Apostolic Succession (3): The Didache

I.

A common objection to the Apostolic Succession of the trifold ministry goes like this. If the Apostles had instituted the trifold ministry, then we would expect that every text in the Apostolic Fathers would reflect this belief. These writers were, after all, closest to the Apostles in time and in the transmission of teaching. Instead, we find a mixture of texts saying different and inconsistent things about ministry and succession, which undercuts the idea that this would be an Apostolic teaching. For now I would like to focus on the arguments of some authors based on the Didache, which may be the most primitive text among the Apostolic Fathers, reserving St. Clement of Rome and others for later. I will argue that evidence from the Didache against primitive monarchical episcopacy and Apostolic Succesion is inconclusive, and that there is a trifold ministry and ecclesial succession, though the ministers have different names than in Ignatius, and the mechanism of succession is not explained in detail or explicitly connected to the Apostles.

Many scholars claim the Didache knows of neither a trifold ministry, nor of Apostolic Succession, but only of itinerant prophets and teachers who visit congregations. The author of the Didache writes:

11. So, if anyone should come and teach you all these things that have just been mentioned above, welcome him. But if the teacher himself goes astray and teaches a different teaching that undermines all this, do not listen to him. However, if his teaching contributes to righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, welcome him as you would the Lord.

Now concerning the apostles and prophets, deal with them as follows in accordance with the rule of the gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be welcomed as if he were the Lord. But he is not to stay for more than one day, unless there is need, in which case he may stay another. But if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle leaves, he is to take nothing except bread until he finds his next night’s lodging. But if he asks for money, he is a false prophet.

Also, do not test or evaluate any prophet who speaks in the spirit, for every sin will be forgiven, but this sin will not be forgiven. However, not everyone who speaks in the spirit is a prophet, but only if he exhibits the Lord’s ways. By his conduct, therefore, will the false prophet and the prophet be recognized. Furthermore, any prophet who orders a meal in the spirit shall not partake of it; if he does he is a false prophet. If any prophet teaches the truth, yet does not practice what he teaches, he is a false prophet. But any prophet proven to be genuine who does something with a view to portraying in a worldly manner the symbolic meaning of the church (provided that he does not teach you to do all that he himself does) is not to be judged by you, for his judgment is with God. Besides the ancient prophets also acted in a similar manner. But if anyone should say in the spirit, “Give me money,” or anything else, do not listen to him. But if he tells you to give on behalf of others who are in need, let no one judge him…

13. But every genuine prophet who wishes to settle among you “is worthy of his food.” Likewise, every genuine teacher is, like “the worker, worthy of his food.”

Noteworthy here is the omission of any reference to a “bishop”. We would expect the leader of a primitive Christian congregation to be an Ignatian bishop, not an Apostle, prophet, or teacher if the monarchical episcopate were an Apostolic institution.

If Apostolic Succession were correct and part of Apostolic teaching, then in the Didache we would expect that the bishop would ordain lower congregational officers (elders/presbyters and decons). But instead, it seems that the officers of a local Church come from the congregation itself:

15. Therefore appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are humble and not avaricious and true and approved, for they too carry out for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers. You must not, therefore, despise them, for they are your honored men, along with the prophets and teachers.

Because the Didache is a congregational manual, the instruction “appoint for yourselves” is being issued to members of an early Christian congregation. The ability to appoint is assigned to the congregation, not a monarchical bishop. Furthermore, the terminology of “bishops and deacons” betrays a non-monarchical view of ministry, insofar as “bishop” is plural. Multiple bishops are ruling a local congregation instead of one bishop ruling a congregation or multiple congregations. This ties in with the common Protestant and scholarly thesis that “bishop” and “presbyter” were originally just two names for the same office—the local second tier of ministry.

II.

If these objections were successful, it would pose a problem for the proponent of an ecclesiology that includes Apostolic Succession and monarchical episcopacy. Not only would it show that the monarchical form of government and Episcopal transmission of office was not universal, but it could call into question the testimony of St. Ignatius to the universality and necessity of the episcopate. Perhaps if the Didache were considerably earlier than Ignatius, we could say that Ignatius was correct about how things were run at his time, and the Didache was simply before his time. But then we would have the Didache closer to the Apostles temporally and teaching something inconsistent with Ignatius, again calling his credibility into question and implying he is an innovator.

Let us turn to the claims of the detractors, and see if they hold. First, it was suggested that the itinerant ministry of the Apostles, prophets, and teachers was inconsistent with Ignatian bishops not being mentioned by name. This assumes that members of the highest tier of ministry cannot have more than one name, or be named differently by different authors. Instead of confusing words with concepts, we should consider whether or not the descriptions of Apostles, prophets, and teachers are consistent with the concept of a monarchical bishop.

The objector can easily revise the criticism and claim that the Apostles, prophets, and teachers are not monarchical bishops because there are inconsistencies between their description and the definition of a monarchical bishop. Let us, then, compare the description of these ministers with the definition of a monarchical bishop, and look for inconsistencies. In order to be a monarchical bishop, one must have been (1) given the spiritual gift of the highest office of ministry, which includes (2) the power to ordain officers of all three tiers, (3) the ability to consecrate and celebrate the Eucharist, (4) and the ability to monarchically oversee one or more congregation of Christians. It is not necessary that this person be exclusively a monarchical bishop, and lack other offices (such as Apostleship) or spiritual gifts (such as Apostleship and prophecy). After all, both Ignatius and Polycarp had prophetic powers:

For, when I was among you, I cried, I spoke with a loud voice: Give heed to the bishop, and to the presbytery and deacons. Now, some suspected me of having spoken thus, as knowing beforehand the division caused by some among you. But He is my witness, for whose sake I am in bonds, that I got no intelligence from any man. But the Spirit proclaimed 84 these words: Do nothing without the bishop; keep your as the temples of God; love unity; avoid divisions; be the followers of Jesus Christ, even as He is of His Father. (St. Ignatius, Philadelphians 7)

And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, “I must be burnt alive.” (Martyrdon of St. Polycarp, 5)

These two men who were bishops both had the spiritual gift of prophecy. There is no reason, then, to think that in the mind of the early Church charismatic ministry and monarchical rule of a bishop could not be had by a single person. Early Christians also knew St. James the Apostle as the first bishop of Jerusalem. The burden of proof, then, is on the detractor to show that spiritual gifts such as Apostleship and prophecy are incompatible with the gift and office of monarchical episcopacy.

III.

When we consider the description of the Apostles, prophets, and teachers that is given, we see that they hold the highest place in ministry. The congregation is told “Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord” (Didache 11:4), implying an authoritative position in relation to the congregation and its local leaders. The prophets are described interestingly as “high priests” (Didache 13:3), again suggesting a kind of monarchical position. The congregation is instructed “Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turn and teach another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not; but if he teach so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord” (Didache 1:1-2). This order to “receive him as the Lord” could indicate that the teachers are likewise honored as supreme leaders of the community. The bishops and deacons are said to “carry out for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers”, implying that the prior ministry of prophets and teachers is the source of the ministry of bishops and deacons. Each of these descriptions implies that such ministers are of the highest tier, though there is no explicit indication that they are given a spiritual gift of office.

No explicit mention is made of their power to ordain; but this would only be a problem if we had reason to expect that the author of the Didache would include such information in his text. On the contrary, if ordination were carried out by monarchical leaders, we would not expect for there to be instructions about it in a manual addressed to a congregation and its laity and local leaders. Much mention is made of Eucharistic celebration, though, and the prophets are called “high priests”, implying an ability to offer the Eucharist. When they offer it, they do not have to speak according to the standard prayers of the community; instead the congregation should “permit the prophets to give thanks however they wish.” (Didache 10:7)

The ability to monarchically rule is also ascribed to such ministers. Consider what the author says about honoring a leader:

“My child, night and day remember the one who preaches God’s word to you, and honor him as though he were the Lord. For wherever the Lord’s nature is preached, there the Lord is.” The Didache, 4:1

This text has parallels elsewhere in the Didache which speak of how the congregation should “receive [a hierarch] as the Lord”. Noting the use of the singular noun in the phrase “the one who preaches”, we can see this as evidence of a singular, hierarchical member of the clergy. Also noteworthy is the fact that this text bears significant resemblance to the famous words of the earliest, clearest, and strongest teacher of monarchical episcopacy in early Christianity, St. Ignatius of Antioch:

“It is obvious, therefore, that we must regard the bishop as the Lord himself.” Ephesians 6:1

The similarity of both meaning and language between these sections is not insignificant. Both texts use a construction that consists of a command to the reader about obedience and recognition (“remember the one…and honor him”, “we must regard”), followed by a comparison (“as”, “as though”) of a leader (“the one who preaches”, “the bishop”) to Christ (“the Lord”, “the Lord himself”). Not only does this provide evidence of conceptual similarity between the two texts, but has been taken by some (in conjunciton with background information about Ignatius’ use of Jewish and Jewish-Christian sources, and other paralellisms with the Didache) to imply that Ignatius was aware of either the source materials of the Didache or a primitive version of it, and cited it as an authority (see Claton N. Jefford’s article “Did Ignatius of Antioch know the Didache?” in The Didache in context: essays on its text, history, and transmission). This somewhat supports the compatibility of the Didache with monarchical episcopacy, insofar as Ignatius would be more likely to deny or avoid the text if it was saying something clearly inconsistent with his own view of the ministry.

To conclude this section, nothing in the description of the Apostles, prophets, and teachers is inconsistent with the claim that they are monarchical bishops. Nor is there anything inconsistent with the claim that only the prophets and teachers are monarchical bishops. This second position may be easier for some to entertain, insofar as the evidence that James the Apostle was thought of as the first bishop of Jerusalem comes later, whereas the evidence that Ignatius and Polycarp were both prophets is quite early. However we understand the Didachist’s use of titles, there is no obvious incompatibility between how he speaks of the ministry and the monarchical understanding of episcopacy.

IV.

As we observed earlier, there is instruction in the Didache to “Therefore appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are humble and not avaricious and true and approved…” Though sometimes used as evidence of congregational ordination against exclusive ordination by the Bishop, it has been pointed out by authors such as Charles Gore and Felix Cirlot (Apostolic Succesion: Is it True?, pg 175) that this instruction does not explicitly give instruction to ordain, but only instructs to “appoint”. This raises the question of what is meant by appointment in this context. Is the appointment spoken of here ordination by the laying-on of hands, or something else? In order for this text to be compatible with Apostolic Succession, the text must simply not be inconsistent with the claim that the author of the Didache believed in ordination by the bishop alone. So if there is at least one other meaning of “appoint” besides ordination, then we may say that appointment language does not entail the power to ordain.

When we turn to the New Testament, we see in Acts 6:1-6 what appears to be a congregational election of leaders that is completed by an Apostolic ordination to the deaconate:

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples [unto them], and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid [their] hands on them.

The congregation here chooses who will obtain ministry, but the transmission of office seems to be the exclusive prerogative of the Apostles. This synergy between the laity of the Church and the monarchs of the Church in no way precludes the necessity of ordination at the hands of an Apostle as a precondition for ministry. The omission of a rite of ordination in the Didache is again significant, for we have the evidence we would expect to have (and lack the evidence we would expect to lack) on the hypothesis of Apostolic Succession. If Apostolic Succession were false, and congregationalism or presbyterianism true, then we would expect that there would be an ordination rite included in the Didache, explaining how the New Testament practice of ordination could be carried out by a congregation (or at least local ministers) without needing a monarchical bishop. If it were true, we would expect such instructions to be absent, and to instead see instructions modeled after the Apostolic practice set forth in Acts 6.

The bishops and deacons are said to “carry out for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers”. The implied continuation of the ministry of these monarchs in the local hierarchy is fully consistent with Apostolic Succession and fits naturally into it. We should be honest, though, and concede that Apostolic Succession in all of its details is not implied by the text; for ordination is not spoken of, and the bishops and deacons are not said to carry on the ministry of the Apostles.

Regarding the fact that local ministers are called “bishops and deacons”, my previous argument that “bishop” initially (in Apostolic and other terminologically pre-Ignatian sources) meant what Ignatius meant by “presbyter” should show that the mention of “bishops” in no way conflicts with the monarchical episcopate.

V.

In conclusion, the arguments that the Didache teaches an ecclesiology inconsistent with monarchical episcopacy have been undercut. Though it is possible that the Didache is inconsistent with monarchical episcopacy, there does not seem to be any evidence for this view. There are also several lines of argument that support the existence of a monarchical episcopate and a doctrine of Apostolic Succession in the writing of the Didachist. These arguments are not sufficient to prove that the Didachist believed the same things about the ministry as Ignatius, but they definitely hint in this direction and provide some positive evidence for a shared understanding of trifold ministry.

30 Responses to Apostolic Succession (3): The Didache

  1. Jim says:

    Ok. Ok. I find it difficult not to supply, at least *some*, commentary. 🙂

    Fr. Patrick,

    I understand the theological grounds you’re referring to. I disagree with the East primarily because I reject the Realist and Greek grid required for the interpretation of theological propositions in favor of (what I think is) a Hebraic and Covenantal grid (I make no claims to neutrality).

    If you are interested on the reasoning I recently had a conversation with an Orthodox friend about the subject on my own blog. You can find it at the following link starting at around comment #11:

    http://jiminger.com/blog/?p=300#comments

    Be warned, being friends for decades, we are, on the surface at least, none too kind to each other when discussing these things.

    So I fully agree with some of the things you say, just not in how you interpret them. For example, I agree that …

    Baptism is not merely a mark/sign of the New Covenant, like circumcision, but the necessary means of uniting the whole of oneself with Christ, without which there is no union, hence no life nor salvation.

    … however, I take this in a Covenantal sense because I think that’s the way Paul meant it. I meant that it is “essential” in the same way you meant the Episcopate is “essential.” As Paul said about the sacrament of the Lord’s supper:

    Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?

    Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

    Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?

    This unity is explicitly defined covenantally by Paul, unless you want to read back into the OT references Ancient Greek Realist conceptions – I choose not to as the context of the OT sacraments (i.e. the sacrifices) are also covenantal.

    MG,

    For the most part I will let your post stand as the last word. But I need to correct one thing you said I think is a misconception. You said:

    I should point out that the argumentative force of considerations such as “if this is not clearly taught in the NT, why should I believe it?” depends on a Protestant hermeneutic.

    You overlaid this on me. You couldn’t have derived it from our conversation thus far. Even the context of the immediate quote you’re responding to considers the NT along with, or actually as part of, extant historical documentation.

    Thanks.
    Jim

  2. MG says:

    Jim—

    You wrote:

    “But before I go there I want you to think about what you’re asking of me. You want me to accept that a doctrine essential to the very definition of the Church, essential to the very Body of Christ, to the definition of what it means to be a disciple and follower of Christ, essential to being a Christian, was ” organized with […] degree of detail, […] most of this was oral teaching, keep hidden by the Church, and it was not included in the public texts, other than by tangential reference or in general instructions given to Timothy and Titus, which assume unmentioned detail” and that explains why it’s not detailed in the New Testament or earliest church writings?
    …Secondly, the archisunagogos (ruler of the synagogue), whose …”

    I would not say it is lacking in the public text of the NT other than by tangential reference or in general instructions. I would say it is not explicitly labeled, but that there is a post-Apostolic third tier of ministry in the NT and that we can detect it in the pastorals, and 3 John, as well as perhaps elsewhere.

    Also, although this is not particularly important for our present context given that you are a Protestant, I should point out that the argumentative force of considerations such as “if this is not clearly taught in the NT, why should I believe it?” depends on a Protestant hermeneutic.

    You wrote:

    “Take note of how much this explains the Didache. If the Ignatius bishopric is as I have claimed, then he is the archisunagogos. He is the one that “presides” (the “President” in Tertullian; one who “presides” – “We take also, in congregations before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike.” – De Corona, III) over a single congregation. Note that the Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets are decidedly distinct from the “bishop” and “deacons.” Note also that “they [bishops] also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers.” The bishops “render the service of the prophets and teachers,” yet they are not the self same, for they are to be honored “together with the prophets and teachers.” This is the same role as the archisunagogos in the synagogue.”

    Again, why not see the prophets and teachers here as what we now call monarchical bishops, while seeing the officers the Didachist labels “bishops” as what we now call presbyters or elders? As I’ve argued elsewhere (see my first post on Apostolic Succession) this is consistent with the NT terminology for the second tier of ministry; and if I am right that there is no singular title for a monarchical bishop in the NT, then it is consistent with NT terms for the first tier of ministry too. And again, with Tertullian I don’t see why the president can’t be either the monarchical bishop or (in the case of a Church that doesn’t have one in attendance) one of the elders/presbyters, depending on whose there.

    You wrote:

    “As for ordination, I don’t believe we wouldn’t think of it in the same way. You see it as perpetuating the very definition of the church. However, the church is God’s New Covenant community as Israel was God’s Old Covenant community. So, as the distinguishing mark of the Old Covenant community was circumcision, the mark of the New Covenant is baptism. As Jesus commanded, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the command that grows the church, not ordination of bishops (except possibly as a means to that end). The *administration* of congregations (see preceding paragraph) is certainly a need but is not of the essence. Therefore, I have no problem with “appoint for yourselves” language of the Didache. I will need to do more study into the first century synagogue to see how the officials were appointed there.”

    Does Jesus’ command to officers in the first order of ministry (such as the Apostles) to authoritatively teach (Matthew 28:20) constitute the Church’s hierarchy? I don’t see any indication that this is less necessary for the Church than fulfilling the command to baptize.

    You wrote:

    “There is no issue with the growth of this custom. As is clear in writers like Tertullian, who would oppose “custom with custom” there was not uniform agreement on the import of things indifferent in themselves and if government specifics of the New Covenant synagogues were indifferent, there wouldn’t have been an uproar over slow development UNTIL that development (again, seemingly clear in the literature), made certain forms essential.”

    This assumes that there is no necessary significance to the fact that the Apostolate is in a higher tier of ministry than the presbyterate and the diaconate. Perhaps the Apostles saw their first tier as being essential to the structure of the Church, not an indifferent matter. For instance, maybe they wanted there to be a tier of ministry with a special disciplinary role, and did not grant ministers in the second or third tier the power to ordain or have this special disciplinary role. If so, it would be understandable that they would impart the spiritual gift of the episcopate to others and thereby place such ministers into the first tier. This, I would argue, is what both Clement of Rome and Clement of Alexandria imply in their view of monarchical episcopate as being a new office that the Apostles instituted after instituting presbyters and deacons.

    Your view does not seem to take very seriously early extra-biblical testimony to the Apostolic institution of the monarchical episcopate. Do you dismiss these witnesses as dishonest or misinformed?

    You wrote:

    “On Clement, I never quite understood why Catholics turn to him. In context he’s problematic for you…

    It’s clear then that this epistle is comfortable switching terms for the same office and for the same individuals in that office. Yet, there is no mention of the one presiding bishop over the diocese of Rome – supposedly the very organizing principle of the church itself.”

    I’m aware of these arguments, but I think Clement supports our case. I’ve written a post to argue this, and linked it below.

    I agree that “bishop” is a title given to second tier ministers here, but I think presbyter might be used as an equivalent of “minister”, and could have been applied to all the offices (as in NT usage). See Cirlot’s treatment of the issue of the “presbyter” and “bishop” terminology here:

    https://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/apostolic-succession-1-presbyter-bishop/

    Regarding the claim that there is a succession of ministry through presbyter-bishops of the second tier, Cirlot argues that there are three tiers ordained by the Apostles in Clement, and that it is the first tier of ministry that ordains in 1 Clement 44. I have posted his arguments in the following link, but I will include a summary of some of them below:

    https://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/apostolic-succession-4-st-clement-of-rome/

    The issue is how to identify the “other approved/eminent men”. Clement seems to make the death of “they who should fall asleep” doubtful, and seems to make succession dependent on their death. This makes it more likely that he is thinking of the Apostles when he speaks of “they who should fall asleep”, who may not have been sure they would all die before the Parousia. The other eminent/approved men must be of the same order as the Apostles, because they are added after the appointment of bishops and deacons, and because they are “other” eminent men, implying the Apostles were the original eminent men. This would explain the use of weird language of “eminent/approved men” in place of the expected terminology of “bishops” or “bishops and deacons” which would have suited Clement just fine if he were talking about the same two lower tiers of ministry in this section. It also makes St. Clement’s solution to strife over the episcopate (second tier, what we now call elders) clear. The Apostles didn’t just decree that bishops must have successors if they died (which is how a Presbyterian should interpret this). The strife over who would be ordained bishops (aka elders) was precisely the problem that needed to be handled in the future after the Apostles died; it was not the solution to some other problem. But there is a solution to the problem of strife on the Episcopal interpretation, insofar as monarchical bishops of the first tier can be seen as the eminent men in charge of deciding who becomes a bishop (aka elder) of the second tier.

    So Clement may not have Ignatian terminology, but it is most likely he has Ignatian concepts about the ministry.

    I would be glad if you continued this discussion, but if you can’t that’s alright. Thanks for talking.

  3. Jim,

    Thank you for presenting a well reasoned outline of your position.

    Yes, we do share different schemas and this I would adventure to say points to us believing in effectively different gospels, not the text of the Scriptures but what the message of salvation is actually about. These schemas almost completely bias our interpretation of the evidence, nevertheless, there are still arguments available regarding consistency with the historical evidence.

    One of the issues is whether the Christian Church ministry is primarily based on the Temple structure or the synagogue structure. The former demonstrates a continuity with the OT system and the formal worship of the Law that is in the Temple with its sacrifices; this is the worship that God established for Israel. The synagogue system is a latter development from the Babylonian captivity to cope with providing a place of communal worship when unable to access the Temple and later to provide a more local public association with Jewish worship without having to attend the Temple. This had its own structure that paralleled but did not replace or consist of the same structure as the Temple, else it would be accused of setting up another place of worship outside Jerusalem, but nevertheless, gave precedence to the formal Temple Priesthood. This local communal system undoubtedly laid the foundation of acceptability of local Christian communities and some of the structure of Christian liturgy. Nevertheless, the formal Christian organisation, I propose, would have more likely been based on the OT Priesthood, especially because God founded the Church connected to Christ as high-Priest; it was formally constituted continuation/transformation of the OT pattern and not a system to meet a temporary need such as was the synagogue. The connection to the OT is reflected both in its mention by Clement and its mention in Dionysios. It certainly seems to be the way of thinking of those from the fourth Century. So, I cannot agree that it is a given fact that the Church organisation was inherited directly from the synagogue system, although I can accept it contributed some form of influence. The synagogue system, if anything, points to the development of parishes within a diocese that assumes the cathedral and Bishop.

    My first point about a different gospel points to whether the episcopate is considered essential to the New Covenant. For Orthodox it is because our salvation is about union with God, Theosis. This is a holistic union of the entire man including the body and it is manifest in the Church, which is Christ’s Body with Christ at the Head as High-Priest, manifest via the Bishop. Without the Bishop the church would not be united to Christ because it would be without Christ. This must be represented in a physical manner because Christ was truly incarnate and came to save the body and soul. The body must partake of unity also, it must be one flesh with Christ in a real manner, else we cannot be one as God is One. See Ignatius’ Letter to Magnesians Chapters 1 & 13. Baptism is not merely a mark/sign of the New Covenant, like circumcision, but the necessary means of uniting the whole of oneself with Christ, without which there is no union, hence no life nor salvation.

    The mention of Presbyters at the end of Clement is not a problem for Catholics, in the wider sense of the term, because both the acceptance that the names then were still properly interchangeable and secondly that the Bishop and Presbyters are the same other than the singularity of the Bishop. The mention of Presbyters at the end is either the use of the other name for the same office or, I argue more likely, it brings them into unity with the Bishop in sharing the same Priesthood/oversight, so the what Clement says about the Bishop(s) also extends to the Presbyters including to a degree Apostolic succession via the Bishop. The text is helpful because the understanding of appointing to the office of the episcopate is the same of the orthodox Catholic understanding today or of the fourth-century and because the office is only filled at death it must be singular and necessary, otherwise the advice would have been to appoint and maintain sufficient elders to care for the needs of the community. The mention of Bishops in plural can be understood in terms of a plurality of local churches each with its own singular Bishop each initially established by the Apostles. Clement here is providing general theory to support the situation that needs to be followed in that particular church, as seen in how that “chapter” ends. He is not talking of a plural episcopate of that local church. Also, in Chapter 32 we find Clement speaking of Priests and Levites in the OT descending from Abraham, only mentioning two orders. Then in Chapter 40, he mentions the three orders. Are the two exclusive? No, it is better to say they mean the same thing, the word Priests encompassing both the high-Priest and the other Priests. If this terminology is so variable within the same letter then we can accept that it is variable for Bishop and Priests both in the same letter here and also that some letters may mention two orders and others three with no contradiction or reference to different or changing ecclesiologies.

    Christ commanded the Apostles to baptise and preach, without them there would be no baptism nor preaching and hence no growth of the Church. The Bishops succeed the office of the Apostles in preaching and baptising and like the Apostles are essential for this ministry. See Ignatius Epistle to the Trallians Chapter 3. Both baptism and ordination are received from Christ via the Apostles/Bishops/Presbyters.

    “there wouldn’t have been an uproar over slow development UNTIL that development (again, seemingly clear in the literature), made certain forms essential.”

    What is missing in this explanation is that free slow development one would expect to evolve differently in different locations. Hence, we could not expect a consistent development across the all churches. As such, while for some churches a form may become essential, for others it would not. This is the footprint that I would expect to see in the early fourth century, when the Church was able to command greater uniformity, and the dispute that I would expect to see is from those, who follow the tradition not requiring a singular Bishop ordained by an exterior authority, being now required to do so because other churches have found it necessary. These local churches would have been equally anxious about preserving their system of appointment and management as those seeing an essential need for Bishops. Any evidence of such a dispute is lacking; there was no uproar and certain forms were considered essential, so by your own reasoning there could be no slow development. Other evidence seems to support a mindset of traditionalism among Christians whether they have a system of free choice or a fixed system. This traditionalism is clear in Paul, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Cyprian and remains so until today. So to establish your point, one has to assume that the same development took place across all the churches at the same time, within a decade or so, when effective communication and authority across all the churches for developing uniformity was lacking, as evidenced by such issues as the dispute regarding the date of Easter. I find your hypothesis of consistent development of free organisation hard to accept because of the diversity of development evident in other non-essential features and also in some features that were considered important, which were addressed in Ecumenical councils.

    Finally, in referencing Ignatius during this comment, his writings demonstrate the necessity of the Bishop, Presbyters and Deacons on theological grounds. I can see no room in his writings for free development of different structures. His Bishop is far more than a synagogue administrator but obeyed as Christ himself in all things including matters outside congregational services, especially in matters of doctrine.

  4. Jim says:

    I realized in a couple of places above I said “Rome” instead of “Corinth.” The places this is the case are obvious. My apologies for any confusion.

  5. Jim says:

    In the preceding comment I screwed up the format. As MG appears to have administrative privileges I request that he remove it. Here it is again (hopefully) with the format fixed.

    Fr. Patrick and MG,

    I’m not sure that I can answer all of your questions. Some of them require that I share a schema that I simply don’t. In any case, I will try to outline responses to the issues you pose by trying to outline where I’m coming from.

    But before I go there I want you to think about what you’re asking of me. You want me to accept that a doctrine essential to the very definition of the Church, essential to the very Body of Christ, to the definition of what it means to be a disciple and follower of Christ, essential to being a Christian, was ” organized with […] degree of detail, […] most of this was oral teaching, keep hidden by the Church, and it was not included in the public texts, other than by tangential reference or in general instructions given to Timothy and Titus, which assume unmentioned detail” and that explains why it’s not detailed in the New Testament or earliest church writings?

    So I think the fact that it’s missing from the texts speaks volumes about whether or not it can constitute a true mark of the church, but aside from that it seems that another explanation is that ecclesiology was simply assumed because it was inherited directly from the Jewish synagogue system. Considering this alone, a few things become immediately obvious. First, (ignoring the English etymology) presbyters/elders are not “priests.” Synagogue organization in the first century was distinct from the sacrificial system. Secondly, the archisunagogos (ruler of the synagogue), whose …

    office was that of specially caring for public worship. He was called “archisunagogos” not as head of the community, but as conductor of their assembly for public worship. As a rule he was indeed taken out of the number of the elders of the congregation. Among his functions is specially mentioned e.g. that of appointing who should read the Scriptures and the prayer, and summoning fit persons to preach. “A history of the Jewish people in the time of Jesus Christ,” Second division, Vol II, pg 65

    Take note of how much this explains the Didache. If the Ignatius bishopric is as I have claimed, then he is the archisunagogos. He is the one that “presides” (the “President” in Tertullian; one who “presides” – “We take also, in congregations before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike.” – De Corona, III) over a single congregation. Note that the Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets are decidedly distinct from the “bishop” and “deacons.” Note also that “they [bishops] also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers.” The bishops “render the service of the prophets and teachers,” yet they are not the self same, for they are to be honored “together with the prophets and teachers.” This is the same role as the archisunagogos in the synagogue.

    The orders instituted in the synagogue system are less authoritative and more administrative. In the very earliest churches, if they are an outgrowth of the synagogue system, then the leaders were administrators and facilitators and distinct from “teachers, apostles, or prophets.”

    Other common features, The Shema (which started the synagogue liturgy) was a recitation of certain sections of scripture. It was distinct from prayer proper and constituted a “confession of faith” and benediction in which the use of certain mementos for the constant remembrancer of Jehovah. It was custom to pray, standing, and facing the temple in Jerusalem (Tertullian talks about this, and I believe you still do it, correct me if I’m wrong). The archisunagogos will “lead in prayer” with the congregation making certain responses in unison at certain points. Then there was readings from Scripture which could be done by anyone in the congregation (notably, if Preists and Levites were present they took presidence at the reading – they were not part of the official organization and administration of the synagogue as such). They would, for the most part, stand to read. The readings would conclude (and start) with a “thanksgiving” (Eucharist) benediction.

    So, as for the episcopate being handed down viva voce (and we all know how Irenaus loved the reasoning behind using that as a source of theological understanding), it wasn’t. It wasn’t written down and explained in detail for two simple reasons, one, it was already in place, two, it was not of the essence of the New Covenant as distinguished from the old.

    As for ordination, I don’t believe we wouldn’t think of it in the same way. You see it as perpetuating the very definition of the church. However, the church is God’s New Covenant community as Israel was God’s Old Covenant community. So, as the distinguishing mark of the Old Covenant community was circumcision, the mark of the New Covenant is baptism. As Jesus commanded, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the command that grows the church, not ordination of bishops (except possibly as a means to that end). The *administration* of congregations (see preceding paragraph) is certainly a need but is not of the essence. Therefore, I have no problem with “appoint for yourselves” language of the Didache. I will need to do more study into the first century synagogue to see how the officials were appointed there.

    There is no issue with the growth of this custom. As is clear in writers like Tertullian, who would oppose “custom with custom” there was not uniform agreement on the import of things indifferent in themselves and if government specifics of the New Covenant synagogues were indifferent, there wouldn’t have been an uproar over slow development UNTIL that development (again, seemingly clear in the literature), made certain forms essential.

    On Clement, I never quite understood why Catholics turn to him. In context he’s problematic for you. Let’s examine more closely what Clement says. This letter was written by the Apostolic church at Rome to the Corinthians because of the fact that a number of the members of the church at Corinth revolted against the presbyters in the church and threw them out of their offices. The letter is admonishing the Corinthians that sedition against the presbytery is a grave matter and those responsible are in sin.

    In the salutation he recalls and commends the former behavior of the Corinthians saying “For ye did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the command-merits of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honor to the presbyters among you.” He then goes on to recount what happened since “(Ch 4) Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honored, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years.” In chapter 47 the letter specifically states that this sedition was undergone by only a few individuals but was against the standing ‘presbyters.’ “(Ch 47) … It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that such a thing should be heard of as that the most steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters.” … Again, in offering advice on repentance to the ones that committed the sedition the letter states “(Ch 54) Who then among you is noble-minded? who compassionate? who full of love? Let him declare, ‘If on my account sedition and disagreement and schisms have arisen, I will depart, I will go away whithersoever ye desire, and I will do whatever the majority commands; only let the flock of Christ live on terms of peace with the presbyters set over it.’ He that acts thus shall procure to himself great glory in the Lord; and every place will welcome him. … (Ch 57) Ye therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent.”

    The point of the letter is that the sedition is against *several* presbyters at Rome (several “duly *APPOINTED* presbyters”). This “eldership” is then referred to, when talking about the strife in the church over the office, it’s called “the office of the episcopate (Ch 44)” In the same context and speaking normatively the letter states “For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.” It is not simply that sedition against the presbyters is ALSO sedition against the Presbyter’s Bishop, it’s that the sedition against the presbyters is sedition against the self same people, also referred to as bishops.

    Examine the full quote: “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. … We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behavior from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honor.”

    It’s clear then that this epistle is comfortable switching terms for the same office and for the same individuals in that office. Yet, there is no mention of the one presiding bishop over the diocese of Rome – supposedly the very organizing principle of the church itself.

    In describing the apostolically instituted order in the church, immediately preceding the quote above, the letter states “(Ch 44) [after describing the orderly appointing of the Apostles by Christ] … And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons.” There is no mention of Presbyter in a passage meant to describe the order of the church authority, but by the end of the next chapter the letter is calling these men ‘presbyters’ again. So if this passage refers to “Apostolic Succession,” then it is a succession of the entire presbytery because it’s a succession of all of the presbyters, not a monarchical bishop.

    I’ll let your responses to this (if you choose to respond) stand as the last word. I’ll read them and continue to study though. I thank you both for the time you’ve taken to respond to me.

    May God bless you both.

    Thanks.
    Jim

  6. Jim says:

    Fr. Patrick and MG,

    I’m not sure that I can answer all of your questions. Some of them require that I share a schema that I simply don’t. In any case, I will try to outline responses to the issues you pose by trying to outline where I’m coming from.

    But before I go there I want you to think about what you’re asking of me. You want me to accept that a doctrine essential to the very definition of the Church, essential to the very Body of Christ, to the definition of what it means to be a disciple and follower of Christ, essential to being a Christian, was ” organized with […] degree of detail, […] most of this was oral teaching, keep hidden by the Church, and it was not included in the public texts, other than by tangential reference or in general instructions given to Timothy and Titus, which assume unmentioned detail” and that explains why it’s not detailed in the New Testament or earliest church writings?

    So I think the fact that it’s missing from the texts speaks volumes about whether or not it can constitute a true mark of the church, but aside from that it seems that another explanation is that ecclesiology was simply assumed because it was inherited directly from the Jewish synagogue system. Considering this alone, a few things become immediately obvious. First, (ignoring the English etymology) presbyters/elders are not “priests.” Synagogue organization in the first century was distinct from the sacrificial system. Secondly, the archisunagogos (ruler of the synagogue), whose …

    office was that of specially caring for public worship. He was called “archisunagogos” not as head of the community, but as conductor of their assembly for public worship. As a rule he was indeed taken out of the number of the elders of the congregation. Among his functions is specially mentioned e.g. that of appointing who should read the Scriptures and the prayer, and summoning fit persons to preach. “A history of the Jewish people in the time of Jesus Christ,” Second division, Vol II, pg 65

    Take note of how much this explains the Didache. If the Ignatius bishopric is as I have claimed, then he is the archisunagogos. He is the one that “presides” (the “President” in Tertullian; one who “presides” – “We take also, in congregations before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike.” – De Corona, III) over a single congregation. Note that the Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets are decidedly distinct from the “bishop” and “deacons.” Note also that “they [bishops] also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers.” The bishops “render the service of the prophets and teachers,” yet they are not the self same, for they are to be honored “together with the prophets and teachers.” This is the same role as the archisunagogos in the synagogue.

    The orders instituted in the synagogue system are less authoritative and more administrative. In the very earliest churches, if they are an outgrowth of the synagogue system, then the leaders were administrators and facilitators and distinct from “teachers, apostles, or prophets.”

    Other common features, The Shema (which started the synagogue liturgy) was a recitation of certain sections of scripture. It was distinct from prayer proper and constituted a “confession of faith” and benediction in which the use of certain mementos for the constant remembrancer of Jehovah. It was custom to pray, standing, and facing the temple in Jerusalem (Tertullian talks about this, and I believe you still do it, correct me if I’m wrong). The archisunagogos will “lead in prayer” with the congregation making certain responses in unison at certain points. Then there was readings from Scripture which could be done by anyone in the congregation (notably, if Preists and Levites were present they took presidence at the reading – they were not part of the official organization and administration of the synagogue as such). They would, for the most part, stand to read. The readings would conclude (and start) with a “thanksgiving” (Eucharist) benediction.

    So, as for the episcopate being handed down viva voce (and we all know how Irenaus loved the reasoning behind using that as a source of theological understanding), it wasn’t. It wasn’t written down and explained in detail for two simple reasons, one, it was already in place, two, it was not of the essence of the New Covenant as distinguished from the old.

    As for ordination, I don’t believe we wouldn’t think of it in the same way. You see it as perpetuating the very definition of the church. However, the church is God’s New Covenant community as Israel was God’s Old Covenant community. So, as the distinguishing mark of the Old Covenant community was circumcision, the mark of the New Covenant is baptism. As Jesus commanded, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the command that grows the church, not ordination of bishops (except possibly as a means to that end). The *administration* of congregations (see preceding paragraph) is certainly a need but is not of the essence. Therefore, I have no problem with “appoint for yourselves” language of the Didache. I will need to do more study into the first century synagogue to see how the officials were appointed there.

    There is no issue with the growth of this custom. As is clear in writers like Tertullian, who would oppose “custom with custom” there was not uniform agreement on the import of things indifferent in themselves and if government specifics of the New Covenant synagogues were indifferent, there wouldn’t have been an uproar over slow development UNTIL that development (again, seemingly clear in the literature), made certain forms essential.

    On Clement, I never quite understood why Catholics turn to him. In context he’s problematic for you. Let’s examine more closely what Clement says. This letter was written by the Apostolic church at Rome to the Corinthians because of the fact that a number of the members of the church at Corinth revolted against the presbyters in the church and threw them out of their offices. The letter is admonishing the Corinthians that sedition against the presbytery is a grave matter and those responsible are in sin.

    In the salutation he recalls and commends the former behavior of the Corinthians saying “For ye did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the command-merits of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honor to the presbyters among you.” He then goes on to recount what happened since “(Ch 4) Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honored, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years.” In chapter 47 the letter specifically states that this sedition was undergone by only a few individuals but was against the standing ‘presbyters.’ “(Ch 47) … It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that such a thing should be heard of as that the most steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters.” … Again, in offering advice on repentance to the ones that committed the sedition the letter states “(Ch 54) Who then among you is noble-minded? who compassionate? who full of love? Let him declare, ‘If on my account sedition and disagreement and schisms have arisen, I will depart, I will go away whithersoever ye desire, and I will do whatever the majority commands; only let the flock of Christ live on terms of peace with the presbyters set over it.’ He that acts thus shall procure to himself great glory in the Lord; and every place will welcome him. … (Ch 57) Ye therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent.”

    The point of the letter is that the sedition is against *several* presbyters at Rome (several “duly *APPOINTED* presbyters”). This “eldership” is then referred to, when talking about the strife in the church over the office, it’s called “the office of the episcopate (Ch 44)” In the same context and speaking normatively the letter states “For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.” It is not simply that sedition against the presbyters is ALSO sedition against the Presbyter’s Bishop, it’s that the sedition against the presbyters is sedition against the self same people, also referred to as bishops.

    Examine the full quote: “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. … We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behavior from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honor.”

    It’s clear then that this epistle is comfortable switching terms for the same office and for the same individuals in that office. Yet, there is no mention of the one presiding bishop over the diocese of Rome – supposedly the very organizing principle of the church itself.

    In describing the apostolically instituted order in the church, immediately preceding the quote above, the letter states “(Ch 44) [after describing the orderly appointing of the Apostles by Christ] … And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons.” There is no mention of Presbyter in a passage meant to describe the order of the church authority, but by the end of the next chapter the letter is calling these men ‘presbyters’ again. So if this passage refers to “Apostolic Succession,” then it is a succession of the entire presbytery because it’s a succession of all of the presbyters, not a monarchical bishop.

    I’ll let your responses to this (if you choose to respond) stand as the last word. I’ll read them and continue to study though. I thank you both for the time you’ve taken to respond to me.

    May God bless you both.

    Thanks.
    Jim

  7. MG says:

    Jim

    You wrote:

    “This is, of course, what’s under question here.”

    Sure. My main goal is to undercut the inference by showing possible ways in which the author of the Didache may be referring to the three tiers. The arguments in favor of a trifold ministry and succession in the Didache are not conclusive. So the question remains open of whether such was the case. But the argument for the conclusion that the Didache does not teach the trifold ministry (and therefore is another example of “absent evidence” we would expect to have but don’t if the ministry were of Apostolic origin) does not seem strong in light of the counter-points I have used.

    Again, why not think this is simply a terminological evolution instead of a conceptual one?

    You wrote:

    “If this is the case, it’s strange (to me at least) that once the terminology is settled in post-Ignatian literature the *concept* is repeatedly referred to thereafter (though, I would argue the concept doesn’t settle out prior to Cyprian). One would think there would have been some way to reference the concept in all of those letters that preceeded it that deal with church organization. Instead we get repeatedly a two-fold description of church order where one role is clearly being refered to with by two names.”

    What do you think the Apostles, prophets, and teachers of the Didache are? Are they the same order of ministry as the bishops and deacons?

    Who are the “eminent men” that St. Clement speaks of as being successors of the Apostles?

    There were ways to refer to the first tier, but they were not codified or universal. The lack of Apostolic terminology for this first tier might be an explanation for why it isn’t referred to as clearly. An additional explanation lies in the fact that it is possible that the monarchical episcopate wasn’t started (or didn’t have many officers) until toward the end of the Apostolic age.

    You wrote:

    “Ok. I’ll accept that. Best I could do at work on short notice. Looking through my margin notes how about a few other places:…

    While you quote this as evidence to the contrary, I read it as typical that the bishop would be present and Ignatius as pointing out an exception. This seems like a clear case of what some would call “the exception that proves the rule.””

    What does the text from Magnesians VIII show? A lot of the things that are mentioned there can be present in more than one location, so I don’t see why saying “one bishop” means that he must be presiding physically in every single local church. Given the letter’s emphasis on the need to actually obey the bishop, and not conform to Judaizing Christians, the fact that “one bishop” can be used in contrast to “false bishop of the schismatics or judaizers” elsewhere seems to remove the significance that you see from Ignatius’ language.

    And why do you think Smyrneans VIII is pointing out an exception? Given Ignatius’ conception of the ministry and the necessity of the Episcopate, it seems hard to believe he would be flexible on an exceptional occasion about the “do everything according to the bishop” rule. Instead, it is more plausible that he sees “the one whom the bishop designates” as carrying out the exercise of powers that are proper to him in accordance with the principles of the ministry. It seems unlikely that Ignatius would be okay with some layperson just randomly offering the Eucharist on occasion; its more likely he’s thinking of another minister with a specific office. So it is much more plausible that he sees these not as exceptions, but as conforming to a rule (which is why he seems to formulate it as part of a rule).

    You wrote:

    “What’s interesting is that this role is not absent from other early writers. Tertullian calls this person “the President” of the congregation, by whose hand they take the Eucharist. He separates this Presbyter – yet by his time the term “Bishop” is used in a diocesan sense but yet the *concept* of the “Ignatian Bishop” is still described.”

    Again, this assumes that Ignatius thinks a bishop must reside in each Church.

    There are several ways to interpret Tertullian’s talk of the “president”. It could be the title or honor given to whoever is presiding over the Eucharist—whether he be bishop or presbyter. Is there any reason we should prefer your interpretation?

    You wrote:

    “First of all, I mis-spoke. I meant multiple Bishops in one diocese (not one Church). That is, evidence that neighboring churches had separate Bishops. The most obvious one is Phil 10.

    as also the nearest Churches have sent, in some cases bishops, and in others presbyters and deacons.”

    Okay, that seems possible. But I’m not even sure that is a necessary inference, given the fact that the “nearest” Churches could be on diocesan borders.

    You wrote:

    “No, but I find that more inductive evidence of the contrary. Especially given that he addresses every other role in the church.”

    Why does Ignatius think Polycarp is a monarchical bishop, then? And why does all other tradition from his time and after present him as such? The omission of the title “bishop” is irrelevant because he definatley plays the role of a bishop in his letter. I find the lack of the plural noun “bishops” more important, because it seems to indicate that his terminology for the ministry reflects the same concepts as those of Ignatius. The fact that he distinguishes himself from other ministers fits naturally with my view. Overall I don’t see how the letter could really be evidence for your view just because Polycarp doesn’t call himself “bishop”, especially given that contemporaries seemed to think of him that way.

    You wrote:

    “Sorry. As this post is on Apostolic Succession, I think I’ll pass. My comment was simply that, on the surface, a modern teaching elder in a Presbyterian church, being congregationally based and present for the Eucharist, makes him closer to the concept that seems to be revealed in what “Ignatius” refers to as “Bishop” than the monarchical bishops of Catholicism.”

    I find this claim interesting and relevant. It is relevant because it concerns the transmission of ministry and which church correctly embodies the primitive Christian understanding of ministry. I also disagree with it, and think that there are many features of the Ignatian bishop that are not appropriate to Protestant ministers, and no features of the Ignatian bishop that aren’t appropriate to an Orthodox bishop. I would say the fact that the Eucharist either must be offered by the bishop or by a person designated by the bishop at some locale indicates a kind of necessity to episcopal approval and action across congregational lines that exceeds the role of a presbyterian officer. I don’t consider this to be off-topic if you wish to pursue it.

  8. Jim,

    Thank you for the clarifications.

    When you say that the Presbytery is the organising principle for an organisation, what effects do you see coming from this? Such, as who ordains new Presbyters or other clergy? Is this the common role of all the Presbyters or of only the President? If you are to suggest that the Presbyters ordained each other and also the President then you will have to account why by the fourth century the ordination of a Bishop is clearly done by other Bishops external to the local church and it was considered completely inappropriate for a Presbyter to ordain other clergy, let alone another Bishop. The evidence of what I described even goes back to the NT with the external Titus ordaining Bishops in each city of Crete. There is no evidence, or only rare evidence open to dispute, of internal organisation or ordination that would fit your model, if this is what you mean by organisation. If you don’t mean this and accept an external organisation then how is the President is a natural consequence of an internal desire for unity and not an essential, unifying aspect of each churches identity and relation to other churches based on principles that are uniformly agreed by all and based on a shared understanding of what is required for unity, which must predate the formation of any local church?

    Apart from fitting textual evidence, what theological principles are behind a Presbyterian organisation? Who established such an organisation? How does it relate to the OT Priesthood and organisation? How does it relate to Christ being the High-Priest? How does it manifest the reality of the Church being the body of Christ? These are a few of the issues that underlie the reason why Christ, via the Apostle established the Episcopate. (At least this is the “tradition”.) The Episcopate is necessary on a large number of levels and reasons and it manifests and maintains a unity with both the OT and NT in the new covenant of Christ. Your description of the Presbytery system seems to be something that merely formed with no guidance nor principles. This is completely contrary to how God worked in the OT, where the organisation was carefully described in detail and in Christ we can see the reason for each order and role both practically and also “mystically.” The Episcopal model is considered to have been organised with the same degree of detail, although most of this was oral teaching, keep hidden by the Church, and it was not included in the public texts, other than by tangential reference or in general instructions given to Timothy and Titus, which assume unmentioned detail, such as how to ordain Bishops for which Paul fails to give any directions in his letters and which, I am sure, Timothy and Titus would have been taught orally at another time. Christ also taught the need for unity and He would have established the Church with a structure established from the beginning to recognise this, that is the singular Bishop in each local Church. This was the universal outcome of your model in any case but it is not something that was discovered by the churches and later developed in a struggle with the issue of unity. It was established in the structure of the Church from the start. Your model seems to make the Church a product of human endeavour and not the foundation of Christ, a human organisation rather than the Body of Christ, within which dwells the Holy Spirit. Again, I am struggling to see any theological reason to be for your model; it seems to me like the Apostles reigning without Christ, who is no longer with us.

    Also, is the “board” or council of Presbyters only at a local or also at a regional or universal level? The Episcopal organisation assumes such a council with a President, who is required for unity, there is not other means and it seems natural that it was that way from the start, that is Peter was the head of the Apostolic council. This council though consists of heads of local communities and it is not a group of administrative “elders” ordained to an organisation above the level of local churches. Within a parish the Presbyters are assumed to form a governing council with the Bishop at its head based on a consensual model which always includes the consent of the head. It also makes sense to consider the rule of faith to be deposited with the Presbytery within an Episcopal model, even though it is primarily focused on the Bishop; the Presbyters share the governance with the Bishop, just as the twelve Apostles sit on twelve thrones and judge with Christ and also the twenty-four elders in revelation and also that the Saints will reign with Christ. Thus, evidence for Presbyterian governance is consistent with Episcopal organisation but I am struggling to see how Presbyterial organisation is consistent with an externally appointed President (Bishop), even if appointed with the consent of the local church, particularly the Presbyters.

    The constant linkage of Altar, to the Eucharist, to the Bishop, to the Presbytery and the reference to local churches, the term President, I would argue support a monarchal Bishop and this is Ignatius’ intention, so I don’t see that they point to an Ignatian Bishop not being identical to the monarchal Bishop of Catholicism, except based on other assumptions. Perhaps the definition of a monarchal Bishop needs clarifying? Nearest churches could easily mean churches in the nearest cities in a region and not just a congregation in another Christian temple within the same city (it is difficult to express some of these ideas neutrally because the way they are worded immediately implies other assumptions). This depends on one’s definition of “church” as already discussed.

    I look forward to your thoughts on this matters. I think the issue of ordination is a helpful avenue to proceed with this discussion because I think it is at the heart of the difference between Presbyterial and Episcopal organisations. Also, the theological meaning of the organisation is another key area and how it integrates within the whole of theology. Please also consider the importance of territorial boundaries in the organisation of local churches and the theological reasons for this.

  9. Chris Donato says:

    Perry, thanks for the welcome.

    I’m an Anglican in exile and attending a Reformed (Independent) church (that is inconsistently so with respect to its divine service, complete with a processional, images of Christ in the narthex, etc.).

    There yet remains orthodox bishops with valid orders in the Communion, most notably those among the TAC, even in TEC (your previous post about Athanasius not communing with heretics notwithstanding). But I agree in principle that all the kings horses and men are unable to put the CoE back together again.

  10. Jim says:

    Thank you again Fr. Patrick,

    A few points for clarification.

    By “primitive presbyterian” I mean an organization that has at its main essential characteristic, a presbytery – a board of elders, as its organizing principle.

    Given this, there are, several manifestations of more specific forms of church government that are simply subsets of a “primitive presbyterian” form. These would most certainly include congregations – the group of individuals that meet for the Lord’s supper – from which a “president” would be the lead, a first among equals.

    Given that it would be natural (and even in modern presbyterian organizations is almost ubiquitous) for a “president” to lead this presbytery, were I struggling with the issue of unity, and were I one of these “presidents” (or perhaps an itinerant preacher – something the didache would call an apostle/prophet), I would most certainly use this president as a unifying principle in my exhortations to the congregations.

    In doing so I have not changed the nature of the organization.

    Even clearer in both Irenaus and Tertullian, two generations later, where there is a clear diocesan organization, is the fact that the distinctive unifying characteristic of the church is the presbytery – for which the bishop serves a convenient “tracer.” Note that they talk about the regula fidei being entrusted to the *presbytery* and when the need to point to a particular presbytery they do so with reference to the head of that presbytery.

    So for Irenaus and Tertullian, two generations after Ignatius, the “presbytery” is still the organizing principle and hence their diocesan centric episcopate is also a subset of the aforementioned “primitive presbyterian” government.

    You said:

    Believing himself [Tertullian] to be orthodox he would then consider himself to still be in the Church. This point will need to be tested against more evidence but it counters a thought that obedience replaces orthodoxy or becomes more important.

    The issue is whether or not Tertullian considered the bishops the very essence of church identity. I believe that casting that presupposition back onto Tertullian is what creates the possibilities that you outline. My point is, these possibilities don’t appear to be considerations for Tertullian and therefore we should examine the assumptions we’re bringing to his writings.

    You are free to disagree with JND Kelley (he is Anglican, after all) but he does point to a change:

    The criterion for church membership is no longer, as for Irenaeus, acceptance of the teaching guaranteed by the episcopate as apostolic, but submission to the bishop himself

    On the definition of “local church.” I realize the confusion has been my fault for not using the term correctly. In any case, my meaning was a local gathering or congregation. The constant linkage of altar, to the Eucharist, to the bishop, to the presbytery; the reference to the nearest “churches” sending bishops; Tertullian’s use of the term ‘President’ for a role still requiring articulation, all point to an Ignatian bishop as something that’s not identical to the monarchical bishop (though the later could certainly be an outgrowth) of Catholicism.

    Jim

  11. Chris Donato,

    Nice to see you around these parts.

    I’ve done a good deal of reading on Anglican Orders and Apostolicae Curae. I think that at one time the Anglicans had a plausible case and I know Dr. tighe will disagree with me.

    As I see things now, the question is moot and moot for you for a few years. First, as far as I know, you’re not Anglican. please correct me if I am wrong here. So I can’t see how that could help a presbyterian. At its best with respect to apostolic succession, it would unchurch the Reformed just as fast as Rome or the Orthodox would.

    Second, whatever Anglicanism was at its most catholic, it certainly isn’t now. Whatever people like Gardiner, Pusey or Laud thought of it is a matter for the history books and not a matter of living and present entity. Given the rampant heresy in the instituion, it can’t have a plausible claim to apostolic succession any longer, if it ever did. All the kings horses and men can’t put the Church of England back together again.

  12. Jim,

    A primitive presbyterian organization would have as a legitimate, and quite natural, manifestation, an Ignatian style (i.e. congregational) primitive episcopate.

    Please explain this is more depth. If the Episcopate is understood to be a singular and necessary office in each church, whether that church is the size of one congregation or it is expressed in a number of parishes, then how can your primitive presbyterian organisation be anything other than an Episcopal organisation if the latter structure is a legitimate, natural manifestation of the presbyterian structure? How can this then be used to maintain a presbyterian church structure today that is not episcopalian, by reason of deliberate contrast? Is the dispute rather that of congregationalism, each with a “Bishop” in a single temple (using the literal translation of the Greek term specifically used for the worship building rather than church for the worship building, which is ambiguous in this regard) vis a vie a parish organisation of multiple temples under one Bishop in one locality?

    I think that we may need to work on what is meant by a local church. I understand a local church to be the gathering of Christians in a particular locality, usually defined in terms of a city and its hinterland with a fixed territorial boundary. Thus, all Christians within that territory belong to that church. This church is led by a singular Bishop supported by Presbyters and Deacons. In the early Church, all these Christians could meet together in a single congregation in a single temple with the Bishop at its head. This is the ideal model of the local church in assembly. However, as the Christian population grew rather than have more than one Bishop in the locality a parish structure was developed to cope with the numbers meeting. They were all still one church and one congregation with one Bishop and celebrating one Eucharist but done so in a number of “sub-locations” with the Presbyter in each parish, when the Bishop was not there, or the senior Presbyter, if more than one was present, led the congregation in worship in the same manner as the Bishop would when all meet in a single congregation; he is the “President”. This is still evident in Orthodox liturgical practice where only one Priest, the senior one, serves before the Altar, the other Priests stand on the sides the Altar in support but not with the “President” on the same side of the Altar. The other Priests only act at the direction of the “President”.

    Huge cities, were, and are, considered an accumulation of sub-cities, such as in London, each city with its own Bishop. A city is not broken into units where each suburb has its own Bishop but rather a city remains one territorial unit with one Bishop. There is an important link between a definable territorial unit and the Bishop, based on the city, which was not considered to be a sub-dividable unit, so hugh cities become a collection of smaller cities. Hence, the development of parishes rather than more Bishops for each congregation.

    I don’t see that what you quote from JND Kelly makes Cyprian say anything more than Ignatius, for whom obedience to the Bishop is also central for being part of the Church. See the letter of Ignatius to the Philadelphians as one example.

    Thank you for the information regarding Tertullian. Although, I have not had time to read all the material, let alone digest it, I would like to keep the following point in mind when you say that there was a shift from orthodoxy to obedience to the Bishop. I don’t think that there was such a shift. Both orthodoxy and obedience are important when considering unity with the church and this is clear from NT texts (see Hebrews 13) and is still in place today. Tertullian, could have separated from the Bishops, or disputed with them on grounds of orthodoxy. This would excuse separating from them because there was no longer a need to obey them since they were not orthodox. Believing himself to be orthodox he would then consider himself to still be in the Church. This point will need to be tested against more evidence but it counters a thought that obedience replaces orthodoxy or becomes more important. Obedience is of particular issue in schisms, where orthodoxy is not the matter in dispute or where being a Bishop requires the consent and recognition of the other Bishops, one cannot self appoint oneself as a Bishop. This seems to be the context of Cyprian’s writings.

  13. Chris Donato says:

    Maybe I’m misreading, but I’m not sure why a subsequent development (from the Didache to Ignatius), once the apostles died off, to a more “static” monarchical bishopric is problematic.

    I take the Johannine letters to be a good example of the transition in this regard. Clearly there is a bishop writing to churches in an area for which he has assumed care. But the relationship is more dynamic than what see as we move into the next century. And it’s quite irrelevant as to whether it was the apostle John or another elder John doing the writing; in both cases, the setting comports with what you write above with respect to the Didache.

    At any rate, as you’d expect me to say, apostolic succession isn’t the exclusive property of Catholics and Orthodox—I mean, Apostolicae Curae is Exhibit A in revisionism . . .

  14. Jim says:

    Another quick note on Tertullian and Rankin:

    The earliest statements in favour of the argument that he did leave are by Jerome and Augustine. But there are some scholars who do not accept that they had any special knowledge. It is therefore argued that in view of the way that the early church venerated North African ‘Montanists’ like St.Perpetua, and the use of Tertullian by St. Cyprian, that he must in fact have never been condemned, or done more than take part in a para-church grouping of those influenced by Montanism. See Tabbernee, Montanist Inscriptions, pt II for this, and references to other scholars. In fact this view seems to have become orthodoxy in anglophone circles. The original article was Douglas Powell, Tertullianists and Cataphrygians (1975). I understand the issue is discussed in David Rankin, Tertullian and the Church, (Cambridge University Press 1995),xvii+229 pp, 35, on p.27 with full bibliography, but I haven’t seen this.

    That’s from note 17a here:

    http://www.tertullian.org/readfirst.htm

    So it appears, as I thought, David Rankin’s book “Tertullian and the Church” deals with this perspective. I can give more details when I’ve had a chance to review it (if it comes up again).

  15. Jim says:

    Fr. Patrick,

    Thank you for your graciousness. A few points. I see we are in agreement to an extent I hadn’t expected – though clearly we draw different inferences from our agreement. You said:

    >You need to go further and show that this solution
    >is not possible to counter the Catholic position,

    No. I’m not equipped to do that. Nor do I think the nature of this type of inductive investigation lends itself to that kind of certainty.

    It would have been an interesting experiment to have lived prior to the late 19th century (before the rediscovery of the Didache) and speculate about what the “next find” would have shown.

    >There is no different sense between a diocesan
    >Bishop of today and a congregational “President”
    >of Tertullian.

    Tertullian understood the diocesan bishop and hence (I’m guessing) is why the term “bishop” was no longer available to him to apply to the head of the congregation – as it was to Ignatius.

    >I would expect to see evidence of a continuing and well
    >testified Presbyterian system until well into the fourth
    >Century, before the Church was able to develop some
    >uniformity after the peace of Constantine, if there was a
    >slow development of something that did not have doctrinal
    >importance. I would also expect to see conciliar debates
    >on the matter. This evidence is lacking.

    But I don’t see a conflict. A primitive presbyterian organization would have as a legitimate, and quite natural, manifestation, an Ignatian style (i.e. congregational) primitive episcopate.

    Given then the late 2nd and 3rd century controversies, and primarily how Irenaus and Tertullian dealt with them, a parish system as a natural outgrowth and subset of the congregational organization wouldn’t cause an issue.

    >At what stage between Cyprian and the fourth Century,
    > a space of 50-70 years, is there evidence of his
    >doctrine of the Episcopate being imposed universally
    >across the churches of the world when his doctrine of
    >baptism did not make any headway in Rome?

    If Cyprian’s “doctrine of the episcopate” was viewed as simply a difference of emphasis on what was already in place, why would anyone question is?

    Each of these “changes” is created by nothing more than a shift in emphasis on what already was in place. Yet that shift in emphasis precipitated real changes – even if those changes were no more than a continual narrowing of what church government could be considered legitimate and a shift in what its purpose was.

    As JND Kelley put it:

    For all his profound sense of the church as a spiritual entity, his approach was practical and even legalistic, owing much to analogies borrowed from Roman law and conditioned by the problems created by the Novatianist schism. This was the rigorist, doctrinally orthodox movement […] and so Cyprian was obligated to find some other basis for unity than strict orthodoxy of teaching. […] Cyprian does not hesitate to draw logical corollaries from his theory. The criterion for church membership is no longer, as for Irenaeus, acceptance of the teaching guaranteed by the episcopate as apostolic, but submission to the bishop himself
    – Early Christian Doctrine pg 204,206

    >The only argument that could be made is that I my
    >interpretation is influenced by being Orthodox but
    >then so is yours by not being Orthodox.

    This is certainly true.

    >I assume you are aware of the Jewish organisation
    > expressed in the OT with the three tiered structure
    >of high-Priest, Priest and Levites. This structure is
    >referenced by Clement in his (first) Epistles when
    >discussing order in the Church, see Chapters 40-44.
    >It is also drawn upon by Dionysios the Areopagite in
    > his Ecclesiastical Hierarchy see Chapter 5 §2
    >in particular.

    Thanks. I thought you had meant Jewish sources for Synagogue organization. I haven’t read Dionysios. I will re-read Clement with an eye toward this. Thanks again.

    >Sorry, does Polycarp address every other role? I
    >suppose that this depends on what one may consider
    >to be every other role.

    Yes. Well he does go through a large number of different (and overlapping) “roles” and how people should act in those roles. He covers: husbands, wives, children, widows, virgins, young men (telling them to be subject to the presbyters and deacons), and at more length deacons and what type of person they should be, and presbyters and how they should act. That is what I was referring to.

    >Finally, I haven’t yet read Tertullian carefully on this
    >particular matter, so I am not in a position to comment
    >on his thoughts. Could you please reference some
    >particular passages of strong relevance and perhaps a
    >link to David Rankin’s writings, if they are online?

    I did that from memory. I need to review David Rankin’s book, after which I can get back with more details (or a correction if I got the wrong scholar). Here is a link to an article by Douglas Powell that expounds the thesis:

    http://www.tertullian.org/articles/powell_tertullianists.htm

    Thanks
    Jim

  16. Jim,

    From my understanding, without excluding other possibilities, I agree that the Ignatian Church was in practice much as you describe where the all Christians in a locality, usually a city and its immediate surrounds, would gather in one place with one Bishop and share one Eucharist. This is the complete or ideal expression of his theology in practice. However, the point that I was making was that his theology can also be fulfilled in the parish system because it is understood that each parish represents the whole in its locality, the local Presbyter takes the place of the Bishop and the Eucharist is the one Body of Christ just as he says. It doesn’t matter if Ignatius himself experienced or knew of a parish system; it was more important at that stage for the ideal situation to be in practice so the the parish system in properly understood as being a manifestation of the same system and not considered to be something other. For the parish system to work, it still requires a Bishop who is the source of ordination, consecrating churches and blessing thus uniting the Presbyters in one with one Eucharist. It also requires that the terminology of Presbyter and Bishop be interchangeable and this is precisely what we see in the early documents and yet “fixed” as seen later. This “ingenious” solution may not be needed by yourself, but then you don’t accept orthodox Catholic ecclesiology, for whom it is important to accept such a solution. You need to go further and show that this solution is not possible to counter the Catholic position, not only that you don’t need to stretch it as such, although I don’t consider it stretched at all and a consistent type of solution to many other issues based on the dynamics of unity and diversity. There is no different sense between a diocesan Bishop of today and a congregational “President” of Tertullian.

    I don’t think that I do assume a sudden dramatic change. Rather, I would expect to see evidence of a continuing and well testified Presbyterian system until well into the fourth Century, before the Church was able to develop some uniformity after the peace of Constantine, if there was a slow development of something that did not have doctrinal importance. I would also expect to see conciliar debates on the matter. This evidence is lacking. Rather in the fourth century we have clear evidence that the Bishops were expected to be part of the structure as single Bishops of a church from the beginning. Where did such an amnesia of an theologically acceptable Presbyterian system come from if it was a slow development with an expected continuing footprint? At what stage between Cyprian and the fourth Century, a space of 50-70 years, is there evidence of his doctrine of the Episcopate being imposed universally across the churches of the world when his doctrine of baptism did not make any headway in Rome? Again, Cyprian is not creating a definition but demonstrating the consequences of an commonly shared ecclesiology, just as was Ignatius. This is even further highlighted by the sense of tradition and conformity with the ancient Fathers seen in even early Church writings, which must imply an assumption that they received the doctrine from others rather than that they are innovating and trying to develop new doctrine. This latter mindset is a modern mindset and not in keeping with that time. I am not saying that this is a conclusive proof but work needs to be done to show that this assumption does not apply in that time.

    Personally, I hold Ignatius’ doctrine because I learned it primarily from reading him rather than trying to force him to fit my own doctrine. The only argument that could be made is that I my interpretation is influenced by being Orthodox but then so is yours by not being Orthodox. All we can do on this count is to point out whether one view or another is rather forced on the text and how it matches the view of other commentators of that time and now. The overwhelming evidence for the “three” tiered episcopal church from the second century onwards would tend to favour that the majority of Christian’s have understood Ignatius as Catholics do now and at least that it is a legitimate interpretation.

    I assume you are aware of the Jewish organisation expressed in the OT with the three tiered structure of high-Priest, Priest and Levites. This structure is referenced by Clement in his (first) Epistles when discussing order in the Church, see Chapters 40-44. It is also drawn upon by Dionysios the Areopagite in his Ecclesiastical Hierarchy see Chapter 5 §2 in particular.

    Clement, although he appears to express a two tiered structure, more likely understands the episcopate as to be successors of the Apostles and also to be a singular office. This is seen when he mentions that holders of the Episcopate are to be succeeded when the previous incumbent falls asleep (dies) with the consent of the whole Church, just as a Bishop is appointed today. This would not be necessary when there are a multitude of Presbyters of equal rank, who can interchangeably hold the same offices whose appoint would not depend on the death of another. Any one Presbyter doesn’t need a specific successor to his own office, when he falls asleep, unless you are to propose a fixed number of Presbyters with fixed functions, but there is no evidence for this, especially considering there is evidence for a fixed number of deacons in some churches.

    Sorry, does Polycarp address every other role? I suppose that this depends on what one may consider to be every other role. His lack of mention of the Bishop could be that the letter was expected to be delivered via the Bishop and as such it would be inappropriate to tell the Bishop publicly how to behave; it would be too personal for such a letter. Instructions for each other order are general in application and unlikely to be seen as a tailored to a particular personal issue, which would be the case regarding a singular Bishop. Perhaps this may not be particularly convincing but I think there is enough plausibly to be an explanation of this particular instance.

    Finally, I haven’t yet read Tertullian carefully on this particular matter, so I am not in a position to comment on his thoughts. Could you please reference some particular passages of strong relevance and perhaps a link to David Rankin’s writings, if they are online? Thanks.

  17. Jim says:

    Fr. Patrick,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I have not put forth a positive thesis so I hope you’ll pardon me if I selectively respond to what you’ve written.

    The writings of Ignatius are expressing a theology of the Episcopate that seems to imply that there is one congregation in one place. This is correct. However, we must not limit this theological understanding to the exclusion of the parish system each with its own Presbyter(s) or Priest(s).

    This is exactly what is in question so I’m not sure how stating it resolves the matter. It appears that Ignatius is quite unfamiliar with the parish system based on the several quotes thus far put forth – and that’s been my entire point (on Ignatius at least). … and this is the crux of the interpretation:

    […] which makes the Bishop “present” in the Presbyter, meeting in one place celebrating one Eucharist.

    Sorry. Assuming you are correct, I suppose that’s an ingenious way to read the text to make it conform. But I have no need to stretch the text that way.

    You put forth the fluidity of the terminology as an explanation for the absence of a reference to this structure in the earliest writings but I find it strains credulity to think that a distinction so essential to the “definition of a church” did not find clearer expression in the earlier writings. Especially one (the Didache) who’s purpose was to organize the church.

    As you are undoubtedly aware, in Catholic ecclesiology the Bishop is a essential part of the structure of a church that defines it as a church, if so this structure must have been in place from the first churches.

    You have well articulated reasoning behind this in your post. Thank you. I must say, however, that it presupposes a few things that I would take issue with.

    1) Your explanation assumes that, to interpret eccesiastical history in a manner opposed to what you’re proposing, one must accept that from pre- to post-Ignatius, there was a sudden dramatic change.

    In fact, I don’t think this is the case. Ignatius represents a stage in which there is a sorting out of responsibilities between presbyters *within a congregation*. That of ‘overseership’ and ‘eldership.’

    I might add that I don’t think the shift to a monarchial Bishop, one that makes the Bishop a distinctive mark of the church, was complete before Cyprian. He went the last logical step (and by this point, a rather small step) in order to DEFINE Novatian out of the church, as he could not do it doctrinally.

    Apart from Cyprian’s own writings there is evidence for this in Tertullian, who apparently never saw himself outside of the Catholic church EVEN AFTER separation from the Bishops. It’s not that he ARGUED for this – he just ASSUMED it in his montanistic writings. It required the later imposition of a fully developed monarchial bishopric as a mark of the church to interpret his writings differently (I refer you to some of David Rankin’s writings).

    2) Your explanation assumes that Ignatius’ writings refer to the doctrine you hold – but again, this is what I’ve been taking issue with.

    Therefore, I don’t see that it follows from modern Catholic ecclesiology that “this structure must have been in place from the first churches” unless I have a prior commitment against its possible development SLOWLY over time – which the literature seems to imply.

    Consistency with the OT Priesthood is also found with the Episcopal order but lacking in other systems. […]

    Now THIS I find compelling. What references to ancient Jewish organization should I look at to get an understanding of this?

    Where does Ignatius address every other role in the Church, such as deaconesses, except in a letter many consider spurious?

    The comment you’re referring to was a reference to Polycarp, not Ignatius.

    Thanks.
    Jim

  18. Jim,

    The ecclesiology in Ignatius, rules out the Presbyterial system of church governance, when considered as sufficient apart from a Bishop because the Bishop expresses the singularity of Priesthood, which is also emphasised in the writings of Ignatius, and this is not represented in the Presbyterial system. The writings of Ignatius are expressing a theology of the Episcopate that seems to imply that there is one congregation in one place. This is correct. However, we must not limit this theological understanding to the exclusion of the parish system each with its own Presbyter(s) or Priest(s). Each parish is the one congregation of the Bishop, via the unity of Priesthood sourced from the Bishop shared by the Presbyter which makes the Bishop “present” in the Presbyter, meeting in one place celebrating one Eucharist. This also extends so that each diocese or church (the terms are synonymous in terms of the jurisdiction of one Bishop; church does not mean a building nor something equivalent to a modern parish) where each is the Catholic Church entire. This theology rests on an understanding the the one same Church is simultaneously manifest in its entirety in a multitude of locations as long as each location meets specific criteria, such as being under one Bishop, who is in communion with other Bishops of the Church. The works of Metropolitan John Zizioulas are helpful studies on this.

    The terminology of Bishop and Priest was correctly and expectantly interchangeable in the NT and very early Fathers because the Priestly functions of teaching, governing (oversight) and offering are the same for both orders, also later in the West the two orders were often counted as one when listing clerical orders so the understanding of the unity of the orders was not lost after the name distinction became fixed. The Bishop is important to represent the singularity of the Priesthood in one Christ, vis a vie the rest of the congregation and also the unity of the Church vis a vie the other churches, as the head of the local Church. The doctrine and tradition of the Bishop is the basis of recognising that local church as a manifestation of the Church and being appropriate for communion with other churches that maintain the Apostolic succession of faith, tradition and mutual recognition of fellow Bishops through the consensual consecration of a new Bishop by all other local Bishops and laying on of hands of the chief Bishop of a region again manifesting the unity of the Episcopate.

    The Apostolic Constitutions update the terminology to the Didache to express the terminology of the second/third century that distinguishes Bishop and Presbyter, without this excluding the correctness of the earlier terminology. It seems to be making aspects that may have been assumed in the Didache clearer to the then audience, which is also seen in the handling of the baptism rites.

    As you are undoubtedly aware, in Catholic ecclesiology the Bishop is a essential part of the structure of a church that defines it as a church, if so this structure must have been in place from the first churches. The point of the post was to demonstrate that the evidence is not contrary to this ecclesiology and even supports it. This does not mean that the early evidence cannot be given a different meaning but that the Catholic understanding is consistent with the evidence. Because the structure of the Episcopate is clearly universal by the mid-second to early third centuries and the ecclesiology expressed by Ignatius was consistently and universally understood, at least by those recognised as orthodox Christians, with no evidence of a debate about the implementation of this structure nor its theology, together with no explanation how such a universal understanding could have been spread and implemented universally among the churches after the Apostles in times of persecution and underground assemblies, then anyone wishing to interpret the earliest evidence in a manner contrary to the structure of one Bishop and many Presbyters in each local church needs to prove that Catholic interpretation is false and impossible to reconcile with the earliest evidence. Other interpretations may be plausibly based only on evidence up to Ignatius but afterwards fail as having any permanent or recognised place in the structure of the Church. There is no evidence for a change, Ignatius is not arguing for a change to or establishment of the Episcopal system but he is explaining to others how they should understand and relate to a system that is already in place. Your understanding may be plausible on some early texts but it lacks any other historical evidence that it ever was the way that the Church was intended to be organised or even was so organised.

    Other traditions, such as keeping the chair (or throne) of St James the brother of the Lord, which is consistent with him being a Bishop, also support the Catholic ecclesiological understanding. The Apostolic succession of Irenaeus only make sense if the structure goes back to the Apostles. Consistency with the OT Priesthood is also found with the Episcopal order but lacking in other systems. The Christians transformed the meaning of the earlier worship but maintained a close parallel with it. It is less reasonable to consider a completely new style of doing things that cannot be drawn seamlessly from the OT; this is evidenced in the (first) Epistle of Clement, whose writings on careful reading support the Episcopate as a singular office. Also, most of the Seventy Apostles are recognised as Bishops.

    Where does Ignatius address every other role in the Church, such as deaconesses, except in a letter many consider spurious?

  19. Jim says:

    MG,

    Thanks again,

    You said:

    If no one talked about such a ministry, it probably didn’t exist, because we would expect someone to mention it.

    This is, of course, what’s under question here.

    Again, why not think this is simply a terminological evolution instead of a conceptual one?

    If this is the case, it’s strange (to me at least) that once the terminology is settled in post-Ignatian literature the *concept* is repeatedly referred to thereafter (though, I would argue the concept doesn’t settle out prior to Cyprian). One would think there would have been some way to reference the concept in all of those letters that preceeded it that deal with church organization. Instead we get repeatedly a two-fold description of church order where one role is clearly being refered to with by two names.

    With reference to my quote from “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch IV” to show that the Ignatian bishop is the congregational leader, you said:

    […]I think that in the context of the previous chapter your reading of “one Eucharist” as teaching that there can only be one assembly offering the elements under a bishop who is tied to that one congregation does not fit: […] The “one Eucharist” is not in contrast to a multiplicity of places where the Eucharist is offered under a single bishop. Instead, it is in contrast to the *other Eucharist of the schismatics*, which is not “some other Eucharist”, but is not a Eucharist at all.

    Ok. I’ll accept that. Best I could do at work on short notice. Looking through my margin notes how about a few other places:

    As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Do ye therefore all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one. Mag 8

    In like manner, let all reverence
    – the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ,
    – and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father,
    – and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles.
    Apart from these, there is no Church [Literally – “no Church is called”.] Tral 3

    … and, I would say:

    Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. 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. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. (Epistle to the Smyrneans, VIII)

    While you quote this as evidence to the contrary, I read it as typical that the bishop would be present and Ignatius as pointing out an exception. This seems like a clear case of what some would call “the exception that proves the rule.”

    What’s interesting is that this role is not absent from other early writers. Tertullian calls this person “the President” of the congregation, by whose hand they take the Eucharist. He separates this Presbyter – yet by his time the term “Bishop” is used in a diocesan sense but yet the *concept* of the “Ignatian Bishop” is still described.

    You asked “given that you seemed to say there were quotes from Ignatius where multiple bishops seem to be at one Church, if you could provide those.”

    First of all, I mis-spoke. I meant multiple Bishops in one diocese (not one Church). That is, evidence that neighboring churches had separate Bishops. The most obvious one is Phil 10.

    as also the nearest Churches have sent, in some cases bishops, and in others presbyters and deacons.

    >Also, it seems like Polycarp uses Ignatian terminology
    >(speaking of local presbyters and deacons) and is the
    >monarchical leader of the Church of Smyrna. Can you find
    >a reference where he speaks of “bishops”?

    No, but I find that more inductive evidence of the contrary. Especially given that he addresses every other role in the church

    > And I’m also wondering how you would answer my
    > questions about the nature of a teaching elder
    > in comparison to an Ignatian bishop.

    Sorry. As this post is on Apostolic Succession, I think I’ll pass. My comment was simply that, on the surface, a modern teaching elder in a Presbyterian church, being congregationally based and present for the Eucharist, makes him closer to the concept that seems to be revealed in what “Ignatius” refers to as “Bishop” than the monarchical bishops of Catholicism.

    Thanks again,
    Jim

  20. MG says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:

    “Thanks for the response. You can argue that “nothing in the text precludes three orders of ministry” (though I tend to disagree as the point of the didache is how to organize churches), but I wonder what you would have EXPECTED to see if I were correct.”

    The text could go either way. I’m not claiming the text would have to be different to be compatible with your reading (though its compatibility with your reading doesn’t mean I think your reading is more plausible) so if you were correct I wouldn’t be surprised to see the text as is. Now, if the text said something like “Therefore, know that there are only two orders of ministry, bishops and deacons” or “The ministry of Apostles, prophets, and teachers will cease” then we might be able to *verify* your reading as the correct one. But as it stands, I don’t think there is anything decisive within the Didache to show that either of our interpretations are overwhelmingly more likely.

    You wrote:

    “In other words, if the ancient church operated with a two-fold order, don’t you think any document that puts forth the positive case only, could be interpreted as “not precluding three orders of ministry?” However, if three orders were required, it would be an odd omission.”

    No. Statements that deny a first tier, teach the end of a first tier that is solely occupied by Apostles, say that the first tier is just a different role that the ministers within the second tier can take, or say that the third tier is a post-Apostolic innovation would support what you are saying. Also, if there were no documents in the first hundred years that taught a trifold ministry, this absence of evidence would probably be evidence of absence. If no one talked about such a ministry, it probably didn’t exist, because we would expect someone to mention it. But if some people talk about it and others don’t, that doesn’t prove that it didn’t exist, or even that it wasn’t held by everyone. We wouldn’t necessarily expect everyone to mention it; widespread mention of the monarchical episcopate and narrower references to it are both compatible with its existence, necessity, and universality.

    You wrote:

    “The Apostolic Constitutions (Book VII) is a COPY of the didache. However, being somewhat later, it’s expanded at, among other places, precisely where it would need to be expanded to support a monarchial bishop. E.g.:

    Didache: Chapter 15. Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord ,men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; …

    AC Book VII,XXXI. Do you first ordain bishops worthy of the Lord, (7) and presbyters and deacons, pious men, righteous, meek, free from the love of money, lovers of truth

    Put the two books side by side. You can find almost every line of the Didache inside book VII of AC, in almost the same order, with similar wording (though much expanded) – yet here, modified.”

    Again, why not think this is simply a terminological evolution instead of a conceptual one? Why not think the Apostolic Constitutions are updating the pre-Ignatian language—that they are making explicit what the Didachist already believed? And if there is incompatibility between what Ignatius says and what the Didache says, how do we explain the evidence of dependency of Ignatius’ ecclesiology on a primitive version of the Didache as a source?

    You wrote:

    “You missed my point. The Ignatian bishop CANNOT preside over more than one congregation as he is required for the Eucharist.

    Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to show forth the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God. – The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch IV

    This quote could be multiplied. Simply, Ignatian bishops are congregational leaders, not diocesan leaders.”

    Obviously this statement has to be interpreted in context. If taken out of context with the full force of the word “one”, it would imply that there are not two distinct Bishops—one presiding at Philadelphia and the other at Antioch—or two different places where the Eucharist is offered. So we should think of the context when interpreting this; and depending on the context we can determine what the force of the word “one” really is. I think that in the context of the previous chapter your reading of “one Eucharist” as teaching that there can only be one assembly offering the elements under a bishop who is tied to that one congregation does not fit:

    Keep yourselves from those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but exceeding purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.]. (Epistle to the Philiadelphians, III)

    The “one Eucharist” is not in contrast to a multiplicity of places where the Eucharist is offered under a single bishop. Instead, it is in contrast to the *other Eucharist of the schismatics*, which is not “some other Eucharist”, but is not a Eucharist at all. So why think that the language of “one Eucharist” and “one Bishop” is precluding the possibility that the Eucharist can be offered in more than one place under the oversight of the same singular Bishop, given my contextually-based interpretation?

    We should also consider the evidence that Ignatius might have believed that a bishop can preside over more than one place:

    Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. 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. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. (Epistle to the Smyrneans, VIII)

    Here Ignatius seems to be saying that “a proper Eucharist” can be offered by someone other than the Bishop if the Bishop has pre-approved that person. The Eucharist can be entrusted to someone other than the Bishop. This seems to support the claim that Ignatius thinks that a Bishop can oversee more than one Eucharist at a time. How would you interpret this passage?

    You wrote:

    “As far as plural bishops, the references could be interpreted variously (so I wont push it) – though given the historic context (of the New Testament, of Polycarp, of Clement (esp when compared to Paul), etc) I see no reason not to accept the plain reading of “bishops” (plural) in the various places it’s used.”

    Sure, there are multiple bishops in some of those references. But what kinds of ministers are the “bishops” that are spoken of? In the case of both Paul and Clement we have some evidence that they believed there were ministers of a first tier, successors of the Apostles that transmitted the ministries of the Church (though they did not call these ministers “bishops” like Ignatius later would). Instead of thinking of them as monarchical leaders, Paul and Clement seem to understand the “bishops” they speak of as what we now call “elders”—local ministers of the second tier. So I agree with the plain reading; I just don’t think pre-Ignatian and post-Ignatian sources mean the same thing by “bishop”.

    Also, it seems like Polycarp uses Ignatian terminology (speaking of local presbyters and deacons) and is the monarchical leader of the Church of Smyrna. Can you find a reference where he speaks of “bishops”?

    I’m still curious, given that you seemed to say there were quotes from Ignatius where multiple bishops seem to be at one Church, if you could provide those.

    And I’m also wondering how you would answer my questions about the nature of a teaching elder in comparison to an Ignatian bishop.

  21. Jim says:

    MG,

    Thanks for the response. You can argue that “nothing in the text precludes three orders of ministry” (though I tend to disagree as the point of the didache is how to organize churches), but I wonder what you would have EXPECTED to see if I were correct.

    In other words, if the ancient church operated with a two-fold order, don’t you think any document that puts forth the positive case only, could be interpreted as “not precluding three orders of ministry?” However, if three orders were required, it would be an odd omission.

    The Apostolic Constitutions (Book VII) is a COPY of the didache. However, being somewhat later, it’s expanded at, among other places, precisely where it would need to be expanded to support a monarchial bishop. E.g.:

    Didache: Chapter 15. Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord ,men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; …

    AC Book VII,XXXI. Do you first ordain bishops worthy of the Lord, (7) and presbyters and deacons, pious men, righteous, meek, free from the love of money, lovers of truth

    Put the two books side by side. You can find almost every line of the Didache inside book VII of AC, in almost the same order, with similar wording (though much expanded) – yet here, modified.

    You said “Regarding 1) it is not necessary for a bishop to preside over multiple Churches …”

    You missed my point. The Ignatian bishop CANNOT preside over more than one congregation as he is required for the Eucharist.

    Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to show forth the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God. – The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch IV

    This quote could be multiplied. Simply, Ignatian bishops are congregational leaders, not diocesan leaders.

    As far as plural bishops, the references could be interpreted variously (so I wont push it) – though given the historic context (of the New Testament, of Polycarp, of Clement (esp when compared to Paul), etc) I see no reason not to accept the plain reading of “bishops” (plural) in the various places it’s used.

    Also, the Syriac redactors of Ignatius, apparently thought the distinction not worthy of much incorporation as it’s only mentioned once. Granted, there is much that’s not understood about the Syriac versions of the epistles, primarily, their purpose.

    Jim

  22. MG says:

    Also it should be pointed out that if we can argue that Timothy and Titus were monarchical bishops, then we would have an instance where in pre-Ignatian (Apostlic) practice, bishops presided over more than one Church. Ignatius, then, just lives at a time when most bishops have only one Church they preside over. But this all depends on whether or not Timothy and Titus were indeed monarchical bishops.

  23. MG says:

    Jim–

    Nothing in the text precludes three orders of ministry in the Didache, right? There are the (1) Apostles/Prophets/Teachers and the (2) “Bishops” and (3) the Deacons. Why not see these as picking out members of the three orders of Catholic ministry (though these orders are not listed with their Ignatian names)?

    Do the Apostolic constitutions develop in language or in doctrine?

    How is it anachronistic to claim “but it could call into question the testimony of St. Ignatius to the universality and necessity of the episcopate”?

    Regarding 1), it is not necessary for a bishop to preside over multiple Churches. Notice that the definition I gave does not require that. Nor is that always the case in the Orthodox Church.

    Regarding 2), can you give me an example from Ignatius where he speaks of multiple bishops at one Church?

    (I’m not sure that this would necessarily overthrow my view even if there were multiple bishops at a single Church, though (Fr. Patrick may disagree, and may be right). The essence of the monarchy of the monarchical episcopate seems to consist in the fact that *only the bishop can ordain*.)

    You say Ignatian bishops are more like teaching elders. This raises some questions. Are teaching elders a separate order of ministry from ruling elders? Is it impossible to have a valid Eucharist without a teaching elder? Do you obey the teaching elders because they have divine authority?

  24. Jim says:

    You haven’t explained how the extrapolation of the didache into the apostolic constitutions later incorporates the three fold distinction MISSING from the didache.

    The introduction of “Bishop” in the Apostolic constitutions, where the didache is virtually completey subsumed almost line for line, clearly shows development of the doctrine of monarchial bishops.

    While I missed the first two parts (I’ll need to go back and read them) this is flat out anachronistic:

    but it could call into question the testimony of St. Ignatius to the universality and necessity of the episcopate

    The Ignatian bishop has several clear issues for your positions, not the least of which is 1) The Bishop is PER CONGREGATION and PER Eucharist. 2) “Bishops” in Ignatius are referred to in the PLURAL for a given church.

    Ignatius uses the term “Bishop” in such a way that it looks much more like a teaching elder in a Presbyterian church than a Catholic monarch.

  25. MG,

    I am not sure that it is correct to say that there can be more than one bishop in a location, that is a diocese or city. There can only be one Bishop because there is only One God and One mediator, Jesus Christ. The name of elder and bishop were interchangeable in the NT so the we know that the Presbyters share the same priesthood as the Bishop, who, as I indicated, is singled out to demonstrate the singularity of the Priesthood, yet together with the Presbyters shows that the same Priesthood can be shared by many, that is man can participate in the Priesthood of Christ and this can be done in a multitude of locations rather than in one place with one High Priest in Jerusalem. If the words were not used interchangeably in the NT then we could err in thinking that the Priesthood of the Bishop is different from the Presbyters (Priests). This could lead to theological and ecclesiological problems. Nevertheless, we now fix the terminology to be clear about which function we are referring because although they are the same in Priesthood they are nevertheless distinct in function/position.

  26. MG says:

    Abu Daoud–

    You are correct that there can be more than one bishop in a given location. Bishops have the power to rule a Church or Churches, but they can exercise this power to rule either alone or with others. The monarchy of the bishop does not consist in his being the sole overseer of a given locale. Instead a bishop is a monarch because the bishop alone is capable of ordaining. That is certainly a possible explanation for both the Didache and Clement’s use of the plural “bishops”.

    Personally, though, I do not think we have evidence for multiple bishops in either case. Rather, we have a difference in titles. What Ignatius means by “bishop” is an order that does not have that specific name at the times and places at which the Didache and 1 Clement were written. On my view the Didache and 1 Clement still use the New Testament terminology, where “bishop” is the equivalent of an Ignatian presbyter (local minister of the second tier, able to offer the Eucharist). So when 1 Clement speaks of “bishops” it means “presbyters/priests”. Clement refers to what we now call monarchical bishops as “eminent men”, who are different from the two local tiers of ministry. I will argue this out in detail in a future post.

    Yes, all bishops are elders but not all elders are bishops. This can mean two things:

    (1) According to present terminology, it means that every monarchical bishop retains the powers proper to an elder, including the offering of the Eucharist (priestly power).

    (2) According to the most primitive terminology, it means that every bishop (local minister of the second tier with the power to offer the Eucharist) is a presbyter (where presbyter is equivalent to “minister, clergyman”). My first post on Apostolic Succession was an attempt to clear up this terminological confusion.

  27. abu daoud says:

    Thanks for this, posted a link over at my blog.

    I think Ignatius’ claims are strong. But what about a board of bishops? I mean, is there something in Orthodoxy that would not allow for a large diocese to have numerous bishops? I ask because i have read that there is evidence it may have been the case in Rome when Clement was (a) bishop there.

    This is, of course, not the same as saying that all elders are bishops.

    Finally, am I correct in understanding that Orthodoxy understands that bishops are still elders? That is certainly the case in Anglicanism and Catholicism.

  28. MG,

    We have indications about this from a number of sources. One of the earlier sources is the ordination prayer for a reader found in the Apostolic Constitutions.

    Concerning readers, … Ordain a reader by laying thy hands
    upon him, and pray unto God, and say: O Eternal God, …, do Thou also now look down upon Thy servant, who is to be entrusted to read Thy Holy Scriptures to Thy people, and give him Thy Holy Spirit, the prophetic Spirit. Thou who didst instruct Esdras Thy servant to read Thy laws to the people, ….

    Note the specific mention of “the prophetic Spirit” which indicates a link between the reading and prophecy.

    Then, in the Canon 33 of Council of Trullo we find that the Readers and Cantors speak “divine words”:

    Since we have learned … that some of them do not even tonsure their Psalts and Anagnosts when installing them in the divine Temple, we have seen fit … in decreeing that… they shall ordain them ecclesiastics,…. Nor… shall they permit anyone to speak from the pulpit to the laity the divine words, in accordance with the order of enrollment in the clergy, unless such person has something to show in the way of a priestly tonsure and receives the blessing canonically from the proper pastor.

    The requirement for the ordination of Readers and Cantors also implies a Spiritual grace to perform their function, which reinforces that the words read carry a prophetic character.

    This is further confirmed in the the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy of Dionysius the Areopagite:
    Now the regulation of the holy Hierarchy permits the catechumens, and the possessed, and the penitents, to hear the sacred chanting of the Psalms, and the inspired reading of the all-Holy Scriptures;

    We can see here that the chanting is considered “sacred” and the reading is “inspired”. This fits the present structure of reading in the Liturgy.

    In 1 Corinthians 14:29 we have two or three prophets being expected to speak, which matches well with tradition order of reading two or three OT and NT readings during the liturgy or vespers and a similar grouping of Psalms. Thus, the earlier spontaneous inspired prophets developed into the regularised inspired reading of sacred texts but the prophetic “tradition” continues.

  29. MG says:

    Fr. Deacon Patrick,

    What you’re saying about the locations and offices does seem plausible. The suggestion of a transitional phase is likely, especially if this is a first century document. It also fits with the pre-Ignatian terminology. As you stated, this transitional phase need not be thought of as a period before monarchical episcopacy was instituted, which is what most Protestants and liberal scholars would say.

    Your point about the link between Bishop, Priest, and prophet is interesting too, and I’d agree. I’d never thought about the role of Readers and Cantors as having that kind of role. Can you say more about that?

  30. It seems that that apostles were itinerant and expected to move on but the prophets were almost expected to stay. The term prophet corresponds to the prophets in the assembly at Corinth, which, I believe, the Fathers understood as being also ordained Presbyters and/or Bishops. There is also the Prophet Agabus, who is mentioned in Acts and who seems to be not expected to stay in one place.

    Perhaps, the Didache is reflecting the early period, where there were more itinerant Prophets and Apostles, because the Scriptures and other “needed texts” had not been widely spread and collected, thus needing inspired prophets to spread the word of God. Also early communities, such as mission communities today, may not have been able to immediately find their own Bishop and Presbyters, so prophets coming from elsewhere filled that role until the community could be properly established with its own clergy, as were major centres such as Jerusalem and Ephesus.

    I would agree that the testimony of the Didache is not contrary to hierarchy of a single Bishop but perhaps demonstrative of a transitional phase between the rapid spread of the Gospel and the ordination of the formal clerical structure in each community.

    It does show a close link between the Bishop’s, Priest’s and the prophetic ministry. This also applies to Readers and Cantors, who also participate in the prophetic aspect of the Church’s life, even though the inspired texts are read or sung, rather than coming through direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit; it doesn’t make it any less the proclamation of divine words.

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