Apostolic Succession (4): St. Clement of Rome


A significant challenge to the historical case for the Apostolic succession of the Trifold ministry is that St. Clement of Rome teaches (1 Clement 44) a succession of only two tiers of ministry. The only offices that are described as continuing after the Apostolic age are “bishops and deacons”. But when he speaks of “bishops”, Clement means local ministers of the second tier—what we now call elders—not monarchical rulers who can rule one or more congregations and have the exclusive power to ordain. It seems like St. Clement’s apostolic succession is a succession of presbyter-bishops much as Presbyterians understand ministry, not monarchical bishops as Episcopalians (whether Roman, Orthodox, or Anglo-Catholic) understand the ministry. To answer this objection, I will quote from Felix Cirlot’s Apostolic Succession: Is It True? Cirlot argues that there are three tiers of ministry referred to in 1 Clement 44, not just two, and that succession is traced through the highest tier of ministry.


In order to make his argument comprehensible, I will first clarify Cirlot’s terminology. For Cirlot, the word “bishop” has one of two meanings in the primary sources (New Testament and Fathers) depending on the specific source we are reading. In the primitive sources prior to St. Ignatius of Antioch (such as the New Testament, The Didache, and St. Clement), Cirlot thinks that “bishop” is equivalent to what we now mean by “elder”; this is a concession to the Presbyterian interpretation of primitive polity. In sources that adopt the terminology of St. Ignatius, bishop means the monarchical ruler of the highest tier of ministry who has the exclusive power to ordain. The word “presbyter” also has two meanings depending on the source we are reading. In the New Testament and perhaps other sources that don’t use Ignatian terminology, it means “minister”, and is used of Apostles, “bishops” (second tier ministers) and possibly deacons. In post-NT sources, the word “presbyter” means elder, or local minister of the second tier. For more explanation of this terminology, see my post Apostolic Succession (1): Presbyter=Bishop? The word “deutero-Apostle” means for Cirlot a person who has office in the first tier of ministry, was ordained by an Apostle and not specially commissioned by Christ to ministry, is not yet labeled a (monarchical) bishop according to the Ignatian terminology, and is not necessarily tied to a seat or ruling over a specific location (Cirlot would identify Timothy and Titus as belonging to this group). The word “deutero-Apostle” is not used by the Fathers or the New Testament, but is Cirlot’s convenient way of labeling this kind of officer which we would now recognize as a monarchical bishop.


With this terminology in mind, we can now understand Cirlot’s argument:

In 1 Clement 44 we have language which shows that, in St. Clement’s opinion, the Apostles ordained at first, and that after their deaths or departure certain other persons called “other eminent men” ordained in their stead. The crucial problem raised by these difficult and highly controverted words we must now study carefully. It will be convenient to give a translation of the passage, italicizing [and bolding] the words of which the interpretation is in dispute, and then state briefly the three main interpretations proposed by scholars. After that we can attempt to decide which is the most probable view. St. Clement says (XLIV.1-3):

“Our Apostles knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife for the title (onomatos) of the episcopate. Therefore, for this reason, since they had received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed the aforementioned (bishops, or possibly bishops and deacons, harking back to XLII.4-5) and afterwards a codicil they added (dedokasin) so that (hopos), if they should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to the ministry of them. Those (tous) therefore appointed by these (hup’ ekeinon) or afterwards by other eminent men, the whole Church assenting, and who have ministered blamelessly to the flock of Christ, humbly, peaceably, and disinterestedly, and for a long time have received favorable testimony from all, these men we think to have been unjustly ejected from their ministry.”

One interpretation holds that it was the appointed bishops (and deacons?) who are contemplated as possibly falling asleep, and to whose ministry consequently the “other approved men” should succeed. On this interpretation hup’ ekeinon can mean either the Apostles or the bishops, who are supposed by this interpretationto be those to whom the power of Ordination passed after the Apostles were no longer available, if indeed they had not held it from the first. If it means the Aposltes, the “other eminent men” will be the first set of presbyter-bishops who, having been themselves ordained by the Apostles, ordained their own successors. If hup ekeinon means the bishops, the “other eminent men” will mean the second set of ordaining presbyter-bishops, those ordained not by the Apostles but by the first set of ordaining bishops. On this interpretation we would have first Apostolic Ordination and after their deaths—if not before—presbyterian ordination. For there can be no reasonable doubt that the bishops here mentioned are members of the Order of the ministry which was second in rank while the Apostles were still alive. Lightfoot, Easton, and Lowther-Clarke seem to hold this interpretation.

[From Cirlot’s footnote #352, he states the interpretation as follows:

“Our Apostles knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife for the title of the episcopate (in the primitive sense). Therefore, for this reason, they had received perfect foreknowledge, the Apostles appointed the aforementioned Bishops (and deacons?) and afterwards the Apostles added a codicil to the effect that if these bishops (and deacons?) should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministry. The bishops appointed, therefore, by the Apostles, or other bishops appointed afterwards by the first bishops to membership in their self-perpetuating Sanhedrin, the whole Church assenting, and who have ministered blamelessly… these men we think to have been unjustly ejected from their ministry.”]

A second interpretation of this passage makes those who might fall asleep and the approved men who should succeed to their ministry to mean the same as on the first interpretation. But it diverges from the first interpretation by interpreting hup ekeinon exclusively of the Apostles, and then interpretst “other eminent men” of deutero-Apostles [or what we would call “early monarchical bishops before the name ‘monarchical bishop’ came about”] like St. Timothy and St. Titus. On this interpretation there is no contemplation or implication of ordaining by presbyter-bishops alone, even as colleges. This seems to be the interpretation favored by Gore, Turner, and many others.

[From footnote 352, Cirlot states this interpretation in the following way:

“Our Apostles knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife for the title of the episcopate in the primitive sense. Therefore, for this reason, since they had received perfect foreknowledge, the Apostles appointed the aforementioned bishops (and deacons?) and afterwards the Apostles added a codicil to the effect that if these bishops (and deacons?) should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.  The bishops appointed, therefore, by the Apostles, or other bishops appointed afterwards by deutero-Apostles like Timothy and Titus, the whole Church assenting, and who have ministered blamelessly… these men we think to have been unjustly ejected from their ministry.”]

The third interpretation agrees with the second as to the meaning of hup’ ekeinon and “other eminent men” but diverges from both the other interpretations by interpreting those who might fall asleep as the Apostles, and consequently seeing in “other approved men” who “should succeed to their ministry” successors to the Apostles rather than to the presbyter-bishops. On this interpretation the “other approved men” and “other eminent men” are the same men, only described in different words. On this interpretation, as on the second, there would be no Ordinations by presbyter-bishops[…]. But on this interpretation we would have clearly implied, and all but explicitly asserted, what has to be read between the lines on the second interpretation—a belief that the Apostles had deliberately provided to themselves successors who ordained later bishops and deacons just as the Apostles had ordained the first bishops and deacons. Salmon, Puller, and Dom Gregory Dix hold this interpretation.

[In footnote 352, Cirlot explains this interpretation:

“Our Apostles knew, throught our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife for the title of the episcopate in the primitive sense.  Therefore, for this reason, since they had received perfect foreknowledge, the Apostles kept strictly in their own hands the appointment of the earliest bishops (and deacons?) and afterwards the Apostles added a codicil to the effect that, if the Apostles should all or nearly all die before the Parousia, other well-proven men should succeed to the ministry held by the Apostles.  The bishops, therefore, appointed afterward by the successors of the Apostles like St. Timothy and St. Titus, the whole Church assenting, and who have ministered blamelessly… these men we think to have been unjustly ejected from their ministry.”]

It can hardly be denied that all three of these interpretations are possible. But this is far from saying they are all equally satisfactory, viewed from the standpoint of scientific history. The third interpretation seems to be decidedly more probable than either of the others for a variety of reasons, as follows:

1. We have three Greek verbs in the third person plural, and it seems certain that in the case of the first two—“appointed” and “added”—the Apostles themselves are the subject. But no Greek words come between the verb “they added” and the next verb “if they should fall asleep” except hopos, ean. Why, then, assume a change of subject? In order to get “the aforementioned” as a subject we have to go back not only into the preceding clause, but into the one before that. No doubt this would be perfectly permissible if the change in subject were necessary to make sense, or to fit into the historical context as we know it from other evidence. But where any such reason is lacking, it seems a highly arbitrary procedure. The other interpretation is grammatically much more probable.

2. The future “falling asleep” is implied to be (a) doubtful, and (b) an event on which the need of successors would depend. Both of these points suit the interpretation that takes the Apostles as the subject of “fall asleep” better than that which takes the first bishops as the subject. For the number of bishops in colleges in so many local Churches would be so great that there could be little doubt that some of these would be continually falling asleep. But with the Apostles, the death of some would not create a very serious crisis as long as others remained alive. It would be only if the majority of them fell asleep, or all or nearly all who were available in any particular section of the Church, that successors would be needed. And there seems to have been a confident expectation on the part of the apostles that at least some of them would survive until the Parousia. It was only “afterwards” (i.e. around the time when St. Peter and St. Paul saw their own survival as seriously doubtful) that they “added the codicil” which we are trying to decipher.

3. Why are the terms “bisho” and “presbter” not used instead of the cumbersome and [non]-technical phrases “other approved men” and “other eminent men,” if it be indeed the former group that are meant by the latter two phrases? No reasonable answer is available. But if these two circuitous phrases meant a higher and different Order, the deutero-apostles, then an answer is easy. It was because this higher Order had no one generally accepted name or title, and because St. Clement was apparently one of those who (as we saw above in Chapter XVIII on The Extension of the Apostolate) was inclined to use the term “Apostle” quite narrowly. This appears clearly in his chapter XLVIL.3-4, where we read, “With true inspiration he (St. Paul) charged you concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos, because even then you had made yourselves partisans. But that partisanship entailed less guilt on you; for you were partisans of Apostles of high reputation, and of a man approved by them.” It seems clear that here we have the term “Apostle” carefully and quite deliberately withheld by St. Clement from Apollos. Instead is applied to him one of the two vague and non-technical terms which we found in Chapter 44.

4. The use of the term “other” favors the same conclusion. It is customary to use that word to add extra men (or whatever may be in question) to some already mentioned. Now it is almost certain for reasons to be given in the next paragraph, that hup’ ekeinon refers to the Apostles. But if so, the word “other” before “eminent men” is quite out of place, if the “eminent men” are presbyter bishops. For presbyter-bishops are not mentioned elsewhere in this context in the same construction as the “other eminent men.” To say “…by the Apostles or afterward by other eminent men etc.” clearly implies that the Aposltes were the original body of eminent men to whom the others were later added as instituters or ordainers of some of the bishops at Corinth. The use of “other” before “approved men” is less decisive, because it is easier to interpret “those who might fal asleep” as referring to the bishops than it is so to interpret hup’ ekeinon. But it points in the same direction, though more weakly, once we have seen that on other grounds the interpretation we are accepting has the advantage anyway.

That hup’ ekeinon means the Apostles is supported, in addition to several grammatical and contextual arguments, by the fact that otherwise, in a context where it seems clear that St. Clement is taking care to distinguish and cover the cases of all the different bishops at Corinth, however appointed, he would have entirely left out the bishops ordained by the Apostles on any other interpretation. Yet it is hardly likely that all these were yet dead. It is very likely that he is, in verse 3, distinguishing bishops ordained by the Apostles from bishops ordained by others later. It is far less likely that he is distinguishing those ordained by bishops the Apostles had ordained from those ordained by later bishops whom the Apostles had not ordained.

5. The interpretation accepted here takes full account of men like St. Timothy and St. Titus and the whole Order of deutero-Apostles, instead of ignoring them, as does the first interpretation. And this makes our interpretation more likely to be correct.

6. But the most important reason of all, I think, is the argument from the context; or, to put it differently, from the general purport of what St. Clement is saying. He seems to ascribe to the Apostles supernatural knowledge of prospective trouble about “the office of bishop” (whether rightly or wrongly is irrelevant to our present purpose) and to set out to tell us what steps they took to obviate the anticipated strife. First of all, during their lifetime, while they still expected to live until the Parousia, they kept the right to ordain in their own hands. Afterward, in prospect of their own deaths or forced departure to remote regions, they arranged for successors to themselves, who should continue to reserve to themselves the power to ordain which the Apostles had so rserved, and with the same desired results. Therefore (the word emphasizes the strict logical connection between what has been said and what is to follow) it is totally illicit to eject from office (and presumably replace with others) those ordained by the Apostles or by their successors, who had by explicit and well-known arrangement of the Apostles (the codicil referred to by St. Clement) the same exclusive power which the Apostles had had as long as they lived; namely the power to ordain. This interpretation adheres more closely to the text than either of the others, and requires less to be read between the lines. Above all it solves (may I say by refusing to create it arbitrarily) an exceedingly difficult problem which, as we shall see below, the first interpretation gratuitously creates. I mean, of course, the problem (canvassed in Division II of this chapter) created by a hypothesis that colleges of presbyters at one time had the power to ordain. By gratuitously I do not mean to deny that there is some sort of a case to be made out for the alleged fact which, if it be a fact, creates the problem. But I do mean that the case is far too weak to be deemed equally probable with the reconstruction we propose, even apart from the fact that the former raises a serious historical problem which our reconstruction does not raise.

The two other interpretations both labor under the weakness of making the context of 1 Clement 44 fail to provide the solution to the very problem to which the opening sentences of Chapter 44 lead us to expect some sort of a solution. We have, on either of these interpretations, much ado about nothing. The mountain labors and brings forth a mouse. They tell us of foreseen trouble, and begin to tell us of steps taken to obviate it; but they never finish. Instead, we have to read the solution between the lines. Both interpretations make St. Clement say that all the Apostles did was to decree that the bishops, “if” they died, must have successors. But that was already known to all, and was what created the occasion for the expected trouble. It is not a way to prevent such trouble! Only the interpretation here adopted makes Clement mention what was the step taken to forestall the inevitable strife. On the others he passes it over in silence, and goes on to draw a very controversial conclusion without making clear the premises on which it depends. Moreover, on these two interpretations, nothing he has actually said justifies the second part of the inference he introduces by his “therefore”.

We come, then, to the conclusion that the third interpretation given above, just after we quoted the passage, is far and away the most probable, despite the fact that it has not been held by many scholars in the past. If this conclusion is correct, it will follow that 1 Clement provides no evidence whatsoever for Presbyterian ordinations, but rather expresses or clearly implies that the power to ordain was reserved for the Apostles and later their direct successors, the deutero-Apostles. This agrees with the conclusions we reached from our study of the evidence of the pastorals above.

It also agrees with the most probable inference from the evidence of St. Ignatius. In his Epistles we find him speaking of the Church of Antioch as (to use Gore’s very expressive phrase) a widowed Church, bereft of its Bishop, and not apparently able to elect and ordain one for itself. It shall have God for its Shepherd and Jesus Christ alone for its Bishop—and the love of the Roman Church, to which he is writing. No doubt that is why he is willing and even anxious for a few Bishops from the nearest Churches to be included—in the delegations he asks to have sent to comfort and help his widowed Church. It sounds much more as if the appointment of his successor would be difficult to arrange than easy. And this is much more comprehensible if only monarchical Bishops or any surviving itinerant deutero-Apostles could ordain such a successor than if it was clearly understood by all that a successor could be ordained by his own presbyters, or promoted to the office without any further Ordination beyond that which had already made him a presbyter.

Finally, Tertullian explicitly adds “apostolic men” to “Apostles” as those to whom a succession of Bishops in his day might be traced back in order to assure its legitimacy.

Thus we come to the conclusion that both the contemporary evidence and the settled belief of the Church as soon as the period of silence is over concur in favoring the view that Ordination was at first by Apostles and later on by their successors, and that their successors—in the full sense needed to be able to ordain—were not understood to be the colleges of presbyter-bishops, but either itinerant deutero-Apostles or else localized deutero-Apostles, i.e. monarchical Bishops.


Cirlot’s argument implies that St. Clement of Rome is not a counterexample to the primitive existence of the monarchical episcopate.  Instead, it is more plausible that St. Clement’s epistle teaches the same view of the ministry as St. Ignatius of Antioch, not something like presbyterian ecclesiology.


  1. In 1 Clement 40 there is reference to the three tiers of ministry:

    “For His own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.”.

  2. Fr. Patrick,

    I think you are correct about Cirlot on the historical-grammatical method. Protestants tend to be raised as slaves to HGM, and Cirlot presents a plausible, even elegant, reading of the New Testament that makes sense of apostolic succession for those who are trained to be skeptical of “corrupt tradition.” In this case, the tradition, despite all objections, proves reasonable and plausible. Now to go about convincing people that where tradition is reasonable and plausible, it should be favored over apparently reasonable and plausible novelty…

  3. MG,

    I think that the terms Bishop and Presbyter were (and in a sense still are) interchangeable. The term Bishop primarily means as it does today and it can include Presbyters. Bishops are also rightly named Presbyters and even the term deacon was and is used by Bishops and Presbyters without confusing them with the order of deacons, as Chrysostom points out elsewhere. Bishop though, I believe, was from the start principally for the “highest” tier, also for Apostles, see Acts 1:15-26, and, I believe, gradually used exclusively for that tier rather than for both tiers, although the theological reason for it initially extending to and including Presbyters has not changed.

    I believe that the Apostles’ mission was to found local churches across the world with a Bishop at its head, supported by Presbyters and Deacons, who include the minor orders also. This creates the model for the worship of the new Israel that takes the temple worship in one place with one high-Priest, Priests, and Levites, to be replicated in any and every place, without distorting the structure by using a city as the primary unit. This reflects that gospel that worship is no longer to be given in Jerusalem only but maintains the principle of one nation, one worship, one head and also, as mentioned earlier, combines the eldership, priesthood, judges, and prophets of the OT into one, because they are all now in Christ, who is King, High-Priest, Judge and Prophet. The Apostles did not ordain Bishops because they realised that they would die before the return of Christ but because that is what they needed to do for the Church to exist in each place. The Church needed Apostles and itinerant Prophets, until there were sufficient local churches established for the present system of Bishops ordaining other Bishops could maintain itself, which was the intended structure from the beginning. One of the main aspects of the Apostolic ministry, and perhaps including Timothy and Titus, was the ability to ordain Bishops alone without a regional gathering of at least two or three Bishops. Nevertheless, this latter gathering is not excluded in the case of Timothy and Titus, who are not expressly given more authority to ordain Bishops than a regional Metropolitan had in Roman times or any Patriarch/Metropolitan in Russia, in modern practice.

    One major reason that I know that Clement is speaking of Bishops, as distinct from Presbyters, at the start of Chapter 44 is that the ordination by other eminent men is connected to the phrase “with the consent of the whole Church.” Church here can be taken in multiple ways without any one being a problem to the position that I am suggesting unless one was to exclude other meanings. So, primarily I take the word to mean the Catholic Church across the entire world. This is consistent with a Bishop’s ordination today, which is primarily a consent of all other Bishops recognising him as a Bishop of the Church. This is the consent of the whole Church, it is represented by the unanimous consent of the Metropolis, as understood before the fall of New Rome, and at a minimum of three Bishops gathering in consent or in the West even before the Schism by the pallium of the Pope to St Augustine of Canterbury demonstrating the implied consent of Rome, and so all churches, to the ordinations of Bishops by St Augustine in England, even if he ordained alone. The consent of the whole Church also includes that of the local Church, especially the Presbyters but also all the laity as is still the theological norm for ordaining Bishops today. This consent also extends to Presbyters but a Bishop does not require the consent of other Bishops to ordain a Presbyter, excepting excommunication etc. The Bishop in this manner maintains the single ordination power of an Apostle but only within his own diocese and not singularly of other Bishops, excepting in need with the consent of all other Bishops or at least symbolised by the consent of Pope or Patriarch mentioned earlier. Following this latter connection of Bishop to Apostle in ordination, I would not be surprised that the Apostles did not ordain Presbyters but only Bishops, who in turn ordained the Presbyters, hence supporting Chrysostom, in that Timothy and Titus were to ordain Bishops as distinct from Presbyters. This would support Clement’s flow of argument referring to the Episcopate as from the Apostles, and later other Bishops, then through the Episcopate we arrive at the Presbyters, who share the Apostolic ordination via the Bishops. If the Bishop is approved then so are his Presbyters. (I take the “these should fall asleep to mean the Bishops because it is necessary to replace a Bishop, but not so a Presbyter, when he falls asleep, as I mentioned earlier or elsewhere. The Apostolic ministry was complete when sufficient local Bishops were established to maintain the local churches and did not need to be, and should not have been, continued in the unique form the the itinerant Apostles, apart from the continuation of the ministry by local, static, monarchal Bishops.)

    I think it is a mistake to speak too much of a different chrism and office for Bishop and Presbyter. It is both different and yet the same, without it being easy to draw neat lines between the two except on the grounds of ordination, blessing myrrh and consecrating churches, all of which put to the single source and head of the Church, Christ. In a similar, yet distinct, manner Bishop and Patriarch are the same and different without confusion. (Sorry to talk in this way but it is unavoidable as in all other areas of orthodox Theology.)

    I think that Cirlot is making an assumption, with which I disagree, that there are multiple Bishops in Corinth or that the Episcopate was not a distinct order from the Presbyter already found in the city and assumed in Clement’s letter. We need not worry about only two orders being mentioned because in the OT we find only two orders Priests and Levites mentioned at times without excluding the unique role of the high-Priest, which was established from Moses.

    Since, Chrysostom is recognised as an Ecumenical teacher, we can assume that what he says is consistent and representative of the universal teaching of the Church. Perhaps he may be mistaken in rare matters but then we would need the consistent testimony of other recognised Fathers to prefer another interpretation to Chrysostom, even then it may not necessarily exclude Chrysostom’s opinion and neither does Chrysostom’s opinion necessarily exclude other interpretations except where they directly contradict him.

    I think that a Cirlot style argument can be useful based on historical-grammatical assumptions and can be useful to show that a Protestant framework is inconsistent with the text’s and evidence or at least to show that the Protestant interpretation is not the only valid interpretation of the text and information and thus show that Protestantism cannot prove itself from these texts. However, I find Cirlot giving too much ground on the theological base from the structure of the Church to the extent that in doing so he almost loses the best and natural framework from which to deal with the texts. I don’t see any difficulty in the text within a tradition orthodox framework of Bishop, Presbyters and Deacons unless one doesn’t use that framework or starts to give ground on aspects of it. This is why I find Chrysostom so helpful. He makes this assumption and deals with the texts in a consistent and natural manner carefully addressing difficulties while maintaining a clear and consistent ecclesiology.

    I don’t think that Clement, in close reading, labels the hierarchy in a fundamentally different manner from Ignatius. He would accept the labels of Ignatius without any difficulty and without need to rewrite his letter to accommodate them. I think we would be the theologically and ecclesiologically poorer for such a rewrite. Nor would I expect that Ignatius would have a problem with the terminology of Clement. The two Bishops were essentially at the same time and in communication, so any idea of development of terminology from Clement to Ignatius does not fit the evidence, and, I would argue, that it means that the different terminology, if it can even be properly defined as such, is applied to the same structure.

  4. Fr Patrick–

    Are you of the mind that the word “bishop” has always meant to designate ministers of the highest tier? Though I think that the monarchical episcopate has been around since Apostolic times and was initially ordained by the Apostles, I don’t think it has always been labeled the way Ignatius labeled it. Though Chrysostom’s interpretation does seem like a possible one (that the titles were interchangeable even though there was a distinction in the offices) I think that Cirlot’s explanation is more persuasive for people that disagree with the traditional position that the Episcopate (1st tier) is a different chrism and office than the presbyterate (2nd tier). Both interpretations end up at the same conclusion (the Episcopate is different from the presbyterate, and both were ordained by the Apostles) but they use different terminology. So even if one were to accept Chrysostom’s interpretation as the authoritative teaching of the Church (I’m not sure if I would say that it is, but perhaps his voice represents the consensus on this matter) it seems to me like someone could still give Cirlot-style arguments about the existence of the ministry based on historical-grammatical assumptions from within a Protestant framework. What do you think?

  5. MG,

    Chrysostom, with whom I agree, was of the opinion that the pastorals are primarily referring to Bishops. Titus would not have been Bishop of a number of cities because this would run counter to the situation soon after of one Bishop per city. Rather it is better to see him for a Metropolitans role of ordaining Bishops for each city in his region while himself being a Bishop of one city.

    Here are a couple of quotes from him, the first from Titus and the second from 1 Timothy:

    “And ordain elders in every city,” here he is speaking of Bishops, as we have before said, “as I had appointed thee. If any is blameless.” “In every
    city,” he says, for he did not wish the whole island to be intrusted to one, but that each should have his own charge and care, for thus he would have less labour himself, and those under his rule would receive greater attention, if the Teacher had not to go about to the presidency of many Churches, but was left to be occupied with one only and to bring that into order.

    DISCOURSING of Bishops, and having described their character, and the qualities which they ought to possess, and having passed over the order of Presbyters, he proceeds to that of Deacons. The reason of this omission was, that between Presbyters and Bishops there was no great difference. Both had undertaken the office of Teachers and Presidents in the Church, and what he has said concerning Bishops is applicable to Presbyters. For they are only superior in having the power of ordination, and seem to have no other advantage over Presbyters.

    This second quote leads into the answer regarding Clement. I believe the situation in Corinth was about the Presbyters rather than the Bishop, but may have included the Bishop. Because of the unity of the orders and the ordination from the Bishop, I believe that Clement takes a step back from the local situation and explains the broader ministry of the episcopate and its source from the Apostles, other eminent men and its OT background. Because of the unity of Presbyters and Bishops and the ordination being sourced from the Bishop, this approach makes sense. So, Clement is saying that when the Corinthians were opposing their Presbyters they were effectively opposing the entire episcopate, the Apostles, other eminent men and ultimately God. Clement’s arguments make sense because of the assumed unity and yet distinction of Bishops and Presbyters as expressed by Chrysostom. He finished his argument by referring back to the Presbyters.

  6. Monk Patrick–

    I agree with your first paragraph. That’s definitely possible. Because I think the “bishops” spoken of in the pastorals are probably what we now mean by “presbyters” (ie. second tier ministers) I don’t think it is necessary to postulate that Timothy and Titus are anything more than normal monarchical bishops.

    On your view, how is St. Clement resolving the issue of strife over the office of bishop? (which, if I’m correct, you think means monarchical bishop in Clement’s letter)

  7. MG,

    I believe monarchal Bishops were established by the Apostles immediately from the start of their mission. This is seen with St James in Jerusalem. Also, I wonder whether it is not better to see St Timothy and St Titus as being to Metropolitan roles in a region and thus responsible for the ordination of other Bishops just as a Metropolitan, as in Russia, is so responsible today. This explains their movement with creating another level of ministry.

    Regarding eminent men, I think that Cirlot may be reading more into it than necessary. I propose that Clement was using this terminology to rebuke those putting the Presbyters out of office in Corinth because if one is ordained by eminent men then it is most inappropriate to cast them out of office contrary to the choice of such eminent men, who could well be other Bishops of the same region. It is not so much the type of office but the quality of character to which St Clement is refering.

  8. Doug,

    The OT Prophets finished with St John the Baptist. Through him the Prophetic ministry is “returned” to its source, Christ. The NT prophetic ministry is a participation in Christ’s ministry and is now primarily a function of the priesthood and eldership in its public manifestation, even though the spirit of prophecy is potentially exercised by all Christians in a “private” sphere just as all Christians are members of the royal priesthood offering their own bodies as living sacrifices. This can explain why the prophet in the Didache is all “high-Priest” and even Bishop.

  9. MG,

    I am not sure how the Fathers would speak on this point either, so I am only offering the thought as something to be possibly examined further. The reason for mentioning it, it is counter any argument that Priest and Presbyter are somehow different. It also ties in prophets. I am initially taking elder from the elders of the OT in Israel. There is undoubtedly a kingly/royal aspect to it but this does not mean a secular lordship or denying the place for a ‘secular’ emperor/king.

    This also ties in with the Church as the new Israel, although a spiritual rather than secular nation.

  10. Fr. Patrick–

    I think I agree with that, but am not totally sure what the Fathers would say precisely. Are you identifying “elder” as a kind of kingly or royal ministry? That seems plausible to me, but I’m just wondering.

  11. MG,

    Just a thought, but I wonder whether the terminology of the NT in the use of Bishop, and particularly Presbyter, reflects a new understanding of the leadership in the NT as compared to the OT. So, because Christ combines, three “ministries” from the OT that is King, Priest and Prophet then the NT leadership also reflects these three ministries and the names represent this. So, they are normally called elders in line with the community leadership from the elders of the OT, they are also called Priests, in keeping with their function of offering the Eucharist, and also properly Prophets in preaching the word of God. The Prophet of the Didache was also high-Priest and Elder. The Bishops and Presbyters were also Prophets and Priests. All, this represents the Church as the royal priesthood in which dwells the Holy Spirit.

Comments are closed.