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THE CHURCHES CREATING THEIR MINISTRY
In approaching the subject of the ministry of the local Christian communities it may be well to note these things at the outset. We have abundant evidence of the thorough independence of the local churches during the apostolic age, whether we seek for it in the epistles of St. Paul or in the Acts of the Apostles.303303Compare what has been said on pp. 32, 33; 54-57. We must remember the uniquely Christian correlation of the three thoughts of leadership, service and “gifts”; leadership depends on service, and service is rendered possible by the bestowal of “gifts” of the Spirit which enable the recipients to serve their brethren.304304Compare what has been said on pp. 62 ff. The possession of these “gifts” of the Spirit was the evidence of the presence of Jesus within the community, and gave the brotherhood a divine authority to exercise rule and oversight in the absence of any authoritative formal prescriptions about a definite form of government.305305Compare p. 33 and pp. 69 ff. We have also to bear in mind the general evidence which exists to show that there was a gradual growth of the associative principle from looser to more compact forms of organization.306306This growth of the associative principle is seen in the names given to believers as a united company. The earliest title was disciples (μαθηταὶ); which implied that Jesus, their Lord, was also their teacher, and their only teacher-for Jesus expressly forbade His followers calling any one but Himself Master, Teacher, Father or Lord (Matt. xxiii. 8-10); and the command was repeated by St. Paul when he forbade the Christians of Corinth to call themselves the followers of any of the apostles (1 Cor; iii. 3-9): The name Teacher, with the corresponding term disciples, lingered long in a sporadic way in Christian literature (for example in Justin Martyr, Apol. i. 13), and in Sources of the Apostolic Canons, vi. p. 23), and the word disciples occurs frequently in the Acts of the Apostles. It is a name which suggests a purely personal relationship to Jesus, and it was soon displaced in favour of other designations which implied association among the followers of Jesus. Among them we may select the terms saints, brethren, the people of the Way. The last mentioned—οἱ τῆς ὁδοῦ ὄντες—is specially interesting. It suggests a common worship and therefore an organization for worship. It implies groups of men and women, who, though far apart from each other, are united in spite of intervening space by the ties of a common worship. The Christians in Damascus and by implication those in Jerusalem, are so called (Acts ix. 2; xxii. 4). It was the name given to the Christians at Ephesus (Acts xxiv. 14); it was applied by St. Paul to himself when justifying the special services of the Christian worship as distinguished from the Jewish (Acts xxiv. 14). St. Paul himself usually employs the terms saints or brethren when he speaks of his fellow Christians. The brethren or the saints who form an independent community, whether in a house or in a town or in a province, are called by St. Paul a Church; and he, in his epistles to the Galatians and to the Corinthians, uses the same word to denote all the brethren, wherever they may be. These two terms saints and brethren are, like the phrase those of the Way; collective, and imply organization of some kind or other. When the brethren or the saints met together for worship the meeting or the building in which they met was frequently called a synagogue (James ii. 2), and this word was used not only by the judaising Christians (Epiphanius, xxx. 18); but also by the Marcionites, though they were the Christians furthest removed from the Jewish believers in Jesus. The oldest inscription stating that the building on which it is carved was used as a Christian place of worship comes from Syria, and states that the erection was a Marcionist church: Συναγωγὴ Μαρκιωνιστῶν κώμης Λεβάηων τοῦ Κυρίου καὶ Σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. It dates from 318 A.D. (Compare Le Bas and Waddington, Inscriptions No. 2558, iii. 583). Compare Weizsäcker; The Apostolic Age, i. 45-8 (Eng. Trans.). Harnack Texte und Untersuchungen, II. v. p. 25, or English Translation, Sources of the Apostolic Canons, p. 22, n. 10, for the use of Teacher. For the general question of designations, cf. Harnack, Expositor, 1887, Jan.-June, pp. 322-4. Nor should it be forgotten that the members 114of these earliest congregations of believers were well acquainted with social organization of various kinds which entered into their daily life in the world. When we remember these facts it need not surprise us that though in the end the organization of all the churches was, so far as we can see, pretty much the same, this common form of government may have arisen independently and from a variety of roots which may at least be guessed 115if they cannot be proved. There are traces of several primitive types of organization within the churches of the apostolic age.
The first notice we have of organization within a local church is given us in the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles when, at the suggestion of the apostles, seven men were chosen for what is called the service of tables. This took place probably in the year 34 A.D. These men were selected and set apart to take care of the poor and to administer the charity of the congregation.
It is too often forgotten that this service had not the second-rate importance which now belongs to it in ecclesiastical organization. It is plain that in apostolic times the primary duty overshadowing all others, was that those who had this world’s goods should help their poorer brethren who had need. The sayings of our Lord were ringing in their ears: “If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven”; “Every one that hath left houses and lands for My name’s sake shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit eternal life”;307307Matt. xix. 21, 23; 29. “Seek ye His kingdom, and these things shall be added unto you . . . sell that ye have and give alms; make for yourselves purses which wax not old.”308308Luke xii. 31-33. Their devotion to the invisible God was to manifest itself in practical love to the visible brethren.3093091 John iv. 20. The first duty of presbyters, according to Polycarp, was to be compassionate and merciful, “visiting all the infirm, not neglecting a widow or an orphan or a poor man”;310310Polycarp, Philippians, 6. and he calls widows “God’s altar”—a phrase repeated by Tertullian.311311Polycarp, Philippians, 4. θυσιαστήριον Θεοῦ. Tertullian, Ad Uxor. i. 7: aram Dei. The phrase θυσιαστήριον Θεοῦ is used in the Apostolic Constitutions to denote widows, orphans and the poor aided by the congregation. ii. 26: “Let the widows and orphans be esteemed as representing the altar of burnt-offering”; iv. 3: “But an orphan who, by reason of his youth, or he that by feebleness of old age, or the incidence of disease, or the bringing up of many children, receives alms . . . shall be esteemed an altar to God.” The phrase is almost always accompanied with the thought that those who receive alms are to pray for their benefactors. 116These men were chosen to fill the highest administrative position which the Church could give, and were to take charge in the name of the community of the most sacred of all ecclesiastical duties. The office instituted was required by the ordinary and permanent needs of the Christian society, for the Lord had said that the poor were always to be with them.312312Dr. Hatch in his Organization of the Early Christian Churches, pp. 32-36 (1st ed.), has, I think, exaggerated somewhat the pauperism of the early centuries throughout the Roman Empire; but the case of Jerusalem must have been peculiar. The population of the city was largely supported by the profits the citizens made from the crowds of pilgrims who came from all parts of the Jewish Dispersion to the great festivals. Conversion to the Christian faith must have deprived the converts of this means of support and brought them into a chronic state of poverty.
A few years later we read of money collected outside Palestine and brought for distribution among the poor of the Church in Jerusalem by Barnabas and Saul, who placed it in the hands of men who are called elders or presbyters. Unless we are to believe that the appointment of the seven was a merely temporary expedient, it is only natural to suppose that the duty of distributing money among the poor was performed by the men who were appointed by the Church to do it, or by others appointed in the same way and for the same purpose; and the natural inference is that the Seven of Acts vi. were the elders of Acts xi., and that we have in the narrative the account of the beginnings of the organization as a whole in the Church at Jerusalem, and not merely the institution of a special order of the Christian ministry.313313Dr. Lightfoot calls the attempt to identify the Seven with the elders afterwards mentioned in the church at Jerusalem a “strange perversity,” although it has the support of Boehmer (Diss. Jur. Eccl. p. 373 ff.), of Ritschl (Entstehung der Altkatholisch. Kirche, 2nd ed., p. 355 ff.), and of Lange (Apostol. Zeitalt. ii. 75), and Gwatkin regards the idea as a possible one (Hastings’ Bible Dictionary, i. 440, 574); it appears to me that it must be made unless we suppose that the appointment of the Seven was a merely temporary expedient to provide for an immediate necessity, or discredit the narrative altogether, which is what not even such a destructive critic as Schmiedel is inclined to do (Encyc. Biblica, art. Community of Goods, i. 879, 880).117
The Church in Jerusalem appointed seven men. The apostles suggested the number. “Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men.”314314Acts vi. 3. They are never called deacons; the Seven is the technical name they were known by. Philip, one of them, is not called “Philip the Deacon,” but “Philip one of the Seven.”315315Acts xxi. 8. Why this name? To say with Dr. Lightfoot that the number is mystical is scarcely an explanation, and it is not likely that it was merely haphazard. The Hebrew village community was ruled by a small corporation of seven men,316316Josephus, Antiq. IV. viii. 14, 38; Bell. Jud. II. xx. 5. Compare Schürer, Gesch. d. Jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalt. Jesu Christi (1898), ii. 178 (3rd ed.). Schürer quotes from the Talmud, Megilla, 26a, where the “Seven” of the town also appear. as the Hindu village is managed by the council of the Five or the Punchayat. The Seven was a title as well known in Palestine as the Five is now in India. The Church in Jerusalem, in founding their official council of administration, created an entirely new organization required by the needs of the young community, but one which brought with it associations which had deep roots in the past social life of the people. Modern missionary enterprise, which has the same problems of organization before it as confronted primitive Christianity, frequently sheds light on the procedure of the latter. The Church of Scotland (Established) missionaries at Darjeeling, who have based the organization of their native church on the Hindu Punchayat; the missionaries of the Presbyterian Church of England, who have laid hold on the village representative system in China; Bishop Patteson, who made a similar use of the native organizations in the South Seas—have all unconsciously followed in the footsteps of the apostles when they suggested the Jewish village government as a basis for the organization of the primitive Church in Jerusalem.
This earliest example of Christian ecclesiastical organization 118contains in it three interesting elements—apostolic guidance and sanction; the self-government and independence of the community evinced in the responsibility for good government laid upon the whole membership; and, as a result, a representative system of administration suggested by the every-day surroundings of the people.
When we trace the expansion of Christianity and the creation of Christian communities outside Jerusalem, we have no such distinct picture of the beginnings of their organization as is given in Acts vi., but there are indications of what took place. The preaching of the Gospel gave rise to Christian communities in various parts of Palestine which regarded the Church at Jerusalem as their common mother church, and all these communities together made the Church of God which St. Paul persecuted.317317Gal. i. 13; 1Cor. xv. 9. It is probable also that when this Judeo-Christianity spread beyond the bounds of Palestine throughout Syria and Cilicia,318318Gal. i. 22. the community in the capital of Judaism, presided over by its college of office-bearers with St. James at their head, was regarded as the mother church and the centre of the whole movement. They had before them the example of Judaism which appeared one visible whole centred in the great council. of the elders in Jerusalem.
Further, the Acts of the Apostles relates that Paul and Barnabas left behind them at Derbe, Lystra and Iconium, communities of Christians with elders at their head. We are told that the apostles “appointed for them elders in every church.”319319Acts xiv. 23: χειροτονήσαντες δὲ αὐτοῖς πρεσβυτέρους κατ᾽ ἐκκλησίαν. The word, χειροτονήσαντες, means strictly to elect by popular vote. It suggests that Paul and Barnabas followed the example of their brethren at Jerusalem. and suggested and superintended an election of office-bearers, and the title “elders” (πρεσβύτεροι) was probably derived from the Church of Jerusalem. It need not have been so, however, for the word was common enough among the Greeks, and the more mature men in the congregations 119would be naturally selected.320320Deissmann, Bib. Studies (Eng. Trans.), pp. 154-157: The names which afterwards came to denote fixed offices in the Church have all general as well as technical uses, and this adds greatly to the difficulty of investigation. A second and very different type of organization, though capable of being joined with the first, also comes to us from the primitive Church in Jerusalem. The accounts of the earliest condition of the Church, whether taken from the Acts of the Apostles or from the Epistles of St. Paul, reveal an independent self-governing community under the guidance of the apostles St. Peter and St. John. The leadership of these two apostles is conspicuous throughout the first eleven chapters of the Book of Acts. Then there is a sudden change which is quite unexplained, and in the twelfth chapter (ver. 17) and onwards St. James, the brother of our Lord, is seen to be in a position of pre-eminence.321321Acts xii. 17; xv. 13; xxi. 18; GaL i. 19; ii. 9, 12. This is confirmed by later tradition, Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. II. i. 2, 3. The letters of St. Paul also reveal the change, but equally give no hint of when it took place or of the causes which led to it. But if canonical Scripture tells us nothing about the reasons for the change, tradition and early Church history have a good deal to say about it. It is quite impossible to explain the continuous and marked influence of St. James, on any theory of the organization of the Church at Jerusalem which makes it borrow its constitution from the Jewish Synagogue system. When we read the story of the election of his successors we have suggestions of another and very different organization. The James, who was the recognized and honoured head of the community in Jerusalem, was the eldest male surviving relative of our Lord.322322Matt. xiii. 55; Mark vi. 3; Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. I. xii. 4; II. i. 2, 3; III. xi. 1. We are told by Eusebius, quoting, it can hardly be doubted, from Hegesippus, that after the martyrdom of St. James and the fall of Jerusalem, the remaining apostles and personal disciples of our Lord, with those that were related to our Lord according to the flesh, the greater part of them being yet living, met together 120and unanimously selected Symeon to fill the vacant place.323323Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. III. xi. 1, 2. In another passage he says that Symeon was the son of Clopas our Lord’s paternal uncle, and adds that “he was put forward by all as the second in succession, being the cousin of the Lord”; in a third he speaks of “the child of the Lord’s paternal uncle, the aforesaid Symeon, son of Clopas,” and in a fourth he tells us that Hegesippus relates that Clopas was “the brother of Joseph.”324324Ibid. xi. 1, 2; xxxii. 4; IV. xxii. 4. In short he dwells pertinaciously on the natural kinship between the head of the primitive Christianity in Jerusalem and our Lord. The last glimpse we have of our Lord’s kinsfolk has been recorded by the same gossipy writer, who made it his business to preserve such details, and it reveals them at the head of the Jewish Christian community. He tells us that in the fifteenth year of the Emperor Domitian “there still survived kinsmen of the Lord, grandsons of Judas, who was called the Lord’s brother according to the flesh.” They were dragged to Rome and brought before the Emperor. He questioned them. They showed him their hands horny with holding the plough, and said that their whole wealth amounted to about 9,000 denarii, the value of thirty-nine acres (πλέθρα) of land, which they cultivated themselves and on which they paid taxes. The Emperor contemptuously sent them back to Palestine, and there they were made the rulers of the Church because they had been martyrs and were of the lineage of the Lord. They lived till the reign of Trajan, and their names were James and Zoker.325325Ibid. III. xx. 1-8: τοὺς δὲ ἀπολυθέντας ἡγήσασθαι τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν, ὡσὰν δὴ μάρτυρας ὁμοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ γένους ὄντας τοῦ Κυρίου. For the names of the two young men, see the ecclesiastical historian Philippus of Side, in the fragment printed in Cramer, Anecdota Graeca, ii. 88.
A succession in the male line of the kindred of Jesus, where the eldest male relative of the founder succeeds, where the election to office is largely regulated by a family council, and where two can rule together, has no analogy with any form of 121organization known in the Christian Church. But the type of organization is easily recognizable. It was, and is to this day, a common Oriental usage that the headship of a religious society is continued in the line of the founder’s kindred according to Eastern line of succession, from eldest male surviving relative to eldest male surviving relative, whether brother, uncle, son or cousin. Here again we have a Christian community organizing itself, and that under apostolic sanction, on a plan borrowed from familiar social custom.326326Dr. Harnack thinks that the position assigned to the “relatives of our Lord” in the choice of the head of the community shows that the thought of Jesus as the “Teacher” had given place to the conception of “king”; but according to Oriental usage it is precisely the position of a religious “teacher” which is transmitted in the line of the founder’s kinsfolk. Compare Expositor, 1887, Jan.-June, p. 326.
When we turn to the churches which owed their being to the apostolic work of St. Paul, we find the independence and self-government evidently taken for granted and formulated in principles laid down by the apostle in his epistles. The churches at Rome and at Corinth were churches because the presence and power of Christ were manifested within the Christian fellow-ship in a series of “gifts,” which provided everything necessary for their corporate life as churches, organized according to any form of self-government which recommended itself to them. There is not a trace of the idea that the churches had to be organized from above in virtue of powers conferred by our Lord officially and specially upon certain of their members. On the contrary the power from above, which was truly there, was in the community, a direct gift from the Master Himself.
We find in the earlier Epistles3273271 and 2 Thessalonians written about 48-52 A.D.; 1 Corinthians and Galatians written about 53-55 A.D; 2 Corinthians written about 53-56 A.D.; Romans written about 54-67 A.D. of St. Paul traces of men who exercised rule or at least leadership of some kind within the churches.328328Compare above pp. 60 ff. They may have been elected office-bearers or they may have been men who, without being office-bearers in the 122strict sense of the words, performed services necessary for the well being of the community such as office-bearers are accustomed to do.
Even in the case of the simplest and smallest Christian communities certain services must always be rendered to the whole fellowship. Some one must provide a room for the meetings, take care of the Scriptures and other books required for the acts of public worship, keep the records of the society. The meetings need a president, if only for the time being. There is also need for services which may be called spiritual. Some one must see that brotherly intercourse is maintained, that quarrels are avoided, and that persons at variance are reconciled. The sick have to be visited, inquirers and the young have to be instructed and encouraged in the faith. Some persons have to see to all these things. They will naturally season their work with advice, admonition, warning, and encouragement. The men who begin to do these things from their love to the cause and the work naturally go on doing them; and their activity which was at first purely personal and voluntary, tends to become recognized and official. This is what may be seen on any mission field in the present day, especially in such lands as China and India, where Christianity is doing aggressive work among a civilized people habituated to work together in a society. The epistles of St. Paul reveal the same state of things. The men who are to be honoured as leaders are those who work for their brethren and put some heart into their labour (οἱ κοπιῶντες ἐν ὑμῖν). Their work might include exhortation and admonition, for the term applied to them by St. Paul is the word he used to describe his own labours,3293291 Cor. xv. 10: “I laboured (ἐκοπίασα) more abundantly than they all.” Gal. iv. 11: “Lest by any means I have bestowed labour (κεκοπίακα) upon you in vain.” or it might be work of some other kind.330330Rom. xvi. 6, 12; where providing for material wants seems to be the meaning. Whatever it was, it was necessary for the foundation, growth and stability of the infant churches. The men 123who laboured in these ways were the natural leaders of the community, for leadership was to be based on service, and the apostle declared that they were to be “esteemed highly for their work’s sake.”3313311 Thess. v. 13. These workers, as is the case in modern missions, were the first converts, like Stephanas,3323321 Cor. xvi. 15, 19, cf. Acts xviii. 2, 26; Clement, 1 Epistle, xlii. 4. or the men who had given their houses for the meetings of the brethren.333333Rom. xvi. 5, 10, 11, 14, 15; 1 Cor. xvi. 19; Col. iv. 15; Philem. 2. These brethren were to have the pre-eminence, and were to be obeyed for their work’s sake.3343341 Cor. xvi. 16.
These natural leaders receive a special name in the epistles to the Romans and to the Thessalonians. They are called “those who are over you in the Lord.” The word is προϊστάμενοι; and the term has a history, and would at all events suggest a special kind of relationship between leaders and led. It suggested the relation of patron and client, of προστάτης and μέτοικος, familiar enough in Rome and in Thessalonica, which no longer bore the old strictly legal meaning, but which in a less definite sense permeated the whole social life of the times. The word or a cognate one (προεστὼς) lingered long in the Roman Church. It is found in the writings of Hermas, the Roman presbyter, and was used by Justin Martyr when he wished to explain the organization of a Christian congregation to a Roman Emperor.335335We find the series of related words:—προϊστάμενος, προϊστάμενοι (used as a noun), προστάτις, προστάτης and προεστὼς, Rom. xii. 8; xvi. 2; 1 Thess. v. 12; Hermas, Pastor, Vis. ii. 4; Justin, i. Apol. lxv; lxvii. The term προστάτης was used technically in Greek city life (and Thessalonica in Paul’s time was a Greek city which had been permitted by the Romans to retain its ancient Greek constitution) to denote those citizens who undertook to care for and rule over the μέτοικοι, or persons who had no civic rights. It denoted technically the Roman relation of patron and client and what corresponded thereto in Greek social life. The word was used by Plutarch to translate the Latin patronus (Plutarch, Rom. 13; Mar. 5). Clement, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, applies the word in three different places to denote our Lord: “the Patron and Helper of our weakness” (xxxvi. 1); the Highpriest and Patron of our souls” (lxi. 3; lxiv.). It was the custom that the Roman confraternities, especially those among the poorer classes, had a “patron” or “patrons,” who were frequently ladies of rank and wealth; compare Liebenam, Zur Gesch. und Organis. d. roem. Vereinswesens, pp. 213-18. The Jewish synagogues in Rome, which externally resembled the pagan confraternities for religious cults, not only had patrons but called their synagogues by their names; Schürer, Die Gemeindeverfassung der Juden in Rom in der Kaiserzeit, p. 15 f., 31. It is probable that Phoebe, who is called by St. Paul a “patroness of himself and of many” (Rom. xvi. 1-3), had a position of this kind at Cenchrea, and that this was the service she had rendered. 124Archaeological investigation has proved how families among the privileged Roman aristocracy were the patrons of their poorer Christian brethren. The “church in the house” was not necessarily a “kitchen meeting.” The investigations of the late Commendatore de Rossi have shown us that the Christian faith made its way at a very early period into the families of some of the noblest and wealthiest Romans. They could, and probably did, open their houses to their poorer brethren and give their great audience halls (basilica) for the worship of the common brotherhood, interposing the protection of the legal sacredness of their private life as a shield on all who joined in their devotions.336336“Nam servis, respublica et quasi civitas, domus est,” Pliny Ep. viii. 16. Congregational meetings of this kind had the appearance of an assembly of powerful patrons and their humble clients, and thus took the form of a well recognized condition of Roman social life in all its ramifications. This idea is con-firmed by the shape of the earliest Roman churches, which, as has been before remarked, resemble the audience hall of the wealthy Roman burgher. When buildings were erected for the exclusive use of the Christian worship in happier days, the architects naturally copied the arrangement of the buildings they had been used to, and unconsciously transmitted architectural proof of the churchly organization of earlier times. Here, for a third time, we can see the Christian fellowship organizing itself under social usages well understood by the members of the infant brotherhood.125
In the Epistles to the Corinthians, while we find exhortations to obey, we do not find any words which designate those to whom obedience is due; nor have we any description of the organization which prevailed in the Corinthian Church, nor any advice given by the apostle about what it ought to be. The Christians of Corinth lived amidst so many forms of associated life that if organization was to be worked out by the congregation for itself, they would naturally have more aptitude for it than most Christian communities. For the people of Corinth were accustomed to confraternities of all kinds, and above all to private religious associations for the practice of special cults. Under the universal state religion of the Roman Empire there were innumerable religions with their different forms of worship. The state religion had its colleges of priesthoods, its great temples and its public sacrifices; these private religions had their associations for the performance of their peculiar rites. The Jewish synagogues of the Dispersion were enrolled as private religious societies, and seemed to their heathen neighbours to be one out of many kinds of institutions for the practice of a religion admitted to be lawful (religio licita), although it was the faith of only a small minority of their neighbours.
of these confraternities, as far as the western division of the Empire is concerned,
is known in a general way; and although it differed in details in different
societies, certain common features can be recognized. The confraternities were
thoroughly democratic to the extent of admitting slaves to be members provided
their masters gave consent. The confraternity was regarded as a great family,
and the associates called each other “brothers” and “sisters.” They had a
common meal at stated times. They paid a monthly subscription to the common
fund (stips menstrua). They
were permitted to make their own laws provided nothing was enacted which came
into collision with the regulations of the State. These confraternities elected
their own office-bearers, who were commonly called decuriones;
and the society was strictly divided
126into office-bearers and commons, though occasionally we find an intermediate class of honoured persons.337337This finds its parallel in the honoured class which existed
in the Christian congregations of the early centuries, and who ranked between
the clergy and the people—the confessors, martyrs, widows, virgins.
The confraternities exercised discipline over their members and inflicted fines
in money and in kind for offences. A book was kept (album)
containing the names of all the associates. Women were members of a large number of these
confraternities, more especially of the burial clubs.338338This peculiarity has descended
to modern times; it is not very easy, those who have tried it say, to induce
women to form trades unions, but they are always ready to become members of
burial clubs. Their places of meeting
were generally called scholae,339339”The σχολὴ Τυράννου” (Acts xix. 9) was probably such a place—the
meeting place of a confraternity, and named after the patron of the “gild”
according to a usual practice, with a hall which could be hired when not needed
for the meetings of the society.
because they were the scenes of leisure and re-creation, though the words
curia and basilica are sometimes
found (the Greek word is almost always οἶκος).
had their common meals and their business meetings; the two were never held
together. “Item,” says a decretum,
quis quid queri aut referre volet, in conventu referat, ut quieti et hilares
diebus solemnis epulemur.” Almost all these confraternities had a patron or
a patroness, who was always elected by acclamation and never by a mere majority
of votes. Sometimes we hear of confraternities belonging to or having their
seat in a private house,340340The “collegium quod est in domu Sergiae Paulinae” corresponds to “the church
which is in the house of Philemon.”
consisting probably of the servants or slaves of the mansion. Almost all these
confraternities, like their lineal descendants the “gilds” of mediaeval times,
whether in England or on the Continent, had a distinctly religious side even
when they were not formed for the express purpose of practising a foreign cult.
They placed themselves under the protection of some deity or deities—merchants
honoured Mercury; the dealers in grain, Ceres and the Nymphs; the wine‑dealers,
127Liber; the weavers and spinners, Minerva; and the fishermen, Neptune, etc.—and
paintings of the protecting deity and images of the emperors adorned the walls
of the Schola.341341 For the confraternities which existed in the Graeco-Roman world, compare: Foucart,
Des Associations Religieuses chez les Grecs (1873); Lüders, Die dionysischen Künstler (1873); Ziebarth,
Das Griechische Vereinswesen (1895), the fullest and most accurate for the Greek associations; Mommsen,
De collegiis et sodaliciis (1843); Gérard, De corporations ouvriéres à Rome (1884); Boissier,
La religion romaine d’Auguste aux Antonins (1878), ii. 292 ff.; Cohn,
Zum römischen Vereinsrecht (1873); Liebenam, Zur Geschichte und Organisation des roömischen Vereinswesen (1890),
the fullest and most accurate.
For the relation of these confraternities to the primitive Christian organization, compare: Renan, Les Apôtres (1866), p. 351 ff.; Heinrici, Zeitschrift für wissenschaftlichen Theologie (1876), pp. 465 ff.; (1877) pp. 89 ff; Theologischen Studien und Kritiken (1881), pp. 556 ff.; Weingarten, in his preface to Rothe’s Vorlesungen über Kirchengeschichte (1876), p. xiv.; and in Sybel’s Historische Zeitschrift, vol. xlv. (1881), pp. 441 ff.; Hatch, The Organization of the Early Christian Churches (1881), p. 36 ff.; Holtzmann, Die Pastoralbriefe (1880), pp. 194-202; Loening, Die Gemeindeverfassung des Urchristenthums (1889), p. 8 ff.; and Geschichte des deutsehes Kirchenrechts (1878), i. pp. 195-210; Liebenam, as above, pp. 264-274; Schmiedel, Encyclopædia Biblica (1902), pp. 3110-1; Ziebarth, as above, pp. 126-132; Réville, Les Origines de l’Episcopat (1894), pp. 180-194.
A large number of the Christian converts must have belonged to these confraternities before their conversion; many maintained their places as members after their entrance into the Christian Church in spite of all the efforts of masterful ecclesiastics, like Cyprian of Carthage and some bishops of Rome, to prevent the practice.342342Cyprian’s Epistles, lxvii. 6: “Martialis also, besides frequenting the disgraceful and filthy banquets of the Gentiles in their collegium, and placing his sons in the same collegium, after the manner of foreign nations, among profane sepulchres, and burying them together with strangers . . . such persons attempt to claim for themselves the episcopate in vain; since it is evident that men of that kind may neither rule over the Christian Church, nor ought to offer sacrifices to God, especially since Cornelius, our colleague, a peaceable and righteous priest, and moreover honoured by the condescension of the Lord with martyrdom, has long ago decreed with us, and with all the bishops appointed throughout all the world, that men of this sort might indeed be admitted to repentance, but were prohibited from the ordination of the clergy and from the priestly honour. “Martialis was bishop of Astorga or of Merida in Spain, and was a libellaticus. They must have known how the associations were 128organized, and they must have carried that knowledge with them into Christianity. They were likely to make use of that knowledge in the interests of the new faith to which they had attached themselves.
This line of argument may easily be pressed too far. Scholars like Renan, Heinrici, Hatch and Weingarten, to say nothing of Schmiedel,343343Encyclopædia Biblica, iii. 3110-3111. Schmiedel seems to exaggerate the connexion between the confraternities and the Christian societies when he refuses to see any connexion between the latter and the Jewish communities and their synagogue system. have pushed the relation which they think subsisted between the heathen confraternities and the organization of the primitive Gentile Christian communities much further than the evidence seems to warrant. Nothing that they have brought forward bears out the idea that the Christian societies were framed on the model of these pagan confraternities. On the contrary, all the evidence laboriously accumulated to establish the similarity between the Christian organization and that of the pagan confraternities, has not produced many points of resemblance which are not the common property of all forms of social organization.344344The points of similarity which Heinrici has endeavoured to establish between the Christian community at Corinth and the pagan confraternities do not amount to mere than this; Hatch has certainly overrated the evidence he has brought forward that episcopi were finance officials in the confraternities; points of resemblance found in the records of Greek associations for religious purposes are almost entirely taken from pre-Christian times, and it is forgotten that under the imperial rule the constitutions and formations of confraternities for all purposes were entirely altered and that we know almost nothing about these confraternities in the eastern provinces of the Empire during the first century and a half of the imperial rule. What can be shown is, that to an outsider there was an external resemblance of the most general kind between the Christian communities and the confraternities; and this can be proved only in a general way: Pliny wrote to Trajan that he had meant to proceed against the Christians of Bithynia as belonging to an illicit confraternity (Ep. 96 (97)); Tertullian in his Apology plainly pleads for the recognition of the Christian Churches as lawful confraternities; Bishop Zephyrinus succeeded in getting the Roman church recognized as a burial club in the end of the second century; and Lucian, in his Peregrines Proteus, describes Peregrinus while a Christian in words which would be applicable to the official of a Greek confraternity for religious purposes (θιασάρχης), which would imply that he looked on the Christian community as θίασος or an association for the promotion of a private cult. Compare Liebenam, Die Geschichte and Organisation des römischen Vereinswesen, pp. 264-74, and Ziebarth, Griechische Vereinswesen, pp. 126-32. The primitive Christian communities 129organized themselves independently in virtue of the new moral and social life that was implanted within them; but they did not disdain to take any hints about organization which would be of service from the pagan associations to which they had been accustomed.
Here then we have, not a fourth type, but a fourth root of early Christian organization.
A fifth may be found in the Jewish synagogues of the Dispersion; for many of the converts must have been Jews, or Gentiles who had become Jewish proselytes. The communities of the Jewish people scattered over the Roman Empire occupied very different positions in different places. In Alexandria and in Cyrene they had acquired almost complete political independence, and formed one large and separate community distinct from the surrounding population. In Rome, they had no rights that could be called political, and were divided into a number of separate communities apparently quite independent the one of the others.
Everywhere however throughout the Roman Empire, thanks to the legislation of Julius Caesar and Augustus, the Jews had acquired complete legal protection for their religion.345345Both Julius Caesar and his nephew aid successor began legislation against the confraternities that abounded; but the Jewish communities were recognized by them as lawful confraternities. This had been held to include the right to administer their property within their own communities according to their own laws, and to have a limited jurisdiction over their own members. 130Thus even where they had the fewest political rights the Jewish communities were always recognized as lawful associations permitted to practise the rites of a religio licita. The unit of the Jewish organization was the synagogue. In Alexandria the syngagogues seem to have been united under a common council; but in Rome, as has been said, the synagogues were independent associations, each having its own council, its own president, and its own office-bearers.346346These synagogue communities were sometimes named after their patrons—the “synagogue of the clients of Augustus,” of Agrippa, of Volumnus; sometimes after the quarter of Rome where they stood—the synagogue of Campus Martius, of the Subura, etc.; sometimes after the occupations of the members—the synagogue of the burners of lime. Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi (3rd ed. 1898), iii. 44-7. The privileges of administering their own property and of exercising jurisdiction over their own members, made these synagogues as much civil as religious communities, and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between the two sides. At the head of each community was a council, the γερουσία, with a president, the γερουσιάρχης; the official leaders of the community were called ἄρχοντες, and these archons were commonly elected for a term of years and sometimes for life.347347The term “elder,” which one expects, is not found in inscriptions nor in laws until the fourth century; archon is found almost universally. Schürer seems to think that the members of the gerusia were the elders and that they were not office-bearers, but the honoured heads of the community by whom the archons were appointed. If so this would be a parallel to what Harnack believes to be the organization of the early Christian communities, where the elders were not office-bearers but honoured persons from whom the episcopi were chosen. They were purely civil officials; they decided questions of property; they had some criminal jurisdiction; and they were permitted to punish disobedience. The communities had also almoners—at least three, who are commonly classed among the ecclesiastical office-bearers, but whose work was almost purely civil. The only purely ecclesiastical office was that of ἀρχισυνάγωγος. All the actions of public worship, reading the Scriptures, preaching, praying, 131were performed by the private members, and it was the duty of the official to select those who were to take part in the services. Some synagogues had more than one ἀρχισυνάγωγος, and in later times the title must have become an honorary one, for we find it given to women and to boys. Besides this purely ecclesiastical official there was the “servant of the synagogue” (ὑπηρέτης), who seems to have combined the offices of school-master, beadle and public executioner; he taught the children, brought in and removed the copies of Scripture used in public worship, and corporal punishment for misdeeds was administered by him.348348For the organization of the Jewish synagogue system, compare Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi (3rd ed. 1898), ii. pp. 427-463 (Eng. Trans. ii. 55-68, 243-270); also his Gemeindeverfassung der Juden in Rom in der Kaiserzeit (1879); Vitringa, De Synagoga vetere (1696).
However the internal organization of these Jewish communities differed from the pagan confraternities, their external appearance was such that they were undoubtedly classed among them, and by the names they gave their officials and by some of their customs they would appear to have tried to carry out the likeness as far as possible.349349Schürer notes these customs among others: the Greek communes were accustomed to honour with garlands and with special seats at the public entertainments their public benefactors, the leaders of the synagogues voted garlands and front seats in the synagogues to theirs; slaves were set free in the temples, among the Jews they were brought to the synagogues; women were honoured with titles—presbytera, mater synagogae, archisynagogos. As for the names of office-bearers, none of them are exclusively Jewish; even ἀρχισυνάγωγος has a pagan use so common that it is impossible to say that it is of strictly Jewish origin.
This synagogue organization has some points in common with that of the early Christian communities, and these were probably taken over into Christianity, but the differences were so great that it is impossible to say that the one organization comes from the other. Whether we regard its connexion with the pagan confraternities on the one hand, or with the Jewish synagogues on the other, it may be said that the organization 132of the Christian communities proceeded by a path peculiar to themselves. Starting from the simplest forms of combination they framed their ministry to serve their own needs in accordance with what they saw was best fitted for their own peculiar work.350350Schürer, Theologische Literaturzeitung for 1879, pp. 544-6. This did not mean that the training acquired in pagan confraternity or in Jewish synagogue was altogether without effect on the members of the infant Christian churches, or that usages suitable for their purposes were not adopted; but it does mean that the organization of the primitive Gentile churches was not a copy either of pagan confraternity or of Jewish synagogue. What is to be insisted upon is that, on the supposition that the apostles did not prescribe any definite form of Church government (and there is not only no evidence that they did, but the indications are all the other way), the Christians of Corinth and of other cities in the East and in the West were sufficiently acquainted with forms of social organization to be able to organise their communities in such a way that the possibilities of rule and service which lay in the possession of those gifts of the Spirit that manifested the presence of Christ, could find free exercise for the benefit and edification of the whole community.
One thing, however, in this connexion must not be forgotten, as it often is. The infant Christian churches came into being in the Graeco-Roman world at a time when the imperial policy was extremely jealous of any forms of social organization, and when its officials were on the watch to prevent any new development of the principle. Julius Caesar, on political grounds, had suppressed all confraternities except those of ancient origin,351351Suetonius, Caesar, 42: Cuncta collegia, praeter antiquitus constituta, distraxit. but, also from motives of policy, had expressly excepted the Jewish synagogues.352352Josephus, Antiquitates, XIV. x. 8: “Julius Caius, praetor of Rome, to the magistrates, senate and people of the Parians, sendeth greeting. The Jews of Delos, and some other Jews that sojourn there, in the presence of your ambassadors, signified to us, that, by a decree of yours you forbid them to make use of the customs of their forefathers and their way of sacred worship. Now it does not please me that such decrees should be made against our friends and confederates, whereby they are forbidden to live according to their own customs, or to bring in contributions for common suppers and holy festivals, while they are not forbidden to do so even in Rome itself; for even Caius Caesar, our imperator and consul, in that decree wherein he forbade the Bacchanal rioters to meet in the city, did yet permit these Jews, and these only, both to bring in their contributions, and to make their common suppers. Accordingly when I forbid other Bacchanal rioters I permit these Jews to gather themselves together, according to the customs and laws of their forefathers, and to persist therein. It will therefore be good for you, that if you have made any decree against these our friends and confederates, to abrogate the same, by reason of their virtue and kind disposition towards us.” His nephew and successor Augustus 133followed in his uncle’s footsteps, and in addition had ordered all religious associations to be placed under the strictest control and surveillance.353353Dio Cassius, lii. 36; Suetonius, Augustus, 32. The well-known contempt which the first emperor entertained for Oriental religions was doubtless partly responsible for this.354354Dio Cassius, liv. 6. The Jewish synagogues were again specially exempted. All new confraternities had to get a special permit from the senate, if they were in the senatorial provinces, and from the emperor, if they belonged to the imperial ones. The only associations which were perhaps exempted were the collegia tenuiorum, when they were also burial clubs; but it is doubtful whether there was ever a general concession made till the time of Severus. There existed, however, throughout the empire a multitude of confraternities which had not received the sanction of either senate or emperor, and which were therefore illicit, but which were undisturbed although under police supervision. They could be suppressed at any time, and it was provided that no very serious punishment accompanied the suppression.355355“Collegia si qua fuerint illicita, mandatis et constitutionibus et senatusconsultis dissolvuntur; sed permittitur eis, cum dissolvuntur, pecunias communes si quas habent dividere pecuniamque inter se partiri: Dig. XLVII. xxii. 3. Christianity was never recognized as a religio licita 134till the time of Constantine, and could never have received official sanction for its assemblies; but it was not impossible for the Christian churches to take the place of an illicit confraternity provided they had such an external resemblance to some well recognized confraternities as would permit the police to connive at their existence. It is undoubted that the Christian Church was at first believed by the Romans to belong to the tolerated and protected Judaism. Tertullian meets the charge that Christianity was “hiding something of its presumption under the shadow of an illustrious religion (Judaism), one which has at any rate the authorization of law.”356356Tertullian, Apology, 21. So long as the Roman Government did not perceive the difference between the Christians and the Jews, the infant Christian churches could remain sheltered under the laws which permitted legalized confraternities;357357De Rossi, Roma Sottereana, iii. 509; Bulletino di Archaeologia Cristiana (1865), pp. 90-94; Liebenam, Zur Geschichte and Organisation des römischen Vereinswesen, 268. Holtzmann, Die Pastoralbriefe, 197. The protection was not restricted to those who were Jews by birth; it extended to proselytes (σεβόμενοι); cf. Bulletino di Archaeologia Cristiana (1865), p. 91. but when the difference became manifest, and when Jews themselves began to denounce the Christians, some other shelter was required.358358Authorities differ about the date when the Roman officials first recognized the difference. Ramsay (The Church in the Roman Empire, p. 266 ff.) differs from most German authorities in thinking it to been have much earlier than the time of Domitian; I agree with him thoroughly. When we remember the wise political dread of religious combinations which the emperors from Augustus downward showed; their discernment that religion was the most powerful political motive power in the East; the presence in every province of men trained to note the beginnings of all movements which might disturb the state; and when we glance at the objective picture of that old system of ruling provinces which modern India furnishes—none but an arm-chair critic would deny it. British officials in India know of all the small beginnings of religious movements in their districts long before the public know anything about them, if they ever acquire the knowledge. This could be and no doubt was furnished by the general external resemblance of the Christian societies to the pagan confraternities for religious practices. Hence conformity 135with the usages of a pagan confraternity gave the Christians the best means of escaping the attention of the authorities, alert to notice any attempts to start altogether new associations.359359Schmiedel, Encyclopædia Biblica, 3111; Holtzmann, Die Pastoralbriefe, 197 f. Schmiedel, however, is not warranted in making the deductions he does from the external conformity; there must have been the same outward conformity between the Christian communities and the Jewish synagogues. It is evident that the Christian communities had some usages in common with the confraternities, and precisely those which would be the most likely to attract attention. They met together for a common meal (which was one of the things that Pliny noticed);360360Pliny, Epist. 96 (97). they made a distinction between the meetings for the common meal and those for edification and for business; they honoured the dies natalis of a martyr as the confraternities celebrated the birthdays of benefactors; they exhibited a reverence for their dead brethren in ways that could be compared with the practices of the confraternities;361361For the burial usages of the confraternities, compare Liebenam, Zur Geschichte and Organisation des römischen Vereinswesens (1890), p. 254 ff.; Schultze, Katacomben (1882), pp. 9-14, 48-53; De Rossi, Roma Sottereana, iii. 501-507. above all, after the time of the Emperor Nerva they tried to assimilate themselves to the collegia tenuiorum, which obtained an easier recognition on the part of the authorities, and this came to a head when Bishop Zephyrinus was able to get the Roman Church registered as a burial club.362362This is commonly inferred from the fact mentioned by Hippolytus, that Zephyrinus “appointed him (Calixtus) over the cemetery”; Refutation (Philosophumena), ix. 7. There was sufficient external resemblance between the confraternities to enable Tertullian to plead that the Church should be recognized as a legally permitted association, and to make Pliny suggest that he might proceed against the Christians as members of an illicit collegium.363363Compare above p. 128, n. 2. All these things enable us to see how the Christian churches during the earliest part of their existence could maintain a 136position of precarious security in face of the imperial policy of not permitting new associations. But we are scarcely warranted in drawing conclusions about the inward organization of the primitive Christian communities. What we can infer is, that the Christians of the primitive Gentile churches had the ordinary experience to enable them to make use of all the divine gifts of rule and service in creating for their churches from their midst a ministering service.
Churches like that of Corinth and Philippi, whatever may have suggested their forms of organization, and whatever bands held them together, had within them persons with the “gifts” which enabled them to offer wise counsels, to assist their neighbours, to lead the devotions and to manage the affairs of the community. If it be said, as it is sometimes done, that the churches of Corinth and Rome were not properly organized because we do not hear of bishops or presbyters or deacons, then that means that a Christian community could be addressed as a Christian church, could be called “Christ’s Body,” could admit catechumens by the sacred door of baptism, could assemble together for public worship, could partake together of the Holy Supper, could exercise Christian discipline, and all this without office-bearers set apart for the purposes of the ministry in regular and ecclesiastical fashion. It shows, as nothing else can, that the Church comes before the ministry, and that it creates for itself and its own needs its ministering service; the natural leaders led, the people followed, the organization grew and the new moral and social life had full liberty to develop itself in all manner of Christian service. The two types of the earliest local ministry, the serving and the leading, the ἀντιλήψεις and the κυβερνήσεις, the διακονεῖν and the ἐπισκοπεῖν appeared first as forms of doing what service was required of them, and then as permanent offices.
Hitherto, with one exception, we have been working at those portions of the New Testament whose dates are well ascertained. Our material has been drawn chiefly from the earlier 137Epistles of St. Paul, all of which belong to the years before 57 A.D. When we come to the material given in the Epistle of James, 1 Peter, and the Pastoral Epistles, we are at once confronted with questions of date and authorship, on which modern scholars hold very varying opinions.
For our purposes, however, these questions are by no means so important as might at first be supposed. No critic, whose opinions deserve serious consideration, denies the truth of the pictures of the ecclesiastical organization exhibited in the Pastoral Epistles or in the later chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. While they may refuse to admit that St. Paul or St. Luke was the author and while they may relegate the composition to the last decade of the first or to the second or third decades of the second century, they all admit that the representations of ecclesiastical polity found in these documenta are true for this later period and may be true for a much earlier one. The Church, it is held universally, did pass through the stage of organization shown in these documents. The only question is the date of the stage. No reasonable critic would affirm that a special feature of ecclesiastical organization may not have been in existence long before it is mentioned, or that the date when we first hear about it is the date of its origin, unless there is the express statement that it took its beginning at that time. For example, when it it said that Paul and Barnabas did not see elders set over the churches of Derbe, Lystra and Iconium (Acts xiv. 23), no one denies that the passage is evidence for the existence of elders in these churches in the beginning of the second century. Only some critics believe that the statement so conflicts with St. Paul’s own account of his conduct towards his missionary churches that it is impossible to accept the idea that the office of eldership, which was certainly present when the document was written, dates as far back as the planting of the churches. They say that the writer, not unnaturally, attributes the polity of his own time to the earlier period. Others, who accept the late date of the document, find certain corroborative evidence 138of the existence of elders in these churches long before this date, and have no difficulty in believing that the institution of the office may have come from the missionary journey of St. Paul, whatever the date or authorship of the document which relates the circumstance. The same remark applies to the Pastoral Epistles. If the late date of the documents be accepted, and if it is also believed that the accounts of the organization of the churches given in them indicate a difference of polity from what appears in the undisputed Epistles of St. Paul, the result is not to discredit the information the documents give us about ecclesiastical organization, but to accept it as evidence for what existed in the first and second decades of the second century. If the late date of composition be maintained, and if it is held that the information given is not inconsistent with what existed in earlier days, then nothing compels us to conclude that the beginnings of the polity described are as late as the accepted date of the documents describing them. In either case the documents are held to describe truly the condition of the ministry of the Church at an earlier or at a later period—the question of time being settled not by the date of the document but by a comparison between the information it gives with what we know of the earlier period. The matter involved does not concern a general conception of ecclesiastical organization, but whether a certain stage of development, which did exist some-time, was of an earlier or of a later appearance—a question which, when we consider the utmost limits of time involved, is comparatively unimportant.
We need not, therefore, concern ourselves here with the problems which the date and authorship
of the Book of Acts and of 1 Peter suggest.364364Personally I am not disposed to brush aside the difficulties which the Book of Acts presents; they relate
chiefly to the limited time which the Eusebian chronology (and
it appears to me to be the most trustworthy) allows for the events recorded
down to the conversion of St. Paul; but difficulties seem to me to be increased
and not lessened by any proposed reconstruction. So far as our subject of investigation is concerned all
“critics” recognize the election of the “Seven” as an historical fact;
and the only remaining question of organization is the statement that “elders
“ were appointed (not “ordained,” for that is not the word) in the churches
of the Galatian mission by Paul and Barnabas; and this it seems to me is rendered
highly probable by evidence which is altogether independent of the date and
authorship of the Acts of the Apostles. As to the date of the book, I follow
Professor Sanday who believes the book to have been written about 80 A.D.
and that its author was St. Luke. Dr. Harnack on the other hand declares that the date of the book is some time
between 79 and 93 A.D. Geschichte der altchristliche Literatur bis Eusebius, II.;
Chronologie, i. 246-50. But prevailing critical opinions about
139the Pastoral Epistles place the portions which concern our subject so very late
that it is necessary either to dissent from them or to relegate the information
these documents give to the period which produced the Epistles of Ignatius and
the Sources of the Apostolic Canons.365365 The “critical view” of the date of the Pastoral Epistles may perhaps be best
taken from the short summary in Harnack’s Geschichte der altchristliche Literatur bis Eusebius, II., Chronologie, i. 480-5,
supplemented from Holtzmann, Die Pastoralbriefe (1880). It is as follows:—The
three Epistles, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, go together and are to be treated
as a whole; the same arguments and the same results apply to all. These epistles
contain some genuine sayings of St. Paul—a few verses in 2 Timothy scarcely
a third of Titus, but not a verse of 1 Timothy—enough to say that the writings
are founded on genuine apostolic letters. But in the state in which they have
come to us they represent an entirely different authorship. The reasons given
for this judgment may be classed under three heads: the language is different
from St. Paul’s, and in particular the epistles contain a very large number
of words and phrases quite unlike what St. Paul uses in his authentic works; warnings are given against erroneous beliefs
and especially against Gnostic
opinions which were not in existence before the death of St. Paul; the description
of the ecclesiastical organization is entirely different from what we find in
the authentic letters of St. Paul. When it is sought to determine the date of
the epistles two definite points of time present themselves. Polycarp distinctly
quotes 2 Timothy ii. 12; and the redaction cannot be later than 110 A.D.
On the other hand the kinds of errors which the author denounces and warns against
had no existence until the close of the first century. Hence the probable date
of the letters must be sometime between 90-110 A.D. But,
it is said, portions must be much later; the closing verses, 17-21, of 1 Tim.
vi. were evidently added after the real end of the epistle at verse 16. Of these
verses 17-19 contain warnings which find a parallel in the admonitions of the
Pastor of Hermas and belong to a period later than 100 A.D.;
while verses 20-21 have no connexion
with the rest of the epistle, are directed against the “antitheses” of Marcion and
cannot be earlier than 130 A.D. Similarly
verses 1-13 in 1 Tim. iii. and verses 17-20 in 1 Tim. v. 17-20,
and verses 7-9 in Titus i., have little connexion with the context and are portions of an ancient
book of discipline. They present striking parallels to the Sources of the Apostolic Canons and cannot be much earlier than 130
A.D. This is what “criticism” makes of the Pastoral Epistles. It places those portions
which concern our subject as late at 130 A.D. and
forbids us to use them to describe the organization of the Churches within the
first century. The reasons given are briefly these: a quotation from St. Luke’s gospel is called a scripture and
that of itself, it is said, is sufficient to show the late date of the document; Timothy is represented as the president of
a college of elders and in this
capacity is the judge and administrator of justice—functions which are much later than even 100 A.D.
A few remarks may be admitted in the way of briefly indicating why I refuse to accept the “critical” theories about these epistles. While I gratefully acknowledge Dr. Harnack as the greatest living authority on early Church history, I never read what he has to say about the two subjects of Gnosticism and ecclesiastical organization without longing that he could spend a few months in the mission field where aggressive work is being done among educated pagans whose minds are full of the same curious oriental faiths and their allied philosophies as were present to the earliest Christian converts in the first and second centuries. I am convinced that if this experience were his he would modify much that he has said both about Gnosticism and about ecclesiastical organization. The Oriental mind, tenacious of its own beliefs and at the same time curiously receptive in religious conceptions, strives from the first to weave Christian thoughts into its system of Oriental beliefs and is surprised that the amalgam thus produced is not accepted as Christian doctrine by the missionary. The very errors denounced by the Pastoral Epistles may be found among Hindu inquirers who never get further than inquiry and a certain measured sympathy with Christian teaching. They are the beginnings of Gnosticism apparent to the missionary long before they have acquired the definite shape of such a system as the Arya Somaj, to take one of the forms which modern Indian gnosticism has assumed. If the living picture were studied fresh insight would be acquired about ancient documents. It would be seen for example, that if Timothy or Titus were acting as deputy for an apostle or missionary it does not follow that he must be president of a college of elders in order to be obliged to listen to accusations against “elders” or to act as the one who rebukes in public and in private. The more I study these pastoral epistles the more evident it becomes to me that they are just what every experienced missionary has to impart to a younger and less experienced colleague when he warns him about the difficulties that he must face and the tasks, often unexpected, he will find confronting him. It is scarcely to be wondered at then that the Pastoral Epistles are always among the earliest portions of the scriptures translated in almost every Christian mission. A study of the living picture would also teach students that while the declaration of Hegesippus may be accepted that gnosticism did not trouble the Church till about the time of Trajan (which is the deduction usually drawn from his statements given in Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. III. xxxii. 7) that need not prevent our believing that incipient gnosticism had to be guarded against from the very beginning. At the same time it is very probable that the Pastoral Epistles contain many interpolations in which statements about errors and even directions about discipline have been somewhat altered to suit the requirements of the middle of the second century, That is what would naturally happen to a document which was used, as we know these epistles were used, for a manual of ecclesiastical procedure (the Muratorian Fragment tells us that). The insertion of “scripture” (γραφὴ) might easily have come in in this way. But all this does not prevent me accepting these epistles as the work of St. Paul or of a companion who wrote for him. It may be said that the supposition that these letters come from St. Paul requires us to believe that the apostle was released from his first captivity, and made missionary journeys of which no record has remained; but this is rendered more than likely by the statement of Clement (I. v. 7) that St. Paul visited the furthest parts of the West (τὸ τέρμα τῆς δύσεως)—an expression which, notwithstanding all that has been said against the idea, seems more naturally applicable to Spain than to Rome. As for the language—“Tous ceux qui ont 1’experience de la parole en publique ne savent-ils pas que le ton n’est plus le même quand on parle à une assemblée que lorsqu’on s’addreese à une peraonne en particulier” (Réville, Les Origines de l’Episcopat (1894), p.497.) These Pastoral Epistles were 140extensively used in the Primitive Church as a document giving directions about ecclesiastical organization and discipline. The Muratorian Fragment tells us this.366366“Ad Filemonem una, et ad Titum una, et ad Timotheum duas, pro affecto et dilectione in honore tamen ecclesiae catholice in ordinatione ecclesiastice descepline sanctificatae sunt.” Like all documents used in this way, they were apt to be interpolated to suit the needs of time and place. Statements about prevailing errors 141to be shunned were liable to be altered in order to be more sharply descriptive of existing heresies or tendencies to heresy and disciplinary directions might easily have taken a more technical language to suit a later period. But when due allowance is made for these natural effects of the primitive use of these documents, there does not seem to be evidence strong 142enough to warrant our refusing to believe that they are what they declare themselves to be—letters from St. Paul to two of his most trusted fellow-workers, instructing them how to carry on his missionary work, which he was not able to superintend personally. If this be the case these letters show us what St. Paul was in the habit of doing in the mission fields which be-longed peculiarly to himself. Titus367367Titus had been one of the earliest gentile converts from heathenism—a convert or spiritual son of St. Paul himself (Titus i. 4). The apostle had esteemed him so highly that he had taken him up to Jerusalem when he went there to plead the cause of gentile liberty. Titus went with St. Paul to be shown as a specimen of what these gentile converts of his were like (Gal. ii. 3); and he had passed the test so well that the leaders of the Church at Jerusalem had not required that he should be circumcised. He had been employed by St. Paul on work involving tact and confidential discretion (2 Cor. xii. 18), and had acquitted himself well. had accompanied the apostle, released from his Roman captivity, to Crete, and had been left there to complete the work which the apostle, pressed for time, could not stay to finish. His duty was to see that “elders” were chosen in every local church. The charge recalls the account given in the Acts of the Apostles of the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas through the district which included the cities of Derbe, Lystra and Iconium. On that missionary tour the apostles did not see to the appointment of “elders” when their converts were first gathered from Judaism and heathenism. They allowed the believers in the new faith some little time to prove themselves. It was on their return journey, when they were “confirming “ their converts, that the elders were appointed. So here Titus was left till the sufficient time had elapsed, and then he was to see to the selection of elders in the local churches of Crete. His work was one that could be finished within a comparatively short time, for the apostle expected him to follow to Nicopolis, where St. Paul was to pass the winter. There is no suggestion that his function was anything like a permanent office in the Church. The work given him to do is perfectly familiar to modern missionaries. 143The other deputy was Timothy.368368Timothy was the favourite fellow-worker with the great apostle. When we piece together his story from the Acts of the Apostles and from St. Paul’s epistles, we find something like the following. When St. Paul left Antioch with Silas on his second visit to the Galatian Churches, feeling sadly, no doubt, that Barnabas was no longer with him, either he or his companion had an assurance given in “prophecy” that St. Paul would find in a brief time a helper who would be to him as another Barnabas (1 Tim. i. 18; iv. 14). When St. Paul reached Lystra he suddenly recognized in a young man there the fellow-worker who had been divinely promised to him. “And behold,” says Luke, “a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewess who believed; but his father was a Greek. Him Paul would have to go forth with him” The apostle received him with the kindly Jewish benediction, laying his hands on his head (2 Tim. i. 6); and the elders of the Church also gave the young man their benediction before he set out on his new life-work (Acts xvi. 1-4; 1 Tim. iv. 14). There is a striking parallel between the “call” of Timothy and the earlier “call” of the great apostle himself—the vision of Ananias and the prophetic intuition of St. Paul; Ananias’ benediction, when he laid his hands on the future head of the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the benediction of Timothy by St. Paul; the blessing of Saul and Barnabas by the “prophets and teachers” at the head of the Church at Antioch, when they started on their first mission tour, and the blessing of the elders of Lystra when Timothy started on his life work as an apostle or evangelist. From this time he and St. Paul were almost always together; they were like father and son. Timothy’s name occurs frequently in the epistles of St. Paul. When difficult questions arose in St. Paul’s mission Churches which needed delicate handling and when the Apostle could not go himself to settle them Timothy was his favourite deputy (1 Cor. xvi. 10; 1 Thess. iii. 2). The apostle saw himself living his life over again in the person of his son Timothy. He had come with the apostle to Ephesus, and circumstances, we know not what, had required that one of the two should remain and “confirm” the Church there. St. Paul had other work to do; Timothy was selected to remain, and he received two letters advising him how to act. Such is the setting of these Pastoral Epistles as related in the writings themselves.
In these letters to Titus and to Timothy we find, as we might expect in such documents, much more detailed references to the organization of the churches than in the Epistles addressed to the churches themselves. We find unmistakably an official ministry which appears to consist of two grades. We see evidence 144of a congregational roll on which the names of the poor, who are to receive the support of the congregation, are entered. There are also traces of a ministry of women. We find the apostle laying down rules to guide his deputies in the selection of office-bearers and in the removal of ecclesiastical excommunication. In short, we find a great deal more definite information about the organization and the ministry of the primitive churches than in any other of the New Testament writings.
If we believe that the apostle was above all things a missionary, and that his deputies were to do the work of missionaries, which seems to be the only view which is consistent with the nature of the function and the description of their work which is given in the New Testament writings, these Pastoral Epistles may be expected to show us the organization of the primitive Gentile churches from the inside, while in the Epistles of St. Paul, written either before or during the Roman captivity, we see the same organization from the outside. They tell us how the apostle personally superintended the building into churches of the communities of believers his preaching had gathered together. The two sets of letters are complementary. In the earlier letters we see the apostle encouraging every form of spontaneous action, and how he made the infant communities feel that the whole responsibility lay upon their shoulders. In the later epistles the master-builder shows his deputies how carefully he was accustomed to guide the exercise of that responsibility with scarcely felt touches of the hand.
The duties of the two deputies varied with the wants of the places in which they were set. Timothy had to do with an older community whose special circumstances demanded special care; Titus had to deal with comparatively newly-established congregations, and to guide them carefully but unobtrusively to organize themselves. Both had to do the work which the apostle was himself accustomed to do in similar circumstances. It was the most difficult and delicate work that falls to the lot of a missionary—to guide into right channels of self-government communities 145comparatively young in the faith, and to do it in such a way that the community may feel that it is doing the work itself, and will be able to sustain itself when the guiding hand shall be removed. In modern times nothing tests the ability of a missionary for his work like this very task.
The apostle gave both Titus and Timothy a master-thought to guide them. The infant Christian communities were to be looked on as Households of God, and as every great household needs servants who superintend, so the Household of God needs men who have the oversight. He that has proved faithful in small things is the most likely to prove faithful in all-important work, and the man who has shown that he can guide and rule his own household well is declared to be the best fitted to super-intend the Household of God. Hence we are told very little about the special duties of the presbyters or bishops, or whatever their usual name was, and find little mention of qualities fitted for special functions. What the apostle insists on is character, and that kind of character which is shown in family relationships.
Titus is told that a presbyter or elder must be a man who is above suspicion, who is a faithful husband369369“A faithful husband” appears to be the best translation of γυναικὸς ἄνδρα—one who acts on the principles of Christian morality and is not led astray by the licentious usages of the surrounding heathenism. and whose children are Christians of well regulated lives. He is not to be self-willed, nor soon angry, nor given to wine, nor turbulent, nor given to money; he is to be a lover of strangers, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, upright, pious and temperate in all things. Besides, he ought to be so well-grounded in the principles of Christian morality and religion that he can exhort the brethren and answer the common Jewish and heathen objections to the Christian faith.
Timothy was placed in temporary charge in a district where the Christian community had existed for a longer period; and the differences in the advice given all gather round this fact. 146The office-bearers selected by the community were not to be taken from the most recently converted, but from men who had some experience of Christianity, and whose character had stood the test of time.3703701 Tim. iii: 10; 2 Tim: ii. 2. The office of “oversight” had become sought after, and there was the more need for careful selection.3713711 Tim. iii. 1. But as in the letter to Titus what St. Paul insists on is character, as that has displayed itself within the family, for rule in the human household is the best training for management within the Household of God.3723721 Tim. iii. 5. The list of qualifications is practically the same as was given to Titus, with this added, that he who has the oversight ought to be a man respected by the heathen3733731 Tim. iii. 7. as well as by his fellow Christians.374374Harnack, who thinks that the verses in 1 Tim. which relate to the organization of the Church are an interpolation and represent an old book of the Church Order not unlike the Sources of the Apostolic Canons and perhaps derived with these fragments from a common source, points out a number of interesting coincidences:—“Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection.” (1 Tim. ii. 11): “in order that it (the congregation) may be at rest without disturbance, after it has been first proved in all subjection” (Apost. Can. ii); “I permit not a woman to teach” (1 Tim. ii. 12): compare with the whole of Apost. Can. viii., especially “How then can we, concerning women, order them services?” “The bishop must therefore be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach, no brawler nor striker, but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money . . . . moreover he must have good testimony from them that are without” (1 Tim. iii. 2-7); “If he (the bishop) has a good report among the heathen, if he is without reproach, if a friend of the poor, if sober-minded, no drunkard, nor adulterer, not covetous nor a slanderer . . . it is good if he is unmarried; if not, then the husband of one wife; educated . . . if unlearned, gentle” (Apost. Can. i.); “Deacons, in like manner, must be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine . . . and let these also be first proved, then let them serve as deacons . . . let the deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well” (1 Tim. iii. 8, 9, 12); “The deacons shall be approved in every service . . . husbands of one wife, educating their children, sober-minded . . . not double-tongued . . . not using much wine” (Apost. Can. iv.); (of deacons) “Not using much wine, not greedy of lucre” (1 Tim. iii. 8); (of widows) “Not greedy of lucre, not using much wine” (Apos. Can. v.); “For they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing” (1 Tim. iii: 13); ‘For they who have served well as deacons . . . purchase to themselves the pastorate” (Apost. Can. vi.); and so on. It appears to me, however, that the interesting series of parallels affords striking evidence that the statements in the Pastoral Epistles are much older than those in the Sources of the Apostolic Canons. In the former it is women who are to be in subjection, and the phrase corresponds to 1 Cor. xiv. 34; while in the Sources of the Apostolic Canons it is the congregation who are to be in subjection to the office-bearers: the leaders and the led of the Pauline Epistles have given place to the clergy and the laity of a later period. Then in the Pastoral Epistles the deacons who have served well gain to themselves “a good standing”; in the later document they are promised clerical promotion, which is a very different idea and suggests a much later period. Again in the former document the senior office-bearers are to be faithful husbands (husbands of one wife); in the latter it is said that it is better that they be not married, which shows either a growth in ascetic sentiment or perhaps difficulties in a fair distribution of the offerings of the congregation and the desire for distributors who have no claims on themselves to influence their judgment, or both of these conceptions. Compare Chronologie, pp. 483, 484.147
The qualifications demanded of deacons also practically consist of character tested by behaviour in the household—faithfulness to wife, and evidence of parental control over children and wise dealing with servants.3753751 Tim. iii. 8-10, 12, 13. It is also interesting to notice a ministry of women.
Presbyters or elders who rule well are to be honoured, and those who in addition assist in the ministry of the Word are to be doubly honoured, or perhaps to receive a double honorarium from the free-will offerings of the people. Elders who do not rule well are to be looked after; but the apostle charges his deputy not to accept accusations against them rashly, but to follow the old Jewish rule which required at least two grave witnesses to any accusation affecting character. But if an elder, or indeed any member of the congregation, did fall into sin, public rebuke was to be given without respect of persons.3763761 Tim. v. 17-20. The apostle also insists that his deputy is to be very cautious in admitting to Church Communion those who have lapsed. He is not “to lay hands hastily,”3773771 Tim. v. 22. Compare Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, p. 175 ff. according to the usual form in 148restoration, “on any man, neither to be a partaker of other men’s sins.”
The picture of the relief of the poor of the community is both vivid and homely. It brings before our eyes not merely that far-off primitive Christian Church of Ephesus, but also the present work of a Scottish country kirk-session. When the bread-winner dies careful inquiries are to be made, whether the bereaved widow and orphans have any means of support, or can receive any aid from their relations, who are to be stirred up to do their duty to those who are left helpless. If the children or grandchildren are able to work they are to be commanded to support her who has been left a widow; but if such help fails, and if the widow is too old to earn her own living and has always borne a good character, then she is to be placed on the poor roll of the congregation and supported by the community.
According to our view, these Pastoral Epistles are to be regarded as complementary to the earlier Epistles of St. Paul, in so far as they give us information about the organization of the Gentile Christian communities. The earlier epistles, written to the various churches, reveal the principles of the growth of the organization lying within the communities themselves; while the Pastoral Epistles, written to guide the men who were to be the apostle’s deputies, and had to be instructed in his methods, show how he watched over the communities his preaching had gathered together. The apostle acted like a wise father, who encourages every appearance of independent and responsible action, but at the same time carefully guides it into the proper channels. From one point of view it can be truly said that the churches of St. Paul’s mission were thoroughly independent and acted on their own responsibilities; from another the apostle or his deputies watched over and guided this activity. There was control, but it was the control of the missionary, and partook largely of parental monition and guidance.
If we combine what is given us in the earlier Epistles of St. Paul with what we find in the Pastoral Epistles, we can discern 149the principles of organization within the Pauline communities. According to the ideas of the apostle, a Church of God was thoroughly organized when it found within its membership a variety of persons endowed with various spiritual gifts producing activities helpful to the whole community. That was the real basis of the common life, the divine element without which all else was of little moment, and with which everything else was a matter of executive detail. These gifts were divided into two great classes, those which served for the ministry of the Word, and those which were at the foundation of other kinds of ministry. It was from this second class of “gifts” that the ministry of the local churches proceeded. Among them we find two which crystallise into ecclesiastical office. St. Paul calls them “wise counsels” and “helps” (κυβερνήσεις and ἀντιλήψεις, 1 Cor. xii. 28); we may call them “oversight” and “subordinate service.” Whatever may have been the original principle of association, whatever suggestions of social combination earliest presented themselves to the minds of the primitive Christians in the Gentile Christian communities, whatever the human bands that bound them together, these two classes of officials were sure to emerge—the one fitted to guide and lead the brethren and the other to render subordinate service.
Some time must have elapsed before active services crystallised into offices, but it need not have been a long period.378378Compare the evidences of growth in organization collected by Gayford, Hastings’ Bible Dictionary, art. Church, i. 434. Things move fast in young communities organizing themselves for the first time, and the spiritual gift of discernment which belonged to the whole community was an instrument of organization lying ready to hand. This gift of “discernment,” when applied to teaching, implied that those who were really believed to be the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit were to be heard with reverence, and that the hearers ought to fashion their lives according to what was taught. The same gift, when applied to the discernment of abilities for rule and service, implied the 150power to select and bestow office upon men so gifted, and the duty of the community to obey its chosen leaders in all practical matters.
In young communities full of a fresh and active enthusiasm, feeling that the possession of “gifts” of rule and help was the fulfilment of the promise of the Master to be present with them, and that the “gift” of discernment enabled them to select their leaders with something of divine authority, activities helpful to the community would speedily become offices. There is no reason to prevent us from believing that Stephanas and the others whom the Corinthian Church are ordered to reverence were office-bearers in the full sense of the word.379379Compare Schmiedel, Encyc. Bibl., art. Ministry, 3111 (d). Harnack and many others are disposed to deny this. They argue that there is no trace of office-bearers properly so-called in St. Paul’s writings composed before his Roman captivity, although they naturally admit there must have been ministries from the very first, and that the ministries took shape under the two conceptions of “oversight” and “subordinate service.” It may be so, but the arguments do not convince me.380380Expositor (1887, Jan.-June), 328-31; The arguments put shortly are:—St. Paul addresses his advice about discipline, etc., to the whole community and not to special individuals who are in the position of office-bearers; all the members of the Christian community are exhorted to do what is enjoined upon the leaders (1 Thess. v. 14); the word ἔργον (verse 12) shows that an office is not thought of; while in Rom. xii. 6-8 presidency stands between “liberality” and “showing mercy,” and is described as a “gift”! The same arguments, it appears to me, would exclude the presence of office-bearers in the Didache and in the Epistle of Clement; for there the exhortations to exercise discipline are addressed to the whole community. The fact that the congregational meeting is the supreme judge does not exclude the fact of office-bearers. Compare below pp. 171 ff. for the Didache and 176 n. for 1 Clement. If the προϊστάμενοι of the Epistles to the Thessalonians and to the Romans were not office-bearers they did the work of office-bearers. To assert that a period of fifty years must have elapsed before the προϊστάμενοι of the earlier epistles could become the official πρεσβύτεροι of the Pastoral Epistles (which is practically 151Loening’s contention), or that the development required eighty years (which Harnack requires), seems to me to be quite unwarrantable. As has been said before, things move fast in young communities and, so far as the development in organization goes, there is no reason whatever why the state of matters described in the Pastoral Epistles should not have arrived at a comparatively early date.
It is quite in accordance with what has been said, that in all the New Testament writings, and indeed in all the earlier books of discipline, the work done is always thought more of than the persons selected to do it, and office-bearers are honoured for their work’s sake rather than for their rank. The one thought running through all the earlier documents is that the power to render special service to the community—for rule and leadership according to primitive modes of thought are always founded on “service” and never on “lordship”—depends on the possession of “gifts” engrafted by the Spirit on individual character, and the occasion of these particular services is their recognition by the community, who appoint the brethren to serve it in ruling it. One of the chief services which belonged to those who were placed at the head of the Christian communities was to set an example to those under their charge, and what the leaders did all the brethren in their several places were expected to do. Hence in the New Testament writings, as well as in the earlier canons, the qualities which were to determine the selection of men to be leaders were those qualities of stable Christian character which all Christians ought to possess. The function of the missionary or his deputy, as we can see from the Pastoral Epistles, was to advise the community in their selection of those who were to be over them, and to inculcate such principles of selection as would abide permanently in their minds, and thus secure a succession of worthy office-bearers when the first missionaries of the Gospel were no longer present to advise; or to use the words of St. Clement of Rome: “Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over 152the name (dignity) of the overseer’s office. For this cause, therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons (i.e. their first converts) and afterwards gave a further injunction that if they should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their administration”381381Clement, 1 Epist. xliv., 1; cf. xlii. 4; of. Sanday’s The Conception of Priesthood (1898), pp. 70-2. The sentence in Clement (1 Epist. xlii. 4) is:—“So preaching everywhere in town and in country, they appointed their first-fruits (τὰς ἀπαρχὰς αὐτῶν) when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be overseers and deacons unto them that should believe.”—a description of what takes place now on every mission field of the whole Christian Church.
The earlier Epistles of St. Paul show us, as has been said, that the services rendered to the local churches by those whom the brethren are commanded to obey for their works’ sake were of two kinds, which we have called “oversight” and “subordinate service.” I think that we may presume that these were office-bearers, if not from the beginning, at all events from a very early period; but we can at least say that these two different kinds of service were rendered by the leaders to the led. Later writings, both within and without the New Testament Canon, make it plain that these services were rendered by two classes of officials who bore official names, which still exist within the Christian Church. We read of pastors, overseers, elders and deacons (ποιμένες, ἐπίσκοποι, πρεσβύτεροι, διάκονοι).382382Compare Lightfoot, Philippians (1881), 6th ed. pp. 95-9.; Loofs, Theologische Studien and Kritiken (1890), 628-42; Schmiedel, Encyc. Bibl. pp. 3135-9; Loening, Die Gemeindeverfassung des Urchristenthums (1889), pp. 58-63. Compare note on ‘Presbyters’ and ‘Bishops’ at the and of the ohapter. The references to the office-bearers of the local churches are always in the plural, and the government must have been collegiate. Whatever the special origin and primitive meanings of the first three names, they appear to have denoted the same office, and the service they gave was what the foremen or the προϊστάμενοι of the Epistles to the Thessalonians and to the Romans rendered to their respective communities. The terms “pastors” (ποιμένες) 153and “overseers” (επίσκοποι) describe the kind of work done, and “elder” (πρεσβύτερος) was the title of the office. This name naturally suggests a Jewish origin; for among Jewish people we find “elders” from the earliest to the latest times. The principles of social organization which were current among the Jews no doubt insensibly moulded the earliest ecclesiastical organization in Palestine; and when we find “elders” in charge of the community in Jerusalem, ready to receive the contributions for the relief of those who were suffering from the famine which overtook them in the reign of Claudius,383383Acts xi. 30. it is impossible to doubt that the name came from their Jewish surroundings. At the same time it must always be remembered that Christian “elders” had functions entirely different from the Jewish, that the vitality of the infant Christian Communities made them work out for themselves that organization which they found to be most suitable, and that in this case nothing but the name was borrowed.384384It ought to be remembered that the organization which prevailed among the Judaising Christians, who refused all fraternal intercourse with the Gentile believers, was on the strict Jewish lines and was quite different from the Christian. Epiphanius tells us (Heresies, xxx. 18) that their congregations were presided over by archons and an archisynagogos like the Jewish synagogues of the Dispersion. Compare pp. 130-131. The respect which St. Paul always inculcated toward the mother Church in Jerusalem and the reception among the primitive Christian congregations of converts from Jewish synagogues, can easily account for the presence of the name within Gentile Christian churches. This does not mean that every Christian congregation had presbyters designedly copied from the Jewish synagogue. The largest number probably copied their neighbours when they came to make use of the word in a technical fashion. The constant intercommunication between Christian communities which was such a feature of primitive Christianity that the keen-sighted Lucian recognized it as their special possession,385385Lucian, De Mode Peregrini, 12, 41. promoted 154the gradual assimilation of constitution even when the beginnings were of different origins. But it is not necessary to suppose that the Gentile Christian communities took the word from Judaism. The term was common enough to denote rulers in the Graeco-Roman civilization;386386Deissmann, Bible Studies, Eng. Trans. pp. 154 ff. and 233 ff. Deissmann shows that the term πρεσβύτερος was common for the rulers of a a corporation in Asia Minor, and it must have been familiar to the inhabitants of those towns which furnished the Christian communities among which St. Paul saw elders chosen on his return mission journey through Derbe, Iconium and Lystra (Acts xiv. 23). One of the most interesting series of facts which Deissmann has unearthed is that the term “elder” was a religious official name in Egypt, and that the affairs of the whole Egyptian priesthood in the times of the Ptolemies were conducted by an assembly whose members (twenty-five in number) were called πρεσβύτεροι. Milton had very old authority for his saying that “new presbyter is but old priest writ large.” and the frequent and familiar use of the word to denote a ruling body in the ordinary social life around them, if it did not altogether suggest the use, must have at least facilitated it and ensured its spread. Besides, we must remember that the word “elder,” in the sense of ruler, is one of the commonest expressions among all nations. The English have their aldermen and the Romans had their senators, as Dr. Lightfoot has reminded us.387387Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians (1881), 6th ed. p. 96. We may add to this the well-known fact that in young Christian communities recently won from paganism the word elder is applied naturally to those who have been earliest brought to believe in Christ, and that the first office-bearers, or those to whom obedience is due, are usually taken from the first converts, like Stephanas in the Corinthian Church.
All this shows us that during the last decades of the first century each Christian congregation had for its office-bearers a body of deacons and a body of elders—whether separated into two colleges or forming one must remain unknown—and that the elders took the “oversight” while the deacons performed the “subordinate services.” These constituted the 155local ministry of each Christian church or congregation—for these terms were then equivalent. These men watched over the lives and behaviour of the members of the community; they looked after the poor, the infirm, and the strangers; and in the absence of members of the prophetic ministry they presided over the public worship, especially over the Holy Supper.388388While everything goes to show that In primitive times the function of teaching was not confined to the office-bearers or rulers it is difficult to believe that leadership and teaching were not frequently associated. The “prophetic” gift was so highly prized that it was only natural that men possessing it in combination with the “gift” of oversight should be selected. The use of the phrase “to shepherd” in connexion with the leaders of the Christian community as in 1 Peter v. 2 (ποιμάνατε τὸ ἐν ὑμῖν ποίμνιον τοῦ Θεοῦ) appears to include more than simple oversight, and the word “admonish,” applied to the προϊστάμενοι in Thessalonica, seems to point to something more than mere leadership in the very early times.
Before the close of the first century the labours of apostles (and under this name a large number of wandering missionaries must be included) had given birth to thousands of these local churches. They were all strictly independent self-governing communities—tiny islands in the sea of surrounding paganism—each ruled by its session or senate of elders. There is no trace of one man, one pastor, at the head of any community. The ruling body was a senate without a president, a kirk-session without a moderator; and if its members did not themselves possess the “prophetic gift,” their authority, however defined, had continually to bend before that of the “prophets” and “teachers,” to whom they had to give place in exhortation and even in presiding at the Lord’s Table. The organization of the Primitive Christian Church in the last decades of the first century without one president in the community, and with the anomalous prophetic ministry, has no resemblance to any modern ecclesiastical organization, and yet contains within it the roots of all whether congregational, presbyterian (conciliar) or episcopal.
It must not be forgotten that while each Christian community 156was a little self-governed republic, the visible unity of the corporate Church of Christ was never forgotten. Although each local church was an independent society, although it was not connected with other Christian communities by any organization of a political kind, it was nevertheless conscious that it belonged to a world-wide federation of equally independent churches. Its self-containedness did not produce isolation. On the contrary, every local church felt itself to be a real part of the universal and visible Church of God to which many hundreds of similar societies belonged. “All the churches of Christ,” said Tertullian, “although they are so many and so great, comprise but one primitive Church . . . and are all proved to be one in unbroken unity by the communicatio pacis, et appellatio fraternitatis et contesseratio hospitalitatis.”389389De Praescript. 20. They kept the conception of this unity alive in their hearts by the thought that all shared the same sacraments, were taught the same divine mysteries, obeyed the same commandments of God, and shared the same hope of the same kingdom. They made this corporate unity apparent by mutual help in all Christian social work, and by boundless and brotherly hospitality to all fellow-Christians. The picture of this corporate unity was always before their eyes in the fraternal intercourse of church with church by official letters and messengers, and was made vivid by the swift succession of wandering “apostles,” “prophets” and “teachers,” who, belonging to no one community, were the ministers of the whole Church of Christ—the binding-stones which made it visibly cohere.157
The view taken about presbyters or elders at the close of the preceding chapter was for a long time undisputed by all serious students of the conditions of the primitive Church. It may be found stated at length in the late Dr. Lightfoot’s Note on “The synonymes ` ‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter,’” in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians.390390Pp. 95-9 of the 6th ed. (1881). It has been disputed by such distinguished scholars as Harnack, Sohm and Weizsacker, and their divergence from the opinion which was previously held with great unanimity arose after and in consequence of the publication of the late Dr. Hatch’s Bampton Lectures in 1881.
The theory about early ecclesiastical organization which embodies this change of view as to the relation between the “presbyters” and “deacons,” will be discussed in an Appendix. The matter which concerns us here is whether “presbyters “ were church officials, chosen and appointed as such, in the Church of the first century, and identical with “bishops,” or whether Harnack is right when he says that “We meet with chosen or appointed presbyters for the first time in the second century. The oldest witnesses for them are the Epistle of James, the Acts of the Apostles, the Pastoral Epistles, the Original Document of the so-called Apostolic Ordinances, and the Shepherd of Hermas.”391391Expositor for 1887. Jan.-June, p. 334. In a footnote Harnack says, “It seems to me very improbable that the Acts of the Apostles was written during the first century.”
Harnack’s opinion, if I do not mistake him, is, when put briefly, as follows. He believes that in the last decades of the first century there was at the head of each Christian congregation what may be called a three-fold organization—a prophetic, 158a patriarchal and an administrative one. The patriarchal rule was based upon the natural deference of the younger to the older members of the community, and the circle of elders, in all emergencies which affected the congregation, could come forward as their guides; these elders watched over the conduct and the evangelical character of the members, and admonished, punished and exhorted the congregation. The elders were the natural heads of the community, the aged members who were revered on account of age and character, but were not elected or appointed officials. The real officials, who formed the administration, were the bishops and the deacons—men who possessed the “gifts” of government and of public service. They were appointed primarily to preside at public worship. Originally there was no distinction between the bishops and the deacons save what came from age and experience, but their work naturally fell into two divisions, in which the oversight belonged to the bishops and the subordinate services were performed by the deacons. The bishops, in consequence of their position as the officials appointed to conduct public worship, became naturally the custodians and administrators of the property of the congregation, the distributors of the gifts of the faithful, the recognized guardians of the poor, the sick, the infirm and strangers, and the representatives of the society to people outside.
Harnack, therefore, holds that presbyters and bishops were distinct from the first. He believes, besides, that while a circle of elders, in the sense of “honoured” old men, existed from the most primitive times, there were no elected or chosen elders forming a college of office-bearers till the second century; but he thinks that the bishops were usually selected from the circle of honoured old men, were sometimes called “elders,” and were invariably classed among them. In reaching this conclusion he rejects as unhistorical the statement in Acts xiv. 23, which tells us that the apostles, Paul and Barnabas, saw to the appointment of elders in the churches, which they had formed in Derbe, Lystra and Iconium; he believes that the “elders” 159of Acts xx. 17 were bishops; he concludes that the “elders” of 1 Peter v. 1 ff. were not office-bearers; he rejects, as an interpolation, the verses in Titus i. 7-9,392392Compare Otto Ritschl in the Theologische Literatur-Zeitung for 1885, No. 25. which practically assert the identity of bishops and presbyters; and he finds a complete justification of his views in the statements about presbyters and bishops in the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.
Let us accept, for the sake of argument, the critical conclusion of Harnack about the dates of documents393393It is important to bear in mind the dates which Harnack assigns to the various documents he deals with. The following are taken from his Chronologie der altchristlichen Literatur bis Eusebius (1897):—1 Peter was probably written, he thinks, some time between the years 83 and 93 A.D., but it may have been written one or two decades earlier, which gives at the extreme limits of time 63-93 A.D. (pp. 454, 718). I Clement he dates about 93-95 but perhaps as late as 97 A.D. (pp. 255, 718). The dates he gives for the writings which he says are the first witnesses for presbyters are:—The Epistle of James about 120-140 (pp. 491, 719); the Pastoral Epistles, or at least those verses in them which are in question about 130 A.D. (p. 483); the original document of the so-called Apostolic Ordinances, about 140-180. Harnack classes the Acts of the Apostles among this set of documents in the Expositor (1887, Jan.-June), p. 334, and says that the book belongs to the second century. But in his Chronologie which was published ten years later, he says that the Acts of the Apostles was written some time between 80-93 A.D. (pp. 250, 718). There may not be much difference between the year 93 A.D. and the second century; but the change of date lifts the Acts of the Apostles out from the other writings named along with it in the Expositor, and places it as early as the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians and perhaps as early as the Epistle of Peter. and the interpolations which may have come into texts, and then see what emerges from an examination of the authorities in which presbyters and bishops are mentioned.
The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians is the best starting point, for there is practical unanimity among scholars of all schools that this document belongs to about the middle of the last decade of the first century. The letter was sent from the Roman Church to remonstrate with the Corinthian Christians 160about the dismissal of the leaders of the Church there from their office. We find three names given to these men—ἡγούμενοι, ἐπίσκοποι, πρεσβύτεροι.394394ἡγούμενος and προηγούμενος, I. i. 3; xxi. 6. ἐπίσκοποι, I. xlii. 4, 5. πρεσβύτερος, I. i. 3; iii. 3; xxi. 6; xliv. 5; xlvii. 6; 1v. 4; liv. 2; lvii. 1. Harnack’s contention is that πρεσβύτεροι invariably denote the members of the circle of revered old men in the community, and that when the term is used to denote office-bearers,395395I. xliv. 5; xlvii. 6; liv. 2; lvii. 1. they are so called because they were always members of that circle. On the other hand, Light-foot,396396Lightfoot, Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians (1881), 6th ed. p. 95 ff.; Loening, Die Gemeindeverfassung des Urchristenthums (1889), p. 58 ff.; Loofs, Studien and Kritiken (1890), pp. 628 ff.; Sehmiedel, Encyclopaedia Biblica (1902) p. 3134 if. If we apply the well-recognized critical principle that the statement that there were “elders” in Derbe, Lystra and the neighbourhood when the book which describes them was written, this change of date gives us “elected” elders before the close of the first century. in the past, and Loening, Loofs and Schmiedel in the present, declare that πρεσβύτερος is the technical name for the office, while ἐπίσποκος describes what was done (having ἐπισκοπή or oversight), or at all events that πρεσβύτερος and ἐπίσκοπος are synonymous terms for the same officials.
One thing to begin with is significant. Three men were sent from Rome to Corinth with the letter, Valerius Bito, Claudius Ephebus and Fortunatus, “men that have walked among us,” says the writer, “from youth to old age unblameably.” They belonged, therefore, to that class whom Harnack supposes to have been generally called “presbyters,” and if his theory were correct we should expect them to be so designated in an official letter, but they are not.
In the Church in Corinth some men had been thrust from office, and the office is always referred to as ἐπισκοπή397397I. xliv. 1, 4. This is what is said: “For it will be no light sin for us, if we have thrust out of the oversight (ἐπισκοπή) those who have offered the gifts (i.e. the prayers of the congregation) unblameably 161and holily. Blessed are those presbyters who have gone before, seeing that their departure was fruitful and ripe, for they have no fear lest any one should remove them from their appointed place. For we see that ye have displaced certain persons though they were living honourably, from the ministration (λειτουργία) which they had kept blamelessly.”398398I. xliv. 4-6. Everything implies that the men who had been thrust out from their ἐπισκοπή were called presbyters. This inference is strengthened by what follows: “It is shameful . . . that it should be reported that the very steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians, for the sake of one or two persons, maketh sedition against its presbyters.”399399I. xlvii. 6. “Only let the flock of Christ be at peace with its duly appointed presbyters.”400400I. liv. 2. “Ye therefore that laid the foundation of the sedition, submit yourselves unto the presbyters.”401401lvii. 1. The only sentence in the epistle which lends itself to the theory of Harnack is: “Let us reverence our rulers (προηγούμενοι), let us honour our elders (πρεσβύτεροι), let us instruct our young men in the lesson of the fear of God; let us guide our women toward that which is good”;402402xxi. 6. where ‘elders’ evidently mean old men. Sshmiedel’s remark on the rhetorical effect of substituting “elders” (πρεσβύτεροι) for “old men” (πρεσβῦται) is a sound explanation of the use of the words.403403“In iii. 3 allusion is made to the deposition of certain Church leaders, but in dependence on Isaiah iii. 5, where of old age it is said: “the child will press against the old man,” Clement can very well have preserved this meaning in his words “the young are stirred up against the elder,” as he has also retained the other general antithesis from Isaiah: “the base again the honourable.” Yet the selection of the word “elders” (πρεσβύτεροι) instead of “old men” (πρεσβῦται) points to the fact, only too well known to the readers, that it was against official presbyters that the rising was. “Elders” (πρεσβύτεροι) in this case has a double meaning which rhetorically is very effective; and so also young men. For since according to xlvii. 6 only one or two persons had given occasion to the offence, it is possible that these were young persons, but at the same time also that they stood in the position of laymen towards the presbytery in so far as these were official persons.” Encyclopaedia Biblica, p. 3135.162
It appears to me that the Epistle of Clement, on which Harnack so firmly relies to establish his conclusion that “elders” had no official position until the second century, fails him utterly, and that his own earlier position is much more in accordance with the facts of the case. In his edition of the Epistles of Clement, published in 1875, Harnack said, commenting on the words episcopi et diaconi (xlii. 5): “Luce clarius est, duo in clero ordines tum temporis (i.e. in the time of the apostles) fuisse, episcopos (= presbyteros) et diaconos.”404404Patrum apostol. opera, I. p. 132 n. (p. 68, n. 4, in ed. of 1876). This seems still to hold good.
When we turn to 1 Peter (v. 1, 2) we find there that, even if we discard the disputed reading “exercising the oversight” (ἐπισκοποῦντες), the elders are told to “shepherd the flock of God which is among you.” There is no word in the whole round of primitive ecclesiastical phraseology which is more frequently used to express the relation of office-bearers than “to shepherd” (ποιμαίνειν); and the difference between “shepherds” and “flock” is much greater than between the more aged and the younger members of the society.405405Loofs says that he is so convinced that the presbyters of 1 Peter v. 1 are office-bearers, that if the argument needed it (which it does not) he would rather believe with Mosheim and others that the νεώτεροι were deacons; Studien and Kritiken (1890), p. 638. Schmiedel, who takes the same view, asserts that the fact that the presbyters have to be warned against “discontent with their office, greed and ambition” points against the early date of the epistle (Encyclopaedia Biblica, p. 3134); he would not have said this had he known much about Churches in the mission field; the pregnant remark of Denney (Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, iii. 82 b), that tendencies to antinomianism seem inseparable from every revival of religion, religion transcending even while it guarantees morality, ought to be kept more in mind than it is by students of early Church history.
In Acts xx. 17, St. Paul summoned the presbyters (τοὺς πρεσβοτέρους) of the Church of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus; he charged them to “shepherd the Church of God”; he called the Church a “flock” (ποίμνιον); and he said that the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (ἐπισκόπους) in this 163flock. Whatever be the date or authorship of the book the fact remains that the author did believe that the presbyters (not some of them) were the “overseers” and the “shepherds” of the Church in Ephesus. They were the office-bearers there and were called both presbyters and overseers or bishops.
These statements carry us a long way. They prove to us that before the close of the first century bodies of presbyters existed as ruling colleges in Christian congregations over a great part of the Roman Empire. The Epistle of Clement proves this for the Roman Church. The First Epistle of Peter proves it for Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.4064061 Peter i. 1. The Apocalypse confirms the proof for Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.407407Rev. iv. 4, 10; v. 5, 6, 8, etc. The Acts of the Apostles adds its confirmation for Ephesus and Jerusalem.408408Acts xx. 17, 28 (Ephesus); xi. 30; xv. 4, 6, 22; xvi. 4; xxi. 18; (Jerusalem). The writings all imply that the colleges of presbyters at the head of congregations were no new institution. They had evidently existed for a long time. It will be observed that the places include the sphere of the mission-journey of Paul and Barnabas. They seem to me to confirm what the Acts of the Apostles tell us of the institution of presbyters by the apostles.409409Acts xiv. 23. All this has been reached on the dates of the writings as given by advanced critics.
The proofs for the identity of the offices of elders and bishops in the Church of the first century have often been collected. They may be arranged thus: (1) Acts xx. 17; St. Paul sent for the elders of Ephesus, and in his address to them said that “the Holy Spirit had made them bishops; (2) in 1 Peter v. 1, 2, elders are told to act as pastors and as bishops (πρεσβύτεροι . . . ποιμάνατε . . . ἐπισκοποῦντες); (3) in 1 Clement it is made clear that at Rome presbyters or elders and bishops are the same officials; (4) in 1 Timothy a description of bishops is given (iii. 1-7), then follows what is required of deacons (iii. 8-13); 164in v. 17-19 the former ministers are alluded to as presbyters; (5) in Titus i. 5-7 we find that “thou shouldest set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city . . . for the bishop must be.”; (6) in the Peshito Syriac Version of the New Testament ἐπίσκοπος is usually translated by kashisho—elder or presbyter; (7) the opinion of the ancient Church, founding on these passages, and voiced by Jerome, unhesitatingly declared that in the apostolic age elders and bishops were the same; and this idea may almost be said to have prevailed throughout the Middle Ages down to the Council of Trent.410410Compare Lightfoot, Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians (1881), 6th ed. 95-9; Loofs, Studien and Kritiken (1890), 639-41; Lightfoot gives quotations from Jerome, but omits some of his strongest sayings; it may be useful to quote at greater length from his Commentary on Titus, i. 7:—Idem est ergo presbyter, qui episcopus; et antequam diaboli instinctu studia in religione fierent, et diceretur in populis: ego sum Pauli, ego Apollo, ego autem Cephae, communi presbyterorum consilio ecclesiae gubernabantur. Postquam vero unusquisque eos, quos baptizaverat, suos putabat esse, non Christi; in toto orbe decretum est, ut unus de presbyteris electus superponeretur caeteris, ad quem omnis ecclesiae cura pertineret, et schismatum semina tollerentur. Putat aliquis non scripturarum, sed nostram esse sententiam, episcopum et presbyterum unum esse, et aliud aetatis, aliud ease nomen officii; relegat apostoli ad Philippenses verba, dicentis (then follow the passages quoted above in the text) . . . Haec propterea, ut ostenderemus, apud veteres eosdem fuisse presbyteros, quos et episcopos; paulatim vero ut dissensionum plantaria evellerentur, ad unum omnem sollicitudinem esse delatam. Sicut ergo presbyteri sciunt, se ex ecclesiae consuetudine ei, qui sibi praepositus fuerit, esse subjectos; ita episcopi noverint se magis consuetudine, quam dispositionis dominicae veritate, presbyteris esse majores, et in commune debere ecclesiam regere.” Gieseler in his Compendium of Ecclesiastical History, i. pp. 88-90, n. 1, collects a large number of authorities to show that this opinion of Jerome was held throughout the Mediaeval Church until the time of the Council of Trent. He concludes by saying “Since the Tridentine Council, the institutio divina of episcopacy and its original difference from the presbyterate became the general doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, which the English Episcopalians also followed in this particular, while the other Protestant Churches returned to the most ancient doctrine and regulation on the subject.”
The word episcopus had a long and varied history before it was used in connexion with the Christian Church. Hatch has 165tried in a very interesting but not quite conclusive manner to show that episcopi were officers of administration and finance;411411Bampton Lectures (1881), pp: 36-46. Lightfoot has shown that the Attic bishop was the commissioner appointed to inspect a newly acquired province, and that the word was used in a similar way outside the sphere of Athenian influence. In the Septuagint episcopus means an official set to oversee work, a military officer, a commissioner to carry out the orders of the king.412412Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians, pp. 95, 96. But while all these parallels are interesting much may be said for the more commonplace idea that the word episcopus means simply one who has an episcope, one who has oversight or superintendence. If so the word is not, during the first century, the technical term for an office-bearer; it is rather the word which describes what the office-bearer, i.e. the elder, does. The elder was the episcopus, overseer or superintendent, while the deacon rendered the subordinate services. The office connected itself therefore with the κυβερνήσεις, while deacon was related to the ἀντιλήψεις of 1 Cor. xii. 28.413413Compare for example the suggestive phrase in Hermas: ἐπισκέπτεσθε ἀλλήλους καὶ ἀντιλαμβάνεσθε ἀλλήλων (Vis. iii. 9). The use of the words in the earliest Christian literature seems to bear out this idea,414414The word ἐπίσκοπος is used of Christ in 1 Peter ii. 25 and of God in 1 Clem. lix. 3. The word ἐπισκοπὴ is used of the providence of God in Luke xix. 44 and in 1 Pet. ii. 12. In 1 Clement ἐπισκοπὴ, in the sense of exercising oversight, is a much more prominent thought than ἐπίσκοπος. The author speaks of ὄνομα ἐπισκοπῆς, λειτουργία ἐπισκοπῆς, δῶρα ἐπισκοπῆς not ἐπισκόπων; Hermas of ἐπίσκοποι . . . ἐπισκοπήσαντες ἁγνῶς. Loofs has collected a number of similar phrases from later authorities in Studien und Kritiken (1890), p. 629, showing that there are traces of this way of regarding ἐπίσκοπος as late as the end of the second century. Then in Titus i. 7 the article is prefixed (τὸν ἐπίσκοπον) to denote that a type is spoken of: cf. Lightfoot, Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians, p. 97, n. 1. This leads to the conclusion in the end of the preceding chapter that elder is the name for the office, while bishop is the title describing what the elder has to do. It can claim the support of Professor Sanday of Oxford and of Professor 166Loofs of Halle.415415After declaring that he does not regard ἐπίσκοπος any more than ποιμὴν or ἡγούμενος as a technical term denoting an office, Loofs goes on to say:—“Mir scheint in der vorschnellen Annahme, ἐπίσκοπος sei frühe Amtsname, Titel gewesen, ein πρῶτον ψεῦδος vieler neuerer Konstructionen zu liegen; die ältere Anschauung halte ich durchaus nicht für veraltet; ἐπίσκοπος ist eine Funktionsbezeichnung and bis ins endende zweite Jahrhundert hinein gehen die Spuren davon, dass man ein Bewusstsein davon hat, dass ἐπίσκοπος weniger Amtsname als Amtsbeschreibung ist.” Studien und Kritiken (1890), p: 628. Compare Professor Sanday, The Conception of Priesthood, pp. 61-62. Dr. Loofs asserts that in his opinion the idea that ἐπίσκοπος is the name of an office, and not the term describing the work done by the official, is the πρῶτον ψεῦδος of many of the modern attempts to investigate and describe primitive ecclesiastical organization.
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