presbyter in apostolic time and to the bishop of Ignatius Theophorus. Expression "fellow-presbyter" is used by Dionysius of Alexandria: "to beloved our brothers and fellow-presbyters Dionysius and Philemon Ignatius designated presbyterium, as sanhedrin.

Religious rites of Church were not limited by "giving thanks". The Eucharist included all religious rites made by Church since it was a centre of the whole church life. Yet apostolic church, except for "giving thanks", performed the sacrament of admission in the Church, including appointment of laics, appointment on special ministries of prophets, teachers, presbyters-bishops and deacons. The eldest presbyter did not act separately, but always and everywhere together with people and presbyters.

He was "the lips of the Church". Appointment of presbyters-bishops is made by Spirit according to the will of God. Using later terminology, it would be possible to designate appointment of the eldest presbyter by " probolh ".

From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church

This term is used in 2-nd canon of council of Chalcedon. In "The Apostolic Tradition" of Hippolytus of Rome there are orders of appointment in bishops, presbyters and deacons. Besides this in "The Apostolic Tradition" there are orders of "appointment" of the reader and sub-deacon.

In the appointment of reader it is said, that he is appointed when the bishop gives the book to him, and appointments of sub-deacon is made through declaration of his name.

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In this book distinguished theologian, teacher and writer Francis Sullivan examines the origins and development of the episcopacy in the early church. One of. " the historical development of the ministry of leadership in the early Church, beginning with the New Testament and ending with Saint Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage during the middle years of the third century."--Page viii.

And in both cases it is directly underlined, that hands are not laid on them. Likewise the eldest presbyter "was nominated" in a special place among presbyters. The layman who had been nominated, according to "The Apostolic Tradition", in the reader or sub-deacon, remained the layman and did not receive any degree of priesthood. The selection of the eldest presbyter by any means, is directly followed by the testimony of people. Thus, the appointment of the eldest presbyter comprised two moments of sacrament of appointment: selection and testimony. Absence of the moment of the laying of hands did not make appointment defective and incomplete, since the most essential and certainly necessary moment in the appointment is the testimony of Church that appointment has been accomplished according to the will of God.

The order of church life following from the nature of Church was protected by the ministry of administration. Therefore it might not be anarchical: "alias hodie episcopus, cras alias; hodie diaconus, qui cras lector; hodie presbyter, qui cras laicus" Tertullian, "De praescriptione haereticorum, XLI". Chapter 3. Division of ministry of bishop and presbyters in the second century. Revealing the value of apostolic succession. Mutual relations between local churches: formation of superior churches, the meaning of councils. Bishop of Epistles of Ignatius stands separately from presbyters.

The eldest presbyter became a bishop when his service of president among people of priests has transformed into a special ministry of a high priest. At the following stage the priest service of presbyters became the second degree of priesthood. Presbyters have received the second degree not only with respect to bishop, but also with respect to the people of priests laics. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.

Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

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It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast The ministry of bishop according to Epistles of Ignatius is quite clear. Epistles of Ignatius reflect the first stage of the process of transformation of the eldest presbyter into a bishop. Through apostles the high priesthood of Christ is passed to bishops. Hegesippus writes: "James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles He alone was permitted to enter into the Holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments.

The Roman eldest presbyter actually became a bishop, probably earlier, than in others churches. The value of the eldest presbyter grew, both inside the Roman church, and outside of her.