|« Prev||Excursus I. Ecclesiastical Organization and the…||Next »|
ECCLESIASTICAL ORGANIZATION AND THE EPISCOPATE (IN THE PROVINCES, THE CITIES, AND THE VILLAGES), FROM PIUS TO CONSTANTINE.
“In 1 Tim. iii. (where only bishops and deacons are mentioned) the apostle Paul has not forgotten the presbyters, for at first the same officials bore the name of ‘presbyter' as well as that of ‘bishop.' . . . . Those who had the power of ordination and are now called ‘bishops' were not appointed to a single church but to a whole province, and bore the name of ‘apostles.' Thus St Paul set Timothy over all Asia, and Titus over Crete. And plainly he also appointed other individuals to other provinces in the same way, each of whom was to take charge of a whole province, making circuits through all the churches, ordaining clergy for ecclesiastical work wherever it was necessary, solving any difficult questions which had arisen among them, setting them right by means of addresses on doctrine, treating sore sins in a salutary fashion, and in general discharging all the duties of a superintendent—all the towns, meanwhile, possessing the presbyters of whom I have spoken, men who ruled their respective churches. Thus in that early age there existed those who are now called bishops, but who were then called apostles, discharging functions for a whole province which those who are nowadays ordained to the episcopate discharge for a single city and a single district. Such was the organization of the church in those days. But when the faith became widely spread, filling not merely towns, but also country districts with believers,776776μέγισται δὲ οὐ πόλεις μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ χῶιραι τῶν πεπιστευκότων ἦσαν; Lat. Version = repletae autem sunt non modo civitates credentium, sed regiones. Read, μεσταί therefore instead of μέγισται. 446then, as the blessed apostles were now dead, came those who took charge of the whole [province]. They were not equal to their predecessors, however, nor could they certify themselves, as did the earlier leaders, by means of miracles, while in many other respects they showed their inferiority. Deeming it therefore a burden to assume the title of ‘apostles,' they distributed the other titles [which had hitherto been synonymous], leaving that of ‘presbyters' to the presbyters, and assigning that of ‘bishops' to those who possessed the right of ordination, and who were consequently entrusted with leadership over all the church. These formed the majority, owing, in the first instance, to the necessity of the case, but subsequently also, on account of the generous spirit shown by those who arranged the ordinations.777777διὰ μὲν τὴν χρείαν τὸ πρῶτον, ὕστερον δὲ καὶ ὑπὸ φιλοτιμίας τῶς ποιούντων; Ambition, it might be conjectured, would be mentioned as the motive at work, but in that case τῶν ποιούντων would require to be away. Φιλοτιμία therefore must mean “liberal spirit,” and this is the interpretation given in the Latin version: “Postea vero et illis adiecti sunt alii liberalitate eorum qui ordinationes faciebant.” Dr Bischoff, however, proposes παροικούντων for ποιούντων. For at the outset there were but two, or at most three, bishops usually in a province—a state of matters which prevailed in most of the Western provinces until quite recently, and which may still be found in several, even at the present day. As time went on, however, bishops were ordained not merely in towns, but also in small districts, where there was really no need of anyone being yet invested with the episcopal office.”
So Theodore of Mopsuestia in his commentary upon First Timothy.778778See Swete's Theodori episcopi Mopsuesteni in epp. b. Pauli commentarii, vol. ii. (1882), pp. 121 f. The assertion that “bishop” and “presbyter” were identical in primitive ages occurs frequently about the year 400, but Theodore's statements in general are, to the best of my knowledge, unique; they represent an attempt to depict the primitive organization of the church, and to explain the most important revolution which had taken place in the history of the church's constitution. Theodore's idea is, in brief, as follows. From the outset, he remarks—i.e. in the apostolic age, or by original apostolic institution—there was a monarchical office in the churches, to which pertained the right of ordination. This 447office was one belonging to the provincial churches (each province possessing a single superintendent), and its title was that of “apostle.” Individual communities, again, were governed by bishops (presbyters) and deacons. Once the apostles779779This is the first point of obscurity in Theodore's narrative. “The blessed apostles” are not all the men whom he has first mentioned as “apostles,” but either the apostles in the narrowest sense of the term, or else these taken together with men like Timothy and Titus. (i.e. the original apostles) had died, however, a revolution took place. The motives assigned for this by Theodore are twofold: in the first place, the spread of the Christian religion, and in the second place, the weakness felt by the second generation of the apostles themselves. The latter therefore resolved (i.) to abjure and thus abolish780780This has, to be supplied by the reader (which is the second obscure point); the text has merely βαρὺ νομίσαντες τὴν τῶν ἀποστόλων ἔχειν προσηγορίαν. Theodore says nothing about what became of them after they gave up their name and rights. the name of “apostle,” and (ii.) to distribute the monarchical power, i.e., the right of ordination, among several persons throughout a province. Hence the circumstance of two or three bishops existing in the same province—the term “bishop” being now employed in the sense of monarchical authority. That state of matters was the rule until quite recently in most of the Western provinces, and it still survives in several of them. In the East, however, it has not lasted. Partly owing to the requirements of the case (i.e., the increase of Christianity throughout the provinces), partly owing to the “liberality” of the apostles,781781This is the third point of obscurity in Theodore's statement. By φιλοτιμία τῶν ποιούντων it seems necessary to understand the generosity of the retiring “apostles,” and yet the process went on—according to Theodore himself—even after these apostles had long left the scene. the number of the bishops has multiplied, so that not only towns, but even villages, have come to possess bishops, although there was no real need for such appointments.
We must in the first instance credit Theodore with being sensible of the fact that the organization of the primitive churches was originally on the broadest scale, and only came down by degrees (to the local communities). Such was indeed the case. The whole was prior to the part. That is, the 448organization effected by the apostles was in the first place universal; its scope was the provinces of the church. It is Judæa, Samaria, Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, etc., that are present to the minds of the apostles, and figure in their writings. Just as, in the missions of the present day, outside sects capture “Brandenburg,” “Saxony,” and “Bavaria” by getting a firm foothold in Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and one or two important cities; just as they forthwith embrace the whole province in their thoughts and in some of the measures which they adopt, so was it then. Secondly, Theodore's observation upon the extension of the term “apostle” is in itself quite accurate. But it is just at this point, of course, that our doubts begin. It is inherently improbable that the apostles, i.e., the twelve together with Paul, appointed the other “apostles” (in the wider sense of the word) collectively; besides, it is contradicted by positive evidence to the contrary,782782Compare the remarks of Paul and the Didachê upon apostles, prophets, and teachers. The apostles are appointed by God or “the Spirit.” and Theodore's statement of it may be very simply explained as due to the preconceived opinion that everything must ultimately run back to the apostles' institution. Further, the idea of each province having an apostle-bishop set over it is a conjecture which is based on no real evidence, and is contradicted by all that we know of the universal ecclesiastical nature of the apostolic office. Finally, we cannot check the statement which would bind up the right of ordination exclusively with the office of the apostle-bishop. In all these respects Theodore seems to have introduced into his sketch of the primitive churches' organization features which were simply current in his own day, as well as hazardous hypotheses. Moreover, we can still show how slender are the grounds on which his conjectures rest. Unless I am mistaken, he has nothing at his disposal in the shape of materials beyond the traditional idea, drawn from the pastoral epistles, of the position occupied by Timothy and Titus in the church, as well as the ecclesiastical notices and legends of the work of John in Asia.783783It is even probable that he has particularly in mind, along with Tit. i. 5 f. and 1 Tim. iii. 1 f., the well-known passage in Clem. Alex., Quis Dives Salvetur, (cp. Eus., H.E., III. xxiii.), since his delineation of the tasks pertaining to the apostle-bishop coincides substantially with what is narrated of the work of John in that passage (§ 6: ὅπου μὲν ἐπισκόπους καταστήσων, ὅπου δὲ ὅλας ἐκκλησίας ἀρμόσων, ὅπου δὲ κλήρῳ ἕνα γέ τινα κληρώσων τῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος σημαινομένων = “Appointing bishops in some quarters, arranging the affairs of whole churches other quarters, and elsewhere selecting for the ministry some one of those indicated by the Spirit”; cp. also the description of how John dealt with a difficult case). All this he has generalized, evolving therefrom the 449conception of a general appointment of “apostles” who are equivalent to “provincial bishops.”784784Clem. Rom. xl. f. cannot have been present to his mind, for his remarkable and ingenious idea of the identity of “apostles” and “provincial bishops” would have been shattered by a passage in which it is quite explicitly asserted that the apostles κατὰ χώρας καὶ πόλεις κηρύσσοντες καὶ τοὺς ὑπακούοντας τῇ βουλήσει τοῦ θεοῦ βαπτίζοντες καθίστανον τὰς ἀπαρχὰς αὐτῶν, δοκιμάσαντες τῷ πνεύματι, εἰς ἐπισκόπους καὶ διακόνους τῶν μελλόντων πιστεύεινν (see above, p. 434), while xlii. describes a succession, not of apostles one after another, but of bishops. “Apostles” are equivalent “provincial bishops”; such is Theodore's conception, and the conception is a fantasy. Whether it contains any kernel of historical truth, we shall see later on. Meantime we must, in the first instance, follow up Theodore's statements a little further.
He is right in recognizing that any survey of the origin of the church's organization must be based upon the apostles and their missionary labours. We may add, the organization which arose during the mission and in consequence of the mission, would attempt to maintain itself even after local authorities and institutions had been called into being which asserted rights of their own. But the distinctive trait in Theodore's conception consists in the fact that he knows absolutely nothing of any originally constituted rights appertaining to local authorities. He has no eyes for all that the New Testament and the primitive Christian writings, as a whole, contain upon this point; for even here, on his view, everything must have flowed from some apostolic injunction or concession—i.e., from above to below. He adduces, no doubt, the “weakness” of the “apostles” in the second generation—which is quite a remarkable statement, based on the cessation of miraculous gifts.785785It seems inevitable that we should take Theodore as holding that the cessation of the miraculous power hitherto wielded by the apostles was a divine indication that they were now to efface themselves.—It was a widely spread conviction (see Origen in several passages, which Theodore read with care) that the apostolic power of working miracles ceased at some particular moment in their history. The power of working miracles and the apostles' power of working miracles are not, however, identical. But it was in virtue of their own resolve that the, apostles withdrew from the scene, distributing their 450power to other people; for only there could the local church's authority originate! Such is his theory; it is extremely ingenious, and dominated throughout by a magical conception of the apostolate. The local church-authority (or the monarchical and supreme episcopate) within the individual community owed its origin to the “apostolic” provincial authority, by means of a conveyance of power. During the lifetime of the apostles it was quite in a dependent position. Even after their departure, the supreme episcopal authority did not emerge at once within each complete community. On the contrary, says Theodore, it was only two or three towns in every province which at the outset possessed a bishop of their own (i.e., in the new sense of the term “bishop”). Not until a later date, and even then only by degrees, were other towns and even villages added to these original towns, while in the majority of provinces throughout the West the old state of matters prevailed, says Theodore, till quite recently. In some provinces it prevails at present.786786Theodore seems to regard this original state of matters as the ideal. At any rate, he expresses his dislike for the village-episcopacy.
This theory about the origin of the local monarchical episcopate baffles all discussions.787787All the more so that Theodore goes into the question of how the individual community was ruled at first (whether by some local council or by a single presbyter-bishop). He says nothing, either, of the way in which the monarchical principle was reached in the individual community. We seem shut up to the conjecture that in his view the individual communities were ruled by councils for several generations. We may say without any hesitation that Theodore had no authentic foundation for it whatever. Even when he might seem to be setting up at least the semblance of historic trustworthiness for his identification of “apostles” with “provincial bishops,” by his reference to Timothy, Titus, and John, the testimony breaks down entirely. We are forced to ask, Who were these retiring apostles? What sources have we for our knowledge of their resignation? How do we learn of this conveyance of authority which they are declared to have executed? These questions, we may say quite plainly, 451Theodore ought to have felt in duty bound to answer; for in what sources can we read anything of the matter? It was not without reason that Theodore veiled even the exact time at which this great renunciation took effect. We can only suppose that it was conceived to have occurred about the year: 100 A.D.788788Theodore adduces but one “proof” for his assertion that originally there were only two or three bishoprics in every province. He refers to the situation in the West as this had existed up till recently, and as it still existed in some quarters. But the question is whether he has correctly understood the circumstances of the case, and whether these circumstances can really be linked on to what is alleged to have taken place about the year 100.
At the same time there is no reason to cast aside the statements of Theodore in toto. They start a whole set of questions to which historians have not paid sufficient attention, questions relating to the position of bishops in the local church, territorial or provincial bishops (if such there were), and metropolitans. To state the problem more exactly: Were there territorial (or provincial) bishops in the primitive Period? And was the territorial bishop perhaps older than the bishop of the local, church? Furthermore, did the two disparate systems of organization denoted by these offices happen to rise simultaneously, coming to terms with each other only at a later period? Finally, was the metropolitan office, which is not visible till the second half of the second century, originally an older creation? Can it have been merely the sequel of an earlier monarchical office which prevailed in the ecclesiastical provinces? These questions are of vital moment to the history of the extension of Christianity, and in fact to the statistics of primitive Christianity; for, supposing that it was the custom in many provinces to be content with one or two or three bishoprics for several generations, it would be impossible to conclude from the small number of bishoprics in certain provinces that Christianity was only scantily represented in these districts. The investigation of this question is all the more pressing, as Duchesne has recently (Fastes épiscopaux de l'ancienne Gaule, i., 1894, pp. 86 f.) gone into it, referring—although with caution—to the statements of Theodore, and deducing far-reaching conclusions with regard to the organization of the churches in Gaul. We shall require, in the first instance, 452to make ourselves familiar with his propositions789789Duchesne, be it observed, only draws these conclusions for Gaul, nor has he yet said his last word upon the other provinces. I have reason to believe that his verdict and my own are not very different; hence in what follows I am attacking, not himself, but conclusions which may be drawn from his statements. (pp. 1-59). I give the main conclusion in his own words.
P. 32: “Dans les pays situés à, quelque distance de la Mediterranée et de la basse vallée du Rhône, il ne s'est fondé aucune église (Lyon exceptée) avant le milieu du IIIe siècle environ.”
Pp. 38 f.: “Il en résulte que, dans l'ancienne Gaule celtique, avec ses grandes subdivisions en Belgique, Lyonnaise, Aquitaine et Germanie, une seule église existait au IIe siècle, celle de Lyon . . . . ce que nos documents nous apprennent, c'est que l'église de Lyon était, en dehors de la Narbonnaise, non la première, mais la seule. Tous les chrétiens épars depuis le Rhin jusqu' aux Pyrénées790790The mention of the Pyrenees shows that Duchesne includes Aquitania and the extreme S.W. of France in the province of which Lyons is said to have formed the only bishopric. ne formaient qu'une seule communauté; ils reconnaissaient un chef unique, l'évêque de Lyon.”
P. 59: “Avant la fin du IIIe siècle—sauf toujours la région du bas Rhône et de la Méditerranée—peu d'évêches en Gaule et cela seulement dans les villes les plus importantes, A l'origine, au premier siécle chrétien pour notre pays (150-250), une seule église, celle de Lyon, réunissant dans un même cercle d'action et de direction tous les groupes chrétiens épars dans les diverses provinces de la Celtique.”
Duchesne reaches this conclusion by means of the following observations:—
1. No reliable evidence for a single Gallic bishopric, apart from that of Lyons, goes back beyond the middle of the third century.791791Arles alone was certainly in existence before 250 A.D., as the correspondence of Cyprian proves. But Arles lay in the provincia Narbonensis, which is excluded from our present purview. Nor do the episcopal lists, so far as they are relevant in this connection, take us any farther back. Verus of Vienne, e.g., who was present at the council of Arles in 314 A.D., is counted as the fourth bishop in these lists; which implies that the bishopric of Vienne could hardly have been founded before ± 250 A.D.453
2. The heading of the well-known epistle from Vienne and Lyons (Eus., H.E., v. 1) runs thus: οἱ ἐν Βιέννῃ καὶ Λουγδούνῳ τῆς Γαλλίας παροικοῦντες δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ (“the servants of Christ sojourning at Vienne and Lyons”). This heading resembles others, such as Κόρινθον, Φιλίππους, Σμύρναν, etc. (“the church of God sojourning at Rome, Corinth, Philippi, Smyrna'” etc.), and consequently represents both churches as a unity—at least upon that reading of the words which first suggests itself.792792Certainly this argument is advanced with some caution (p. 40): “Cette formule semble plutôt désigner un groupe ecclésiastique que deux groupes ayant chacun son organization distincte: en tout cas, elle n'offre rien de contraire à l'indistinction des deux églises.”
3. In this epistle “Sanctus, deacon from Vienne, is mentioned—a phrase which would hardly be intelligible if it alluded to one of the deacons of the bishop of Vienne, but which is perfectly natural if Sanctus was the deacon who managed the inchoate church of Vienne, as a delegate of the Lyons bishop. In that event Vienne had no bishop of its own.
4. Irenæus in his great work speaks of churches in Germany and also among the Iberians, the Celts, and the Libyans. Now it is a well-established fact that there were no organized churches, when he wrote, in Germany (i.e., in the military province, for free Germany is out of the question). When Irenæus speaks of churches, he must therefore mean churches which were not episcopal churches.793793It is in this way, I believe, that Duchesne's line of argument must be taken (pp. 40 f.). But its trend is not quite clear to my mind.
5. Theodore testifies that till quite recently there had been only two or three bishops in the majority of the Western provinces, and that this state of matters still lasted in one or two of them. Now, as a large number of bishoprics can be shown to have existed in southern and middle Italy, as well as in Africa, we are thrown back upon the other countries of the West. Strictly speaking, it is true, Theodore's evidence only covers his own period; but it fits in admirably with our first four arguments, and it is in itself quite natural, that bishoprics were less numerous in the earlier than in the later period.454
6. Eusebius mentions a letter from “the parishes in Gaul over which Irenæus presided” (τῶν κατὰ Γαλλίαν παροικιῶν ἃς Εἰρηναῖος ἐπεσκόπει, H.E., v. 23). Now although, παροικία usually means the diocese of a bishop, in which sense Eusebius actually employs it in this very chapter, we must nevertheless attach another meaning to it here. “Le verbe ἐπισκοπεῖν ne saurait s'entendre d'une simple présidence comme serait celle d'un métropolitain à la tête de son concile. Cette dernière situation est visée dans le même passage d'Eusèbe; en parlant de l'évêque Théophile, qui présida celui du Pont, il se sert de l'expression προὐτέτακτο.” In the present instance, then, παροικίαι denote “groupes détaches, dispersés, d'une même grande église”—“plusieurs groupes de chrétiens, épars sur divers points du territoire, un seul centre ecclésiastique, un seul évêque, celui de Lyon.”
7. Analogous phenomena (i.e., the existence of only one bishop at first and for some time to come) occur also in other large provinces, but the proof of this would lead us too far afield.794794P. 42: “D'autres églises que celle de Lyon ont eu d'abord un cercle de rayonnement très étendu et ne se sont en quelque sorte subdivisées qu'après une indivision d'assez longue durée. Je ne veux pas entrer ici dans l'histoire de l'évangélization de l'empire romain: cela m'entraînerait beaucoup trop loin. Il me serait facile de trouver en Syrie, en Égypte et ailleurs des termes de comparaison assez intéressants. Je les néglige pour me borner à un seul exemple,” etc. Duchesne contents himself with adducing a single instance which is especially decisive. The anonymous anti-Montanist who wrote in 192-193 A.D. (Eus., H.E. v. 16) relates how on reaching Ancyra in Galatia he found the Pontic church (τὴν κατὰ Πόντον ἐκκλησίαν) absorbed and carried away by the new prophecy. Now Ancyra does not lie in Pontus, and—“ce n'est pas des nouvelles de l'église du Pont qu'il a eues à Ancyre, c'est l'église elle-même, l'église du Pont, qu'il y a rencontrée.” Hence it follows in all likelihood795795Duchesne also mentions the allusions to Christians in Pontus which we find in Gregory Thaumaturgus. that the church of Pontus had still its “chef-lieu” in Ancyra during the reign of Septimius Severus (c. 200 A.D.).796796This is the period, therefore, in which Duchesne places the anonymous anti-Montanist. In my opinion, it is rather too late.
8. The extreme slowness with which bishoprics increased in 455Gaul is further corroborated by the council of Arles (314 A.D.), at which four provinces (la Germaine I., la Séquanaise, les Grées et Pennines, les Alpes Maritimes) were unrepresented. may be assumed that as yet they contained no autonomous churches whatever.797797A counter-argument is noticed by Duchesne. In Cypr., Ep. lxviii., we are told that Faustinus, the bishop of Lyons, wrote to Stephen the pope (c. 254 A.D.), not only in his own name but in that of “the rest of my fellow-bishops who hold office in the same province” (“ceteri coepiscopi nostri in eadem provincia constituti”). Duchesne admits that the earliest of the bishoprics (next to that of Lyons) may have been already in existence throughout the provincia Lugdunensis, but he considers that it is more natural to think of bishops on the lower Rhone and on the Mediterranean, i.e., in the provincia Narbonesis, which had had bishops for a long while.
Before examining these arguments in favour of the hypothesis that episcopal churches were in existence, which covered wide regions and a number of cities, and in fact several provinces together, let me add a further series of statements which appear also to tell in favour of it.
(1) Paul writes . . . . τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ σὺν τοῖς ἁγίοις πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ (2 Cor. i. 1).
(2) In the Ignatian epistles (c. 115 A.D.) not only is Antioch called ἡ ἐν Συρίᾳ ἐκκλησία (“the church in Syria,” Rom. ix., Magn. xiv., Trall. xiii.) absolutely, but Ignatius even describes himself as “the bishop of Syria” (ὁ ἐπίσκοπος Συρίας, Rom. ii.).
(3) Dionysius of Corinth writes a letter “to the church sojourning at Gortyna, with the rest of the churches in Crete, commending Philip their bishop” (τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τῇ παροικούσῃ Γορτύναν ἅμα ταῖς λοιπαῖς κατὰ Κρήτην, Φίλιππον ἐπίσκοπον αὐτῶν ἀποδεχόμενος—Eus., H.E., iv. 23. 5).
(4) The same author (op. cit., iv. 23. 6) writes a letter to the church sojourning in Amastris, together with those in Pontus, in which he alludes to Bacchylides and Elpistus as having incited him to write . . . . and mentions their bishop Palmas by name” (τῇ ἐκκλησία τῇ παροικούσῃ Ἄμαστριν ἅμα ταῖς κατὰ Πόντον, Βακχυλίδου μὲν καὶ Ἐλπίστου ὡσὰν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ γράψαι προτρεψάντων μεμνημένος . . . . ἐπίσκοπον αὐτῶν ὀνόματι Πάλμαν ὑποσημαίνων).456
(5) In Eus., H.E., iii. 4. 6, we read that “Timothy is stated indeed to have been the first to obtain the episcopate of the parish in Ephesus, just as Titus did over the churches in Crete”; (Τιμοθεός γε μὴν τῆς ἐν Ἐφέσῳ παροικίας ἱστορεῖται πρῶτος τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν εἰληχέναι, ὡς καὶ Τίτος τῶν ἐπὶ Κρήτης ἐκκλησιῶν).
(6) “In the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, Irenæus sent despatches,” etc. (ὁ Εἰρηναῖος ἐκ προσώπου ὧν ἡγεῖτο κατὰ τὴν Γαλλίαν ἀδελφῶν ἐπιστείλας, Eus., H.E., v. 24. 11); cp. vi. 46: Διονύσιος τοῖς κατὰ Ἀρμενίαν ἀδελφοῖς ἐπιστέλλει, ὧν ἐπεσκόπευε Μερουζάνης (“Dionysius despatched a letter to the brethren in Armenia over whom Merozanes presided”).
(7) “Demetrius had just then obtained the episcopate over the parishes in Egypt, in succession to Julian” (τῶν δὲ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ παροικιῶν τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν νεωστὶ τότε μετὰ Ἰουλιανὸυ Δημήτριος ὑπειλήφει—Eus., H.E., vi. 2. 2).
(8) “Xystus . . . . was over the church of Rome, Demetrianus . . . . over that of Antioch, Firmilianus over Cæsarea in Cappadocia, and besides these Gregory and his brother Athenodorus over the churches in Pontus” (τῆς μὲν Ῥωμαίων ἐκκλησΐας . . . . Ξύστος, τῆς δὲ ἐπ᾽ Ἀντιοχείας . . . . Δημητριανός, Φιρμιλιανὸς δέ Καισαρείας τῆς Καππαδοκῶν, καὶ ἐπὶ τούτοις τῶν κατὰ Πόντον ἐκκλησιῶν Γρηγόριος καὶ ὀ τούτου ἀδελφὸς Ἀθηνόδωρος.—Eus., H.E., vii. 14).
(9) “Firmilianus was bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, Gregory and his brother Athenodorus were pastors of the parishes in Pontus, and besides these Helenus of the parish in Tarsus, with Nicomas of Iconium,” etc. (Φιρμιλιανὸς μὲν τῆς Καππαδοκῶν Καισαρείας ἐπίσκοπος ἦν, Γρηγόριος δὲ καὶ Ἀθηνόδωρος ἀδελφοὶ τῶν κατὰ Πόντον παροικιῶν ποιμένες, καὶ ἐπὶ τούτοις Ἓλενος τῆς ἐν Τάρσῳ παροικίας, καὶ Νικομᾶς τῆς ἐν Ἰκονίῳ, etc.—Eus., H.E., vii. 28).
(10) “Meletius, bishop of the churches in Pontus” (Μελέτιος τῶν κατὰ Πόντον ἐκκλησιῶν ἐπίσκοπος.—Eus., H.E., vii. 32. 26).
(11) “Basilides, bishop of the parishes in Pentapolis” (Βασιλείδης ὀ κατὰ τὴν Πενεάπολιν παροικῶν ἐπίσκοπος.—Eus., H.E., vii. 26. 3).
(12) Signatures to council of Nicæa (ed. Gelzer et socii): 457“Calabria—Marcus of Calabria; Dardania—Dacus of Macedonia; Thessaly—Claudianus of Thessaly and Cleonicus of Thebes; Pannonia—Domnus of Pannonia; Gothia—Theophilus of Gothia; Bosporus—Cadmus of Bosporus (Καλαβρίας· Μάρκος Κ.—Δαρδανίας· Δάκος Μακεδονίας.—Θεσσαλίας· Κλαυδιανὸς Θ., Κλέονικος Θηβῶν.—Παννονίας· Δόμνος Π.—Γοτθίας· Θεόφιλος Γ.—Βοσπόρου· Κάδμος Β.).
(13) Apost. Constit., vii. 46: Κρήσκης τῶν κατὰ Γαλατίαν ἐκκλησιῶν, Ἀκύλας δέ καὶ Νικήτης τῶν κατὰ Ἀσίαν παροικιῶν (“Crescens over the churches in Galatia, Aquila and Nicetes over the parishes in Asia”).798798Merely for the sake of completeness let me add that the Liber Prædestinalus mentions “Diodorus episc. Cretensis” (xii.), “Dioscurus Cretensis episc.” (xx.), “Craton episc. Syrorum” (xxxiii.), “Aphrodisius Hellesponti episc.” (xlvii.), “Basilius episc. Cappadociae” (xlviii.), “Zeno Syrorum episc.” (l.), and Theodotus Cyprius episc.” (lvi.).
(14) Sozomen (vii. 19) declares that the Scythians had only a single, bishop, although their country contained many towns (cp. also Theodoret, H.E., iv. 31, where Bretanio is called the high priest, of all the towns in Scythia).
On, 1. I note that Duchesne's first argument is an argument from silence. Besides, it must be added that we have no writings in which any direct notice of the early Gothic bishoprics could be expected, so that the argument from silence hardly seems worthy of being taken into account in this connection. The one absolutely reliable piece of evidence (Cypr., Ep. lxviii.)799799See above, page 455. for the history of the Gothic church, which reaches us from the middle of the third century, is certainly touched upon by Duchesne, but he has not done it full justice. This letter of Cyprian to the Roman bishop Stephen, which aims at persuading the latter to depose Marcian, the bishop of Arles, who held to Novatian's ideas, opens with the words: “Faustinus, our colleague, residing at Lyons, has repeatedly sent me information which I know you also have received both from him and also from he rest of our fellow-bishops established in the same province” (“Faustinus collega noster Lugduni consistens semel adque iterum mihi scripsit significans ea quae etiam vobis scio utique nuntiata tam ab eo quam a ceteris coepiscopis nostris in eadem 458provincia constitutis”). It is extremely unlikely that by “eadem provincia” here we are meant to understand the provincia Narbonensis. For, in the first place, Lyons did not lie in that province; in the second place, had the bishops of Narbonensis been themselves opponents of Marcian and desirous of getting rid of him, Cyprian's letter would have been couched in different terms, and it would hardly have been necessary for the three great Western bishops of Lyons, Carthage, and Rome to have intervened; thirdly, Cyprian writes in ch. ii. (“Quapropter facere te oportet plenissimas litteras ad coepiscopos nostros in Gallia constitutos, ne ultra Marcianum pervicacem et superbum . . . . collegio nostro insultare patiantur”): “Wherefore it behoves you to write at great length to our fellow-bishops established in Gaul, not to tolerate any longer the wanton and insolent insults heaped by Marcian . . . . upon our assembly”; and in ch. iii. (“Dirigantur in provinciam et ad plebem Arelate consistentem a te litterae quibus abstento Marciano alius in loco eius substituatur”): “Let letters be sent by you to the province and to the people residing at Arles, to remove Marcian, and put another person in his place.” Obviously, then, it is a question here of two (or three) letters, i.e., of one addressed to the bishops of Gaul, and of a second (or even a third) addressed not only to the “plebs Arelate consistens,” but also to the “provincia” (which can only mean the provincia Narbonensis, in which Arles lay). It follows from this that the “coepiscopi nostri in Gallia constituti” (ii.) are hardly to be identified with the bishops of Narbonensis, which leads to the further conclusion that these “coepiscopi” are the bishops of the provincia Lugdunensis—a conclusion which in itself appears to be the most natural and obvious explanation of the passage. The provincia Lugdunensis thus had several bishops in the days of Cyprian, who were already gathered into one Synod,800800This must be the meaning of Cyprian's phrase, “tam a Faustino quam a ceteris coepiscopis nostris in eadem provincia constitutis.” and corresponded with Rome. We cannot make out from this passage how old these bishoprics were, but it is at any rate unlikely that all of them had just been founded. In this connection Duchesne also refers to the fact that bishop Verus of Vienne, who was present at the council 459of Arles in 314, is counted in one ancient list as the fourth bishop of Vienne; which makes the origin of the local bishopric fall hardly earlier than ± 250 A.D. But the list is not ancient. Besides, it is a questionable authority. And, even granting that it were reliable, it is quite arbitrary to assume a mean term of eighteen years as the duration of an individual episcopate; while, even supposing that such a calculation were accurate, it would simply follow that Vienne (although situated. in the provincia Narbonensis, where even Duchesne admits that bishoprics had been founded in earlier days) did not receive her bishopric till later. No inference could be drawn from this regarding the town of Lyons.
On 2. Duchesne holds that the heading of the letter (in Eus., H.E., v. 1: οἱ ἐν Βιέννῃ καὶ Λουγδούνῳ τῆς Γαλλίας παροικοῦντες δοῦλοι τοῦ Χριστοῦ) seems to describe the Christians of Vienne and Lyons as if they were a single church. But if such were the case, one would expect Lyons to be put first, since it was Lyons and not Vienne which had a bishop. Besides, the letter does not speak of ἐκκλησίαι or ἐκκλησία but of δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ, just as the address of the letter mentions “the brethren in Asia and Phrygia” (οἱ κατὰ τὴν Ἀσίαν καὶ Φρυγίαν ἀδελφοί) and not “churches” at all. Hence nothing at all can be gathered from this passage regarding the organization of the local Christians. Though Vienne and Lyons belonged to different provinces, they lay very close together; and as the same calamity had befallen the Christians of both places, one can quite understand how they write a letter in common on that subject.
On 3. “Their whole fury was aroused exceedingly against Sanctus the deacon from Vienne” (ἐνέσκηψεν ἡ ὀργὴ πᾶσα ἐις Σάγκτον τὸν801801So, rightly, Schwartz. διάκονον ἀπὸ Βιέννης). It is possible to take this, with Duchesne, as referring to a certain Sanctus who managed the inchoate church of Vienne as a delegate of the Lyons bishop. But the explanation is far from certain. This sense of ἀπό is unusual (though not intolerable),802802Cp. Eus., H.E., v. 19: Αἴλιος Πούπλιος Ἰούλιος ἀπὸ Δεβελτοῦ κολωνείας τῆς Θρᾴκης ἐπίσκοπος (“Aelius Publius Julius, bishop of Debeltum, a colony of Thrace”). The parallel, of course, is not decisive, as Julius was at a gathering in Phrygia when he penned these words. and the words may quite well 460be rendered, “the deacon who came from Vienne” [sc. belonging to the church of Lyons].803803Cp. what immediately follows—“against Attalus a native of Pergamum” (εἰς Ἄτταλον Περγαμηνὸν τῷ γένει), and also § 49 (Ἀλέξανδρος τις, Φρὺξ μὲν τὸ γένος, ἰατρὸς δὲ τὴν ἐπιστήμην = a certain Alexander, of Phrygian extraction, and a physician by profession). Neumann, in his Röm. Staat und die allgem. Kirche, i. (1890), p. 30, writes thus: “As Sanctus, the deacon of Vienna, appears before the tribunal of the legate of Lyons, he must have been arrested in Lyons.” But even supposing that Sanctus was described here as the deacon of Vienne, it seems to me hasty and precarious to infer, with Duchesne, that Vienne had only a single deacon and no bishop (not even a presbyter) at all. Surely this is to build too much upon the article before διάκονον. Of course, it may be so; we shall come back to this passage later on. Meantime, suffice it to say that the explicit description of Pothinus in the letter as “entrusted with the bishopric of Lyons” (τὴν διακονίαν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς τῆς ἐν Λουγδούνῳ πεπιστευμένος), instead of as “our bishop” or even “the bishop,” does not tell in favour of the hypothesis that Lyons alone, and not Vienne, had a bishop at that period.
On 4. The passage from Iren., i. 10. 2 (καὶ οὕτε αἱ ἐν Γερμανίαις ἱδρυμέναι ἐκκλησίαι ἄλλως πεπιστεύκασιν ἤ ἄλλως παραδιδόασιν, οὔτε ἐν ταῖς Ἰβηρίαις, οὔτε ἐν Κελτοῖς, οὔτε κατὰ τὰς ἀνατολὰς οὔτε ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ, οὔτε ἐν Λιβύῃ οὔτε αἱ κατὰ μέσα τοῦ κόσμου ἱδρυμέναι = Nor did the churches planted in Germany hold any different faith or tradition, any more than do those in Iberia or in Gaul or in the East or in Egypt or in Libya or in the central region of the world) remains neutral if we read it and interpret it very sceptically. The language affords no clue to the way in which the churches in Germany and among the Celts were organized. But the most obvious interpretation is that these “churches” were just as entire and complete in themselves as the churches of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, and of all Europe, which are mentioned with them on the same level. At any rate, nothing can be inferred from this passage in support of Duchesne's opinion. It is a pure “petitio principii” to hold that complete churches could not have existed in Germany.461
On 5. No weight attaches to Theodore's evidence regarding the primitive age. Yet even he presupposes that after the exit of the “apostles” (= provincial bishops) each separate province had two or three bishops of its own, while Duchesne would prove that the three Gauls had merely one bishop between them or about a hundred years.
On 6. At first sight, this argument seems to be particularly conclusive, but on a closer examination it proves untenable, and in fact turns round in exactly an opposite direction. The expression τῶν κατὰ . . . . ἐπεσκόπει cannot, we are told, be understood to mean episcopal dioceses over which Irenæus resided as metropolitan; it merely denotes scattered groups of Christians (though in the immediate context ἡ παροικία does mean an episcopal diocese), as ἐπισκοπεῖν need only imply direct episcopal functions. Yet in H.E., vii. 26. 3, Eusebius describes Basilides as ὁ κατὰ τὴν Πεντάπολιν παροικιῶν ἐπίσκοπος (see 11)), and Meletius (H.E., vii. 32. 26; cp. (10)) as τῶν κατὰ Πόντον ἐκκλησιῶν ἐπίσκοπος, and it is quite certain—even on the testimony of Eusebius himself—that there were several bishoprics at that period in Pentapolis and Pontus.804804In this very chapter Eusebius mentions the bishopric of Berenicê in Pentapolis. Ἐπίσκοπος παροικιῶν, therefore, denotes in this connection the position of naetropolitan,805805On Eus., H.E., vi. 2. 2, see below (p. 462). and it is in this sense that παροικίας ἐπισκοιπεῖν must also be understood with reference to Irenæus. The latter, Eusebius meant, was metropolitan of the episcopal dioceses in Gaul. So far from proving, then, that about 100 A.D. there was only one bishop in Gaul, our passage proves the existence of several bishops.806806Thus the expression used by Eusebius in H.E., v. 24. 11 (ὁ Εἰρηναῖος ἐκ προσώπου ὧν ἡγεῖτο κατὰ τὴν Γαλλίαν ἀδελφῶν ἐπιστείλας—cp. (6)) is also to be understood as a reference to the metropolitan rank of Irenæus, since it is employed as a simple equivalent for the above expression in v. 23. Probst (Kirchliche Disziplin in den drei ersten christlichen Jahrhunderten, p. 97) and other scholars even go the length of including Gallic bishops among the ἀδελφοί, an interpretation which is not necessary, although it is possible, and is on one strong piece of evidence in the “parishes” of v. 23.—The outcome of both passages relating to Irenæus and Gaul is that it is impossible to ascertain whether the Meruzanes mentioned in H.E. vi. 46 as the bishop of the Armenian brethren was the sole local bishop at that period or the metropolitan. See on (6).462
On 7. This argument is quite untenable. The church of Pontus, we are told, had its episcopal headquarters in the Galatian Ancyra about 200 A.D.! But about 190 A.D. it already had a metropolitan of its own, for Eusebius mentions a writing sent during the Paschal controversy by “the bishops of Pontus over whom Palmas, as their senior, presided” (τῶν κατὰ Πόντον ἐπισκόπων, ὧν Πάλμας ὡς ἀρχαιότατος προὐτέτακτο, H.E., v. 23). How Duchesne could overlook this passage is all the more surprising, inasmuch as a little above he quotes from this very chapter. Besides, this Palmas, as we may learn from Dionysius of Corinth (in Eus., H.E., iv. 23. 6; see below, p. 463), seems to have stayed not in Ancyra but in Amastris. Furthermore, in the passage in question τόπον (so Schwartz) must be read807807Προσφάτως γενόμενος ἐν Ἀγκύρᾳ τῆς Γαλατίας καὶ καταλαβὼν τὴν κατὰ τόπον (not Πόντον) ἐκκλησίαν ὑπὸ τῆς νίας ταύτης . . . . ψευδοπροφητείας διατεθρυλημένην (“When I was recently at Ancyra in Galatia, I found the local church quite upset by this novel form . . . . of false prophecy”). Κατὰ Πόντον is in one other passage of Eusebius a mistake for κατὰ πάντα τόπον (iv. 15. 2). instead of Πόντον, despite the Syriac version. Πόντον is meaningless here, even if the territorial bishop of Pontus resided at that time in Ancyra. Thus it is not in Pontus, but in Phrygia and Gaul, that we hear of Montanist agitations, and, moreover, one could not possibly have got acquainted with the church of Pontus in Ancyra, even if the latter place had been the residence of that church's head. Can one get acquainted in Alexandria nowadays with the church of Abyssinia?
On 8. Duchesne's final argument proves nothing, because it is uncertain whether the four recent provinces mentioned here had still no bishops by 314 A.D. Nothing can be based on the fact that they were not represented at Arles, for the representation of churches at the great synods was always an extremely haphazard affair. But even supposing that these provinces were still without bishops of their own, this proves nothing with regard to Lyons.
I have added to Duchesne's reasons fourteen other passages which appear to favour his hypothesis. Three of these (6), (10), (11) have been already noticed under 6., and our conclusion was that they were silent upon provincial bishops, being concerned 463rather with metropolitans. It remains for us to review briefly the other eleven.
We must not infer from 2 Cor. i. 1 that, when Paul wrote this epistle, all the Christians of Achaia belonged to the church of Corinth. In Rom. xvi. 1 f. Paul mentions a certain Phoebê, διάκονος τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῆς ἐν Κεγχρεαῖς, speaking highly of her as having been a προστάτις πολλῶν καὶ ἐμοῦ αὐτοῦ, so that, while many Christians scattered throughout Achaia may have also belonged to the church at Corinth at that period, there was nevertheless a church at Cencheæ besides, which we have no reason to suppose was not independent.
Ignatius's description of himself as “bishop of Syria,” and his description of the church of Antioch as ἡ ἐν Συρίᾳ ἐκκλησίᾳ, appear to prove decisively that there was only one bishop then in Syria, viz., at Antioch (2). Yet in ad Phil. x. we read how some of the neighbouring churches sent bishops, others presbyters and deacons, to Antioch (ὡς καὶ αἱ ἔγγιστα ἐκκλησίαι ἔπεμψαν ἐπισκόπους, αἱ δὲ πρεσβυτέρους καὶ διοκόνους), which shows that there were bishoprics808808Some of the bishoprics adjoining Antioch, of which Eusebius speaks in H.E., vii. 30. 10 (ἐπίσκοποι τῶν ὁμόρων ἀγρῶν τε καὶ πόλεων), were therefore in existence by c. 115 A.D.—It seems to me impossible that Philadelphia is referred to in the expression of ἔγγιστα ἐκκλησίαι in Phil. x. (“the nearest churches”). Even Lightfoot refers it to Syria. To be quite accurate he ought to have said, “to the church in Antioch,” as that church is mentioned just above. in Syria, and indeed in the immediate vicinity of Antioch, c. 115 A.D. The bishop of Antioch called himself “bishop of Syria” on account of his metropolitan position.
From Eus., H.E., iv. 23. 5-6, it would appear that there was only a single bishop (3), (4), in Crete and in Pontus c. 170 A.D., inasmuch as Dionysius of Corinth designates Philip as bishop of Gortyna and the rest of the churches in Crete, and Palmas bishop of Amastris and the churches of Pontus. But whether the expression be attributed to Dionysius himself, or ascribed, as is more likely, to Eusebius, the fact remains that the same collection of the letters of Dionysius contained one to the church of Cnossus in Crete, or to its bishop Pinytus (loc cit., § 7), while, as we have already seen (on 7), Palmas was not the sole bishop in Pontus. Philip and Palmas were therefore not provincial bishops but metropolitans, with other bishops at their side.464
The statement of Eusebius (5) that Titus was bishop of the Cretan churches is an erroneous inference from Titus i. 5; it is destitute of historical value.
According to the habitual terminology of Eusebius (7), τῶν δὲ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ παροικιῶν τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν τότε Δημήτριος ὑπειλήφει describes Demetrius as a metropolitan, not as a provincial bishop (see above, on (6)). Other evidence, discussed by Lightfoot (in his Commentary on Philippians, 3rd ed., pp. 228 f.), would seem to render it probable that Demetrius was really the only bishop (in the monarchical sense) in Egypt in 188-189 A.D.; but this fact is no proof whatever that the Alexandrian bishop was a “provincial” bishop, for it does not preclude the possibility that, while Demetrius was the first monarchical bishop in Alexandria itself, Egypt in general did not contain any churches up till then except those which were superintended by presbyters or deacons. The whole circumstances of the situation are of course extremely obscure. Nevertheless, it does look as if Demetrius and his successor Heraclas were the first bishops (in the proper sense of the term), and as if they ordained similar bishops (Demetrius ordained three, and Heraclas twenty) for Egypt. It is perfectly possible, no doubt, but at the same time it is incapable of proof, that the Egyptian churches were in a dependent position towards the Alexandrian church at a time when Alexandria itself had as yet no bishop of its own.
In both of the passages (8) and (9) where Gregory and Athenodorus are described as bishops of the Pontic church, the dual number shows that we have to do neither with provincial nor with metropolitan bishops. Eusebius is expressing himself vaguely, perhaps because he did not know the bishoprics of the two men.
In Eus., H.E., viii. 13. 4-5, two bishops who happen to bear the same name (“Silvanus”) are described as bishops of the churches “round Emesa,” or round “Gaza” (12). There can be no question of provincial bishops here however; as we know that these districts contained a large number of bishoprics. The position of matters can be understood from the history of Emesa and Gaza, both of which long remained pagan towns; 465we are told that they would not tolerate a Christian bishop. Bishops, therefore, were unable to reside in either place. But as the groups of Christian villages in the vicinity had bishops or themselves (so essential did the episcopal organization seem to Eastern Christians), there were probably bishops in partibus infidelium for Emesa and Gaza, although otherwise they were territorial bishops, over quite a limited range of territory.
As regards provincial bishops, it seems possible to cite the signatures to the council of Nicaea (13), viz., the five instances in which the name of the province accompanies that of the bishop. These are Calabria, Thessaly, Pannonia, Gothia, and the Bosphorus.809809The signature Δαρδανίας· Δάκος Μακεδονίας is obscure, and must therefore be set aside. But in the case of Thessaly, bishop Claudianus of Thessaly is accompanied by bishop Cleonicus of Thebes, so that the former was not a provincial bishop but a metropolitan. Besides, it is quite certain that Calabria and Pannonia had more than one bishop in 325 A.D., although only the metropolitans of these provinces were present at Nicæa (as indeed was also the case with Africa, whose metropolitan alone was in attendance). Thus only Gothia and the Bosphorus are left. But as these lay outside the Roman Empire, and as quite a unique set of conditions prevailed throughout these regions, the local situation there cannot form any standard for estimating the organization of churches inside the empire. The bishops above mentioned may have been the only bishops there.
No value whatever attaches to the statements of the Apost. Constit. (14) and of the Liber Predestinatus. The former are based, so far as regards the first half of them, upon an arbitrary deduction from 2 Tim. iv. 10, while their second half is utterly futile, since several Asiatic city bishoprics are mentioned in the context. The latter statement is a description of metropolitans (i.e., so far as any idea whatever can be ascribed to the forger), as is proved abundantly by the entry, “Basilius, bishop of Cappadocia.” Finally, the communication of Sozomen (15), which he himself describes as a curiosity, refers to a barbarian country.466
The result is, therefore, that the alleged evidence for the hypothesis of provincial
bishops instead of local (city) bishops and metropolitans throughout the empire,
yields no proof at all. Out of all the material which we have examined, nothing
is left to support this conjecture. The sole outcome of it is the unimportant possibility
that in 178 A.D. (and even till about the middle of the third century), Vienne had
no independent bishop of its own. Even this conjecture, as has been shown, is far
from necessary, while it is opposed by the definite testimony of Eusebius, who knew
of a letter from the parishes of Gaul c. 190 A.D.810810 If there were several
(episcopal) parishes in Gaul c. 190 A.D.,
Vienne would also form one such parish. The hypothesis that a number of bishoprics
existed in middle and northern Gaul in the days of Irenæus is confirmed by the fact
that Irenæus (in a passage i. 10, to which I shall return) speaks, not of Christians
in Germany, but of “the churches founded in Germany.” Would he have spoken of them
if these churches had not had any bishops? While, if they did possess bishops of
their own,—and according to iii. 3. 1, the episcopal succession reaching back to the
apostles could be traced in every individual church,—then how should there have
been still no bishops in middle and northern Gaul?
The passage iii. 3. 1 runs thus: “Traditionem apostolorum in toto mundo manifestatam, in omni ecclesia adest perspicere omnibus qui vera velint videre, et habemus annumerare eos qui ab apostolis instituti sunt episcopi in ecclesiis et successiones eorum usque ad nos. . . . . Sed quoniam valde longum est, in hoc tali volumine omnium ecclesiarum enumerare successiones,” etc. (“All who desire to see facts can clearly see the tradition of the apostles, which is manifest all over the world, in every church; we are also able to enumerate those whom the apostles appointed as bishops in the churches, as well as to recount their line of succession down to our own day. . . . . Since, however, in a volume of this kind it would take up great space to enumerate the various lines of succession throughout all the churches,” etc.). And even supposing it were to the point, we should have to suppose that the Christians in Vienne were numbered, not by hundreds, but merely by dozens, about the year 178, i.e., some decades later still.
It is certain (cp. pp. 432 f.) that an internal tension prevailed between two forms of organization during the first two generations of the Christian propaganda. These forms were (1) the church as a missionary church, created by a missionary or apostle, whose work it remained; and (2) the church as a local church, complete in itself, forming thus an image and expression of the church in heaven. As the creation of an apostolic missionary, the church was responsible to its founder, dependent 467upon him, and obliged to maintain the principles which he invariably laid down in the course of his activity as a founder of various churches. As a compact local church, again, it was responsible for itself, with no one over it save the Lord in heaven. Through the person of its earthly founder, it stood in a real relationship to the other churches which he had founded but as a local church it stood by itself, and any connection with other churches was quite a voluntary matter.
That the founders themselves desired the churches to be independent, is perfectly clear in the case of Paul, and we have no reason to believe that other founders of churches took another view (cp. the Roman church). No doubt they still continued to give pedagogic counsels to the churches, and in fact to act as guardians to them. But this was exceptional; it was not the rule. The Spirit moved them to such action, and their apostolic authority justified them in it, while the unfinished state of the communities seemed to demand it.811811What they did, the churches also did themselves in certain circumstances. Thus, the Roman church exhorted, and in fact acted as guardian to, the Corinthian church in one sore crisis (c. 96 A.D.). And in the primitive decision upon the length of time that an apostle could remain in a community, as in similar cases, the communities secured, ipso facto, a means of self-protection within their own jurisdiction. Probably the perfected organization of the Jerusalem church became, mutatis mutandis, a pattern for all and sundry Christian communities were not “churches of Paul” or “of Peter” (ἐκκλησίαι Παύλου, Πέτρου); each was a “church of God” (ἐκκλησία τοῦ θεοῦ).
The third epistle of John affords one clear proof that conflicts did occur between the community and its local management upon the one hand and the “apostles” on the other. This same John (or, in the view of many critics, a different person) does not impart his counsels to the Asiatic communities directly. He makes the “Spirit” utter them. He proclaims, not his own coming with a view to punish them, but the coming of the Lord as their judge. But we need not enter more particularly into these circumstances and conditions. The point is that the apostolic authority soon faded; nor was it transmuted as a 468whole, for all that passed over to the monarchical episcopate was but a limited portion of its contents. The apostolic authority and praxis meant a certain union of several communities in a single group. When it vanished, this association also disappeared. But another kind of tie was now provided for the communities of a single province by their provincial association, and proofs of this are given by the Pauline epistles and the Apocalypse of John. The epistle to the Galatians, addressed to all the Christian communities of Galatia, falls to be considered in this aspect, and much more besides, Paul's range of missionary activity was regulated by the provinces; Asia, Macedonia, Achaia, etc., were ever in his mind's eye. He prosecutes the great work of his collection by massing together the communities of a single province, and the so-called epistle “to the Ephesians” is addressed, as many scholars opine, to a large number of the Asiatic communities. John writes to the churches of Asia.812812By addressing himself also to the church at Laodicea, he passes on into the neighbouring district of Phrygia. But the other six churches are all Asiatic. Even at an earlier period a letter had been sent (Acts xv.) from Jerusalem to the churches of Syria and Cilicia.813813The collocation of Christians from several large provinces in 1 Peter is remarkable. But as the address of this letter has been possibly drawn up artificially, I do not take it here into account. The communities of Judaea were so closely bound up with that of Jerusalem, as to give rise to the hypothesis (Zahn, Forschungen, vi. p. 800) that the ancient episcopal list of Jerusalem, which contains a surprising number of names, is a conflate list of the Jerusalem bishops and of those from the other Christian communities in Palestine. Between the apostolic age and c. 180 A.D., when we first get evidence of provincial church synods, similar proofs of union among the provincial churches are not infrequent. Ignatius is concerned, not only for the church of Antioch, but for that of Syria; Dionysius of Corinth writes to the communities of Crete and to those in Pontus; the brethren of Lyons write to those in Asia and Phrygia; the Egyptian communities form a sphere complete in itself, and the churches of Asia present themselves to more than Irenæus as a unity.
Not in all cases did a definite town, such as the capital, 469become the headquarters which dominated the ecclesiastical province. No doubt Jerusalem (while it lasted), Antioch,814814Cp. the very significant address in Acts xv. 23: οἱ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ἀδελφοὶ τοῖς κατὰ τὴν Ἀντιόχειαν καὶ Συρίαν καὶ Κιλικίαν ἀδελφοῖς. For our present purpose, it does not matter whether the letter is genuine or not. Corinth,815815According to the extract from the correspondence of Dionysius of Corinth, given by Eusebius (H.E., IV. 23), the bishop of Corinth seems to have stood in a different relation to the churches of Lacedæmon and Athens from that in which he stood towards communities lying outside Greece. Rome, Carthage, and Alexandria formed not merely the centres of their respective provinces, but in part extended heir sway still more widely, both in virtue of their importance as large cities, and also on account of the energetic Christianity which they displayed.816816This requires no proof, as regards Rome. But the church of Jerusalem also pushed far beyond Palestine; it gave Paul serious trouble in the Diaspora, and tried even to balk his plans. In the third century bishop Firmilian set up the “observations” of the Gentile Christian church at Jerusalem against those of Rome, thereby attributing to the former a certain prestige outside Palestine for the church at large. The bishop of Antioch, again, reached as far as Cilicia, Mesopotamia, and Persia; the bishop of Carthage as far as Mauretania; the bishop of Alexandria as far as Pentapolis. Cp. the second canon of the Council of Constantinople (381), which prohibits a bishop or metropolitan from invading another diocese, but at the same time expressly makes an exception of “barbarian” districts, on the ground of ancient use and wont (τὰς δὲ ἐν τοῖς βαρβαρικοῖς ἔθνεσιν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκκλησίας οἰκονομεῖσθαι χρὴ κατὰ τὴν κρατήσασαν συνήθειαν τῶν πατέρων.—The sphere of Alexandria's influence, however, several times embraced Palestine and Syria, even prior to Athanasius, Cyril, and Dioscorus. It is very remarkable, e.g., that no fewer than three Alexandrians—Eusebius, Anatolius, and Gregory—occupied the see of Laodicea (Syr.) at the close of the third and the beginning of the fourth centuries (Eus., H.E., vii. 32; Philostorgius, viii. 17). There was already a sort of prescriptive right which afterwards passed into the division of the patriarchate. Thus, in the intercourse of, the churches the Roman bishop already, represented all the West (including Illyria afterwards); while the bishop of Antioch, as well as the bishop of Alexandria, seem to have had the prescriptive privilege of attending to the entire East. Apart from this privilege, however, the spheres of Alexandria (South) and Antioch (Middle and North) respectively. were delimited. Caesarea (Cappadocia) and Ephesus now attained positions of some independence Yet Ephesus, for example, did not become for a long while the ecclesiastical metropolis of Asia in the full sense of the term; Smyrna and other cities competed with it for this honor.817817All this was connected, of course, with the political organization of Asia. In Palestine, Aelia (Jerusalem) and Cæsarea stood side by side. Certain provinces, like Galatia and extensive, districts of Cappadocia, had no outstanding towns 470at all, and when we are told that in the provinces of Pontus; Numidia, and Spain the oldest bishop always presided at the episcopal meetings, the inference is that no single city could have enjoyed a position of superiority to the others from the ecclesiastical standpoint.
But the question now arises, whether the “metropolitans,”818818A learned treatise in Russian has just been published on the metropolitans by P. Giduljanow (Die Metropoliten in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten des Christentums, Moscow, 1905), which also contains ample material for ecclesiastical geography, besides a coloured map of “The Eastern Half of the Roman Empire during the First Three Christian Centuries.” Special reference is made to the ecclesiastical arrangements and spheres in their relation to the political framework. who had been long in existence before they were recognized by the law of the church or attained their rights and authority, in any way repressed the tendency towards the increase of independent communities within a province; and further, whether, in the interests of their own power, the bishops also made any attempt to retard the organization of new independent communities under episcopal government. In itself, such a course of action would not be surprising. For wherever authority and rights develop, ambition and the love of power invariably are unchained.
In order to solve this problem, we must first of all premise that the tendency of early Christianity to form complete, independent communities, under episcopal government, was extremely strong.819819As Ignatius cannot conceive of a community existing at all without a bishop, so Cyprian also judges that a bishop is absolutely necessary to every community; without him its very being appears to break up (see especially Ep. lxvi. 5). The tendencies voiced by Ignatius in his epistles led to every Christian community in a locality, however small it might be, securing a bishop, and we have every reason to suppose that the practice which already obtained in Syria and Asia corresponded to these tendencies. From the outset we observe that local churches spring into life on all sides, as opposed to uncertain transient unions, and while Christians might and did group themselves in other forms (e.g., mere guilds of worship and schools of thought), these were invariably attacked and suppressed. Neighbouring cities, like Laodicea, Colossê, and Hierapolis, had churches of their own from the very first. So had the seaport of Corinth, as early as the days of Paul, while the localities closely “adjacent to” Antioch (Syr.) had churches of their own in Trajan's reign (Ignat., ad Phil. x.), and not long afterwards we have evidence of village churches also. Then, as soon as we hear of the monarchical episcopate, it is in relation to small communities. The localities which lay near Antioch had their own bishops, and two decades afterwards we find a bishop quartered in the Phrygian village of Comana (Eus., H.E., 5.16). The Nicene Council was attended by village bishops from Syria, Cilicia, Cappadocia, Bithynia, and Isauria, who had the same rights as the town bishops. In the so-called Apostolic Constitutions (middle of second century) we read: “If the number of men be small, and twelve persons cannot be found at one place, who are entitled to elect a bishop, let application be made to any of the nearest churches which is well established, so that three chosen men may be sent who shall carefully ascertain who is worthy,” etc. Which assumes that even in such cases a complete episcopal church is the outcome. We must therefore assume that it was the rule in some at least and probably in many, of the provinces to give every community a bishop. Thus the number of the local churches or communities would practically be equivalent to the number of bishoprics. 471Furthermore, I do not know of a single case, from the first three centuries; which would suggest any tendency, either upon the part of metropolitans or of bishops, to curb the independent organization of the churches. Not till after the opening of the fourth century does the conflict against the chor-episcopate820820Cp. Gillmann, Das Institut der Chorbischöpe im Orient (1903). The names of these clergy are χωρεπίσκοποι, ἐπίσκοποι τῶν ἀγρῶν (ἐν ταῖς κώμαις ἢ ταῖς χώραις), συλλειτουργοί [i.e., of the town bishops]. Originally, as the name ἐπίσκοποι shows, they stood alongside of the town bishops; but as a real distinct point—was drawn from the outset between the bishop of a provincial capital and the bishops of other towns, so a country bishop always was inferior to his colleagues in the towns, and indeed often occupied a position of real dependence on them (cp. Gillmann, pp. 30 f.). commence; at least there are no traces of it, so far as I know, previous to that period. Then it is also that—according to our sources—the bishops begin their attempt to prohibit the erection of bishoprics in the villages, as well as to secure the discontinuance of bishoprics in small neighbouring townships—all with the view of increasing their own dioceses.821821The chor-episcopi were first of all de-classed by their very name; then they were deprived of certain rights retained by the town bishops, including especially the right of ordination. Finally, they were suppressed. The main stages of this struggle throughout the East are seen in the following series of decisions. Canon xiii. of the Council of Ancyra (314 A.D.): χωρεπισκόπους μὴ ἐξεῖναι πρεσβυτέρους ἢ διακόνους χειροτονεῖν (“Chor-episcopi are not allowed to elect presbyters or deacons”). Canon xiii. of the Council of Neo-Cæsarea: οἱ χωρεπίσκοποι εἰσι μὲν εἰς τύπον τῶν ἑβδομήκοντα· ὡς δὲ συλλειτουργοὶ διὰ τὴν σπουδὴν τὴν εἰς τοὺς πτωχοὺς προσφέρουσι τιμώμενοι (“The chor-episcopi are indeed on the pattern of the Seventy, and they are to have the honor of making the oblation, as fellow-labourers, on account of their devotion to the poor”). Canon viii. of the Council of Antioch (341 A.D.): “Country priests are not to issue letters of peace [i.e., certificates) ; they are only to forward letters to the neighbouring bishop. Blameless chor-episcopi, however, can grant letters of peace.” Ibid., canon x.: “Even if bishops in villages and country districts, the so-called chor-episcopi, have been consecrated as bishops, they must recognize the limits of their position. Let them govern the churches under their sway and be content with this charge and care, appointing lectors and sub-deacons and exorcists; let them be satisfied with expediting such business, but never dare to ordain priest or deacon without the bishop of the town to whom the rural bishop and the district itself belong. Should anyone dare to contravene these orders, he shall be deprived of the position which he now holds. A rural bishop shall be appointed by the bishop of the town to which he belongs” (cp. on this, Gillmann, pp. 90 f.). Canon vi. of the Council of Sardica (343 A.D.): “Licentia vero danda non est ordinandi episcopum aut in vico aliquo aut in modica civitate, cui sufficit unus presbyter, quia non est necesse ibi episcopum fieri, ne vilescat nomen episcopi et auctoritas. non debent illi ex alia provincia invitati facere episcopum, nisi aut in his civitatibus, quae episcopos habuerunt, aut si qua talis aut tam populosa est civitas, quae mereatur habere episcopum” (the contemporary Greek version does not correspond to the original; its closing part runs thus: ἀλλ᾽ οἱ τῆς ἐπαρχίας ἐπίσκοποι ἐν ταύταις ταῖς πόλεσι καθιστᾶν ἐπισκόπους ὀφείλουσιν, ἔνθα καὶ πρότερον ἐτύγχανον γεγονότες ἐπίσκοποι· εἰ δὲ εὑρίσκοιτο οὕτω πληθύνουσά τις ἐν παλλῷ ἀριθμῷ λαοῦ πόλις, ὡς ἀξίαν αὐτὴν καὶ ἐπισκοπῆς νομίζεσθαι, λαμβανέτω). “It is absolutely forbidden to ordain a bishop in any village or small town for which a single presbyter is sufficient—for it is needless to ordain bishops there—lest the name and authority of bishops be lowered. Bishops called in from another province ought not to appoint any bishop except in those cities where there were bishops previously; or if any city contains a population large enough to merit a see, then let one be founded there.” Canon lviii. of the Council of Laodicea: “In villages and country districts no bishops shall be appointed, but only visitors (περιοδευταί), nor shall those already appointed act without the consent of the city bishop.” By the opening of the fifth century this process had gone to such a length that Sozomen (H.E., vii. 19) notes, as a curiosity, that “there are cases where in other nations bishops do the work of priests in villages, as I myself have seen in Arabia and Cyprus and in Phrygia among the Novatians and Montanists” (ἐν ἄλλοις ἔθνεσίν ἐστιν ὅπη καὶ ἐν κώμαις ἐπίσκοποι ἱεροῦνται, ὡς παρὰ Ἀραβίοις καὶ Κύπροις ἔγνων καὶ παρὰ τοῖς ἐν Φρυγίαις Ναυατιανοῖς καὶ Μοντανισταῖς. (According to Theodore of Mopsuestia—see Swete's ed., vol. ii. p. 44—this was still in force about the year 400 in the district which he supervised, much to his disgust). In Northern Africa, upon the other hand, no action was taken against the smaller bishops. Augustine himself (Ep. cclxi.) erected a new bishopric within his own diocese, whilst even after the year 400 it is plain that the number of bishoprics in Northern Africa went on multiplying. We may take it that in provinces where the village bishoprics were numerous (i.e., in the majority of the provinces of Asia Minor, besides Syria and Cyprus), the total number of bishoprics did not materially increase after 325 A.D. Probably, indeed, it even diminished.
Furthermore, we have not merely an “argumentum e silentio” before us here. On the contrary, after surveying (as we shall do in Book IV.) the Christian churches which can be traced circa 325 A.D., we see that it is quite impossible for any tendency to have prevailed throughout the large majority of the Roman provinces which checked the formation of bishoprics, inasmuch as almost all the churches in question can be proved to have been episcopal. We conclude, then, that wherever communities, 472 episcopally governed, were scanty, Christians were also scanty upon the whole; while, if a town had no bishop at all, the number of local Christians was insignificant. Certainly during the course of the Christian mission, in several cases, whole decades passed without more than one bishop in a province or in an extensive tract of country. We might also conjecture, a priori, that wherever a district was uncultivated or destitute of towns—as on the confines of the empire and beyond them—years passed without a single bishop being appointed, the scattered local Christians being superintended by the bishop of the nearest town, which was perhaps far away. It is quite credible that, even after a fully equipped hierarchy had been set up in such an outlying district, this bishop should have retained certain rights of supervision—for it is a question here, not simply of personal desire for power, but of rights which had been already acquired. Still, it is well-nigh impossible for us nowadays to gain any clear insight into circumstances of this kind, since after the second century all such cases were treated 473and recorded from the standpoint of a dogmatic theory of ecclesiastical polity—the theory that the right of ordination was a monopoly of the original apostles, and consequently that all bishoprics were to be traced back, either directly to them, or to men whom they had themselves appointed. The actual facts of the great mission promoted by Antioch (as far as Persia, eastwards), Alexandria (into the Thebais, Libya, Pentapolis, and eventually Ethiopia), and Rome seemed to corroborate this theory. The authenticated instances from ancient history (for we have no detailed knowledge of the Bosphorus or of Gothia) permit us to infer, e.g., that the power of ordination possessed by the bishop of Alexandria extended over four provinces. Still, as has been remarked already, the original local conditions remain obscure. It is relevant also at this point to notice the tradition, possibly an authentic one, that the first bishop of Edessa was consecrated by the bishop of Antioch (Doctr. Addæi, p. 50), and that the Persian church was for a long while dependent upon the 474church of Antioch, from which it drew its metropolitans.822822Hoffmann, Auszüge aus syrischen Akten persischer Märtyrer (1880), p. 46 and Uhlemann, Zeitschrift f. d. hist. Theol. (1861), p. 15. But the primitive history of Christianity in Persia lies wrapt in obscurity or buried in legend. When this was in force, the imperial church had already firmly embraced the theory that episcopal ordination could only be perpetuated within the apostolic succession.
There are also instances, of course, in which, during the third century (for, apart from Egypt, no sure proofs can be adduce at an earlier period), Christian communities arose in country districts which were superintended by presbyters or even by deacons alone, instead of by a bishop. Such cases, however, are by no means numerous.823823No case is known, so far as I am aware, during the pre-Constantine period in Northern Africa. One might infer, from epistles i. and lviii. of Cyprian, that there were no bishops at Furni and Thibaris, but from Sentent. Episcop. (59 and 37) it is evident that even these churches were ruled by one bishop. Probably the see was vacant when Cyprian wrote epistle i.; but this hypothesis is needless so far as regards epistle lviii. The reference to Cypr., Ep. lxviii. 5, is extremely insecure. It is unlikely that even in Middle and Lower Italy churches existed without bishops during the third century. We must not use cpp. 4 and 7 of the letter written by Firmilian of Iconium (Cypr., Ep. lxxv.) as an argument in favour of churches without bishops, surprising as is the expression “seniores et praepositi” or “praesident maiores natu.” There was such a church at the village of Malus near Ancyra (see Acta Mart. Theodot., 11. 12), but the evidence is almost worthless, as the Acta in question are not contemporary. They are infrequent till in and after the age of Diocletian.824824We must not, of course, include cases in which presbyters, or presbyters and deacons, ruled a community during an episcopal vacancy. Even though they employed language which can only be described as episcopal (cp. the eighth document of the Roman clergy among Cyprian's letters), they were simply regents; see Ep. xxx. 8, “We thought that no new step should be taken before a bishop was appointed” (ante constitutionem episcopi nihil innovandum putavimus). Previous to that period, so far as I know, there was but one large district in which presbyterial organization was indeed the rule, viz., Egypt. Yet, as has been already observed, the circumstances of Egypt are extremely obscure. It is highly probable that for a considerable length of time there were no monarchical bishops at all in that country, the separate churches being grouped canton-wise and superintended by presbyters. Gradually the episcopal organization extended itself during the course of the third century, yet even in the fourth century there were still large village churches which had no bishop. We must, however, be on our guard 475against drawing conclusions from Egypt and applying them to any of the other Roman provinces. It has been inferred, from the subscriptions to the Acts of the synod of Elvira, that some Spanish towns, which were merely represented by presbyters at the synod, did not possess any bishops of their own. This may so, but the very Acts of the synod clearly show how precarious is the inference; for, while many presbyters subscribed, these Acts, it can be proved that in almost every case the town churches which they represented did possess a bishop. The latter was prevented from being present at the synod, and, like the Roman bishop, he had himself represented by a presbyter or deputation of the clergy. Nevertheless it is indisputable, on the mind of the sixty-seventh canon of Elvira (“si quis diaconus gens plebem sine episcopo vel presbytero,” etc.), that there were churches in Spain which had not a bishop or even a presbyter, although we know as little about the number of such churches as about the conditions which prevented the appointment of a bishop or presbyter. In any case, the management of church by a deacon must have always been the exception mainly an emergency measure in the days of persecution), since was unlawful for him to perform the holy sacrifice (see the fifteenth canon of Arles). It is impossible to decide whether the ἐπιχώριοι πρεσβύτεροι mentioned in the thirteenth canon of Neo-Cæsarea mean independent presbyters in country churches, or presbyters who had a chor-episcopus over them. Possibly the latter is the true interpretation, since we must assume a specially vigorous development of the chor-episcopate in the neighbouring country of Cappadocia, which sent no fewer than five chorepiscopi to the council of Nicæa. On the other hand, it follows from the Testament of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste that there were churches in the adjoining district of Armenia which were ruled by a presbyter, and in which no chor-episcopate seems to have existed (cp. Gillmann, p. 36). Armenia, however, was a frontier province, and we cannot transfer its peculiar circumstances en masse to the provinces of Pontus and Cappadocia. The “priests in the country,” mentioned in the eighth canon of Antioch (341 A.D.), are certainly priests who had supreme authority in their local spheres, but the synod of Antioch was 476 held in the post-Constantine period, and the circumstances of 341 A.D. do not furnish any absolute rule for those of an earlier age. It is natural to suppose that the contemporary organization of the cantons in Gaul,825825See Mommsen's Röm. Gesch., v. 81 f. [Eng. trans., i. 92 f.], and also Marquardt's Röm. Staatsverwaltung, i. 7 f. which hindered the development of towns, proved also an obstacle to the thorough organization of the episcopal system; hence one might conjecture that imperfectly organized churches were numerous in that country (as in England). But on this point we know absolutely nothing. Besides, even in the second century there was a not inconsiderable number of towns in Gaul where the local conditions were substantially the same as those which prevailed in the other Roman towns.826826Two systems prevailed in the civil government, as regards the country districts; the latter were either placed under the jurisdiction of a neighbouring town or assigned magistrates of their own (see Hatch-Harnack, Gesellschaftsverfassung der christlichen Kirchen, p. 202). The latter corresponded to the chor-episcopate, the former to the direct episcopal jurisdiction and administration of the town bishop. The blending of the two systems, with more or less independent country presbyters and reserved rights on the part of the bishop, was the latest development. Its earliest stage falls within the second half of the third century. A number of small localities were often united into a commune, whose centre was called μητροκωμία.
It is impossible, therefore, to prove that for whole decades there were territorial or provincial bishops who ruled over a number of dependent Christian churches in the towns; we thus rather assume that if bishops actually did wield episcopal rights in a number of towns, it was in towns where only an infinitesimal number of Christians resided within the walls. Anyone who asserts the contrary with regard to some provinces cannot be refuted. I admit that. But the burden of proof rests with him. The assertion, for example, that Autun, Rheims, Paris, etc., had a fairly large number of Christians by the year 240 or thereabouts, while the local Christian churches had no bishop, cannot be proved incorrect, in the strict sense of the term. We have no materials for such a proof. But all analogy favours the conclusion: if the Christians in Autun, Rheims, Paris, etc., were so numerous circa 240 A.D., then they had bishops; if they had no bishops, then they were few and far between. In my opinion, we may put it thus: (1) It is 477quite possible, indeed it is extremely likely (cp. the evidence of Cyprian), that before the middle of the third century there were already some other episcopal, churches in Gaul, even apart from the “province”; (2) if Lyons was really the sole episcopal church of the country, then there was only an infinitesimal number of Christians in Gaul outside that city.
We come back now to one of Theodore's remarks. “At the outset,” he wrote, “there were but two or three bishops, as a rule, in a province—a state of matters which prevailed in most of the Western provinces till quite recently, and which may still be found in several, even at the present day.” This is a statement which yields us no information whatever. Theodore did not know any more than we moderns know about the state of matters “at the outset.” The assertion that there were not more than two or three' bishops in the majority of the Western provinces “till quite recently,” is positively erroneous, and it only proves how small was Theodore's historical knowledge of the Western churches; finally, while the information that several Western provinces even yet had no more than two or three bishops, is accurate, it is irrelevant, since we know, even apart from Theodore's testimony, that the number of bishoprics in the Roman provinces adjoining the large northern frontier of the empire, as well as in England, was but small. But this scantiness of contemporary bishoprics did not denote an earlier (and subsequently suspended) phase of the church's organization tenaciously maintaining itself. What it denoted was a result of the local conditions of the population and also the rarity of Christians in those districts. So far, of course, these local circumstances resembled those in which Christianity subsisted from the very outset over all the empire, when the Christians—and the Romans—of the region lived still in the Diaspora.
At this point we might conclude by saying that the striking historical paragraph of Theodore does not cast a single ray of truth upon the real position of affairs. But in the course of our study we have over and again touched upon the special position of the metropolitan or leading bishop of the province.827827Augustine once (Ep. xxii. 4) remarks of the Carthaginian church in relation the churches of the province; “Si ab una ecclesia inchoanda est medicina [i.e., the suppression of an abuse], sicut videtur audaciae mutare conari quod Carthaginiensis ecclesia tenet, sic magnae impudentiae est velle servare quod Carthaginiensis ecclesia correxit.” This would represent a widely spread opinion, held long before the fourth century, with regard to the authority of the metropolitan church. 478It is perfectly clear, from a number of passages, that the metropolitan was frequently described in the time of Eusebius simply as “the bishop of the province.” The leading bishop was thus described even as early as Dionysius of Corinth or Ignatius himself. With regard to the history of the extension of Christianity—in so far as we are concerned to determine the volume of tendency making for the formation of independent churches—the bearing of this fact is really neutral. But it is not neutral with regard to our conception of the course taken by the history of ecclesiastical organization. Unluckily our sources here fail us for the most part. The uncertain glimpses they afford do not permit us to obtain any really historical idea of the situation, or even to reconstruct any course of development along this line. How old is the metropolitan? Is his position connected with a power of ordination which originally parse from one man to another in the province? Does the origin of the metropolitan's authority go back to a time when the apostles still survived? Was there any connection between them? And are we to distinguish between one bishop and another, so that in earlier age there would be bishops who did not ordain, or who were merely the vicars of a head bishop?828828We are led to put this question by learning that injunctions were laid down in the fourth century, which delimited the ordination rights of the chor-episcopi (see above, p. 471). Does this restriction go back to an earlier age? Hardly to one much earlier, though Gillmann (p. 121) is right in holding that the decisions of Ancyra and Neo-Cæsarea did not come with the abruptness of a pistol-shot; they codified what had previously been the partial practice of wide circles in the church. We must therefore look back as far as the period beginning with the edict of Gallienus. But we know nothing as to whether the country bishop was in any respect subordinate to the city bishop from the first (especially in the matter of ordination). A priori, it is unlikely that he was. To all these questions we are probably to return a negative answer in general, though an affirmative may perhaps be true in one or two cases. Certainty we cannot reach. At least, in spite of repeated efforts, I have not myself succeeded in gaining any sure footing. Frequently the facts of the situation may have operated quite as strongly as the rights of the case; i.e., an 479individual bishop may have exercised rights at first, and for a considerable period, without possessing any title thereto, but simply as the outcome of a strong position held either on personal grounds or on account of the civic repute and splendour of his town churches.829829One recollects at this point, e.g., the second epistle of Cyprian, mentioned already on pp. 175, which tells how the Carthaginian church was prepared to undertake the support of an erstwhile teacher of the dramatic art, if his own church was not in a position to do so. It is clear that the Carthaginian church or bishop would acquire a superior position amid the sister provincial churches, if cases of this kind occurred again and again. Compare also the sixty-second epistle, in which the Carthaginian church not only subscribes 100,000 sesterces towards the emancipation of Christians in Africa who had been carried off captives by the barbarians, but also expresses herself ready to send still more in case of need [cp. pp. 175 f., 301]. It is well known that the repute of the Roman church and its bishops was increased by such donations, which were bestowed frequently even on remote churches. The state provincial organization and administration, with the importance which it lent to individual towns, may have also begun here and there to affect the powers of individual bishops in individual provinces by way of aggranizenient.830830The instructive investigations of Lübeck (“Reichseinteilung und kirchliche Hierarchie des Orients,” in Kirchengeschichtliche Studien, herausgeg. von Knöpfler, Schrörs, and Sdralek, Bd. v. Heft 4, 1901) afford many suggestions on this point. But all this pertains, probably, to the sphere of those elements in the situation which we may term “irrational,” elements which do not admit of generalization or of any particular application to ecclesiastical rights and powers within the primitive age. No evidence for the definition of the metropolitan's right of jurisdiction can be found earlier than the age in which the synodal organization had defined itself, and presupposition of such a right lay in the sturdy independence, the substantial equality, and the closely knit union of all the bishops in any given province. All the “preliminary stages” lie enveloped in mist. And the scanty rays which struggle through may readily prove deceptive will-o'-the-wisps.
These investigations into the problems connected with the History of the extension of Christianity lead to the following result, viz., that the number of bishoprics in the individual provinces of the Roman empire affords a criterion, which is essentially reliable, for estimating the strength of the Christian 480movement. The one exception is Egypt. Apart from that province, we may say that Christian communities, not episcopally organized, were quite infrequent throughout the East and the West alike during the years that elapsed between Antoninus Pius and Constantine.831831Previous to the middle of the third century I do not know of a single case (leaving out Egypt). All the evidence that has been gathered from the older period simply shows that there were Christians in the country, or that country people here and there came in to worship in the towns; evidently they had no place of worship at home, and consequently no presbyters. Furthermore the original character of the presbyter's office, a character which can be traced down into the third century, excludes any differentiation among the individual, independent presbyters, each of whom was a presbyter as being the member of a college and nothing more (cp. also Hatch-Harnack, Gesellschaft. der christlichen Kirchen, pp. 76 f., 200 f.; the right of presbyters to baptize was originally a transmitted right and nothing more. Hatch refers the rise of parishes also to a later time). I should conjecture that the organization of presbyterial village churches began first of all when the town congregation in the largest towns had been divided into presbyters' and deacons' districts, and when the individual presbyters had thus become relatively independent. In Rome this distribution emerged rather later than the middle of the third century, and originally it sprang from the division into civic quarters (not the synagogue). The necessity of having clergy appointed for the country, even where there were no bishops, emerged further throughout the East wherever a martyr's grave or even a churchyard had to be looked after (cp. the Testament of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste). Again, we know from the history of Gregory Thaumaturgus and other sources (cp. the Acta Theodoti Ancyr.) that after the middle of the third century the great movement had begun which sought to appropriate and consecrate as Christian the sacred sites and cults of paganism throughout the country, as well as to build shrines for the relics of the saints. In these cases also a presbyter, or at least a deacon, was required, in order to take care of the sanctuary. Finally, the severe persecutions of Decius, Valerian, Diocletian, and Maximinus Daza drove thousands of Christians to take refuge in the country; the last-named emperor, moreover, deliberately endeavoured to eject Christians from the towns, and condemned thousands to hard labour in the mines throughout the country. We know, thanks to the information of Dionysius of Alexandria and Eusebius that in such cases communities sprang up in the country districts for the purpose of worship; naturally these were without a bishop, unless one happened to be among their number. It may be supposed that all these circumstances combined to mature the organization of presbyterial communities, an organization which subsequently, under the countenance of the town bishops, entered upon a victorious course of rivalry with the old chor-episcopate. Frequently, however, in the country the nucleus lay, not in the community, but in the sacred sites—and such were in existence even before the adoption and consecration of pagan ones, in the shape of martyrs' graves and churchyards. These considerations lead me to side with Thomassin in the controversy between that critic and Binterim: the “country parish” did not begin its slow process of development till after about 250 A.D. On the other hand, I disagree with Thomassin in thinking that the “country episcopate” is the older of the two. It can be traced back unmistakably in Phrygia to the beginning of the Montanist controversy. For the origin of the “country parishes” cp. the recent keen investigations by Stutz and his pupil (Stutz, Gesch. Des kirchl. Benefizialwesens I., 1895; Schäfer, Pfarrkirche und Stift im deutschen Mittelalter, 1903; and Stutz's review in Gött. Gel. Anz., 1904, No. 1, pp. 1-86, of Imbart de la Tour's Les paroisses rurales du 4e au 11e siècle, 1900). Although these studies do not touch the pre-Constantine period, they need to be collated by anyone who desires to elucidate the history of the primitive organization of the church. Not only small towns, but villages also had bishops. Cyprian was practically right when he wrote to Antonian (Ep. lv. 24): “Iam pridem per omnes provincias et per 481urbes singulas ordinati sunt episcopi” (“Bishops have been for long ordained throughout all the provinces and in each city”)832832With this reservation, that in certain provinces the tendency to form independent communities proceeded more briskly than in others. This, however, is purely a matter of conjecture; it cannot be strictly proved. The Episcopal churches of the third century were most numerous in North Africa, Palestine, Syria, Asia, and Phrygia; and this tells heavily in support of the view that the Christians of these provinces were also most numerous. Africa is the one country where I should conjecture that special circumstances led to a rapid increase of independent i.e. of episcopal communities; but what those circumstances were, no one can tell. And what was unique in the age of Sozomen (H.E., vii. 19), viz., that only one bishop ruled in Scythia, though it had many towns833833When Sozomen continues: ἐν ἄλλοις δὲ ἔθνεσιν ἐστὶν ὅπη καὶ ἐν κώμαις ἐπίσκοποι ἱεροῦνται, ὡς παρὰ Ἀραβίοις καὶ Κυτρίοις ἔγνων καὶ παρὰ τῶς ἐν Φρυγίαις Ναυατιανοῖς καὶ Μοντανισταῖς [cp. above, p. 473] we see that village bishops no longer existed in most of the provinces when he wrote (c. 430 A.D.). That they had been common at an earlier period is shown by the mere fact of their survival among the Phrygian adherents of Novatian and Montanus, since these sects held fast to ancient institutions.—this would also have been unique a century and a half earlier.
In conclusion, it must be remembered that the whole of this investigation relates solely to the age between Pius and Constantine, not to the primitive period during which the monarchial episcopate first began to develop. During this period—which lasted in certain provinces till Domitian and Trajan, and in many other still longer—a collegiate government of the individual church, by means of bishops and deacons (or by means of a college of presbyters, bishops and deacons) was normal. How this passed over into the other (i.e. the monarchic control) we need not ask in this connection. But the hypothesis that wherever communities which are not 482episcopally organized are to be found throughout the third century, they are to be considered as having retained the primitive organization—this hypothesis, I repeat, is not merely incapable of proof, but incorrect. Such non-episcopal village churches are plainly recent churches, which are managed, not by a college of presbyters, but by one or two presbyters. They are “country parishes” whose official “presbyters” have nothing in common with the members of the primitive college of presbyters except the name. Here I would again recall how Egypt forms the exception to the rule, inasmuch as large Christian churches throughout Egypt still continue to be governed by the collegiate system down to the middle of the third century. Nothing prevents us, in this connection, from supposing that these churches did hold tenaciously to the primitive form of ecclesiastical organization. Yet alongside of the presbyters in Egypt, even διδάσκαλοι would seem also to have had some share in the administration of the churches (Dionys. Alex., in Eus., H.E., vii. 24).483
|« Prev||Excursus I. Ecclesiastical Organization and the…||Next »|