« PrécédentContinuer »
the suffering Christ that which is foreshadowed in the Book of Revelation, and when those who have despised Him shall “call on the mountains and rocks to fall on them, and hide them from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand ?”
HOW BISHOPS GREW.
THERE are two theories as to the origin of the office of Bishop, as distinct from that of Elder, in the Christian Church. One makes the office coæval with the Church, of Apostolic institution, and therefore—as it is claimed, though this is by no means a logical consequence,*-an essential part of the church organization. The other supposes an original parity in the ministry, and that the Episcopal order grew up by degrees out of the Presbyterial, after the death of the Apostles. It will be the main object of this Article to weigh the evidence between these two views. This evidence must, from the nature of the case, be purely historical, and is to be sought in the New Testament and in the writings of the early Fathers.
In the New Testament we find both the words bishop and presbyter—śniO XOTOS and #peo Bútepos—frequently used. It is now agreed by all that these terms are there used interchangeablybeing applied to the class who were afterward called presbyters only. In the Episcopalian view, the Apostles themselves at this time filled the place of bishops, the title énic Xonos not being applied to them.
All agree that the Apostles did exercise a general supervision and control over the whole Church. The question is, did they appoint successors to themselves in this authority, who were to appoint their successors, and so render the office a permanent one-or was this authority peculiar to themselves personally, as the founders of the Church, and was their office thus to terminate with their own lives?
* If the Apostles did appoint bishops, why does it follow that they intended the office to be perpetual ? Did they not establish it, if at all, for the same reason for which we have supposed that their successors did—because it suited the time? We see no more evidence for its necessary permanence in this case than in the other.
In support of the former position, is urged the fact, which is shown by some of the New Testament epistles, that there were certain men—Timothy, Titus, and others—who were empowered by the Apostles to ordain elders, and in other respects exercise an authority similar to their own. This indeed proves that the exercise of these functions was not strictly confined to the thirteen Apostles. But its extension to Timothy and others may have been due to the same temporary necessity by which we account for the official position of the Apostles themselves. Besides, it is important to observe that Timothy and Titus were not local officers,—as were the earliest bishops of whom we have distinct mention afterward,—but travelling missionaries. This is evident from such passages as that (2 Tim. iv. 5) where Timothy is bidden to “do the work of an evangelist”-i.e., of a travelling preacher. So it is said (Tit. i. 5), that Titus was left in Crete to “set in order the things that were] wanting, and ordain elders in every city,”—Crete being an island 120 miles long, and thickly populated. Clearly, neither of these men was a “bishop,” as the word was used in the second century.
Next, the first chapters of Revelation are appealed to, on the ground that the seven angels of the seven churches must represent the bishops of those churches. This interpretation seems unnatural, as giving an unaccountable prominence to seven individuals not otherwise known. John says that he saw “One like unto the Son of Man, in the midst of seven golden candlesticks,” and “having in his right hand seven stars.” He is told “ The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches.” The message proceeds: “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; these things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks." Is not this image of the seven stars too exalted to be referred merely to the seven men presiding over the churches? There seems no occasion in the context for this personal reference. And what is addressed to the “ angels” in the second person, is applicable only to the churches themselves—"I will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent,"-addressed to one of the “angels ”—is manifestly said to a church ; and so throughout. The natural interpretation seems to make these “ angels” personifications of the churches, and this view is now adopted by most commentators.
We find in the New Testament, then, not a single distinct reference to bishops, as that term was used in the Episcopal system. In that system, which we find existing soon after the close of the New Testament period, the bishop was the presiding officer of the local city church. In the New Testament we have the officers called én lo xogos, between whom and the presbyters no difference can be traced ; the Apostles, whose authority was not local, but universal ; * the class represented by Timothy and Titus, who were not local church officers, but travelling missionaries ;—and no others. The silence of the New Testament, then, gives a presumption against the existence of any distinct order of bishops during the time it was written.
It may be said in reply to this, that as the local bishops were to supply a need occasioned by the death of the Apostles, it is natural that we should not hear much of them while the Apostles were living. We think there is some force in this. Yet, it is claimed that the first local bishops were ordained by the Apostles; and as their appointment would hardly have been left until the last two or three of the Apostles were on the verge of the grave, there must, therefore, on the Episcopalian theory, have been a large number of them in office before the close of the New Testament period. So the silence of the New Testament regarding them is, after all, noticeable, and has no small weight as an argument against their existence at that time.
We come now to the evidence of the early Church Fathers, whom we take up in their chronological order. The first is Clement of Rome, who flourished about the close of the first century. We have an epistle written by him to the church at Corinth, undoubtedly genuine, and probably written in A.D. 96 or 97. Its especial object was to compose the dissensions in the Corinthian church. In this epistle we have frequent reference to the Presbyters, and they are referred to almost unmistakably as the only rulers of the church. Thus, in the forty-seventh chapter, it is said, “Shameful, my beloved, yea, very shameful is it, and unworthy of the life in Christ, that it should be heard that the most firm and ancient Church of the Corinthians is led by one or two persons into a sedition against its Presbyters.” In the fifty-fourth chapter, “Who, then, among you is noble, who is tender-hearted, who is full of love ? let him say, 'If through me there be sedition, and strife, and schisms, I will depart, I will go away wherever you wish, and will do what is commanded
* James, however, resided long at Jerusalem, and was head of the church in that place. Gieseler says the Episcopate was “foreshadowed” in this arrangement. What we wish to show above is, that in the New Testament period there was nothing like the fully developed Episcopal system of the next century. We suppose the authority exercised by James, just as in the case of the other Apostles, to have been due to his personal acquaintance with Our Lord, and his own character. This personal fitness of the Apostles corresponded to the great fact, that for the founding of the church there was needed such a central authority as could be dispensed with when education and the possession of the New Testament Scriptures had fitted the churches for self-government.
(by the majority; only let the flock of Christ live in peace, with its appointed Presbyters.'” In the fifty-seventh chapter, “You, then, who have laid the foundations of sedition, submit yourselves to the Presbyters, and receive correction unto repentance, bowing the knees of your hearts.”
'Erixonou are also spoken of, who are, beyond a doubt, the same as the presbyters. In the forty-second chapter occurs this passage : “ They, then, [the Apostles], preaching the word throughout provinces and cities, appointed their first fruits, [i.l., the first converts), when they had proved them by the Spirit, as bishops and deacons of those who should believe." It'cannot be that a first and third order are mentioned, while a second is omitted. “Bishops” here clearly means Presbyters. The next sentence goes on, “ And this not as a new thing, for ages before it had been written concerning bishops and deacons ; for thus, somewhere, saith the Scripture, ‘I will establish their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.'” This is a free rendering of Isaiah lx. 17, where the Septuagint translates the Hebrew words for “ officers” and “ kings" by ápxórtas and ŜTIC XÓTOUS.
Clement, then, uses the words éníc xonon and apeo Búrepor interchangeably, just as they are used in the New Testament. Does he recognize another order in the ministry, above these? The passage just quoted, certainly, gives the impression that these two were all.
The object of this part of the Epistle is to reprove the Corinthians for wrongfully deposing from office some worthy presbyters. The forty-fourth chapter is as follows : " Our Apostles also knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife about the bishop's office. For this reason, then, having received full foreknowledge, they appointed those whom I have mentioned ;” i.e., the frío Xorol and eraxovou spoken of two chapters before—" and afterward gave commandment that when these died other approved men should receive their ministry: Those, then, who were appointed by the Apostles, or afterward by other distinguished men, with the approval of the whole church, and who have blamelessly ministered to the flock of Christ with humility, peacefully and honourably, and who have many times received favourable witness from all, these we think it unjust to depose from their ministry. For it will be no small sin in us if we cast forth from their episcopal office those who have nobly and blamelessly discharged its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who have finished their course, and received & rich and perfect release ; for they have no fear lest any one should remove them from their appointed place.”
Notice, first, that in this passage the words bishop and pres
byter are freely interchanged, showing that they were then equivalent in meaning; and, secondly, in the whole passage there is no reference to any order in the ministry above this. And nowhere in the Epistle is there any mention of such superior order.
Now this silence is a weighty argument against the existence at this time of such an order, if we consider the purpose and contents of the Epistle. There were dissensions and strife in the Corinthian church; blameless presbyters had been wantonly deposed from their office. Suppose there had been in the church one officer superior to the presbyters, the head of the whole church? Is it conceivable that Clement should have written a long epistle, full of exhortations to unity, to respect to the presbyters and submission to their authority, and not a single word about the chief officer of all, or their duties toward him ?
This epistle, then, seems to show almost beyond doubt that there was as yet no Episcopate, in the later sense, in the Corinthian church; and that the office, therefore, in the case of this. church, must have grown up later.
Our next witness is Ignatius. We have seven epistles bearing his name, and generally regarded as genuine, which were probably written about A.D. 115—ten to twenty years later than that of Clement. In Ignatius we seem to find a strong witness at least for the very early establishment of Episcopacy. His. epistles are full of such injunctions as the following: - Be subject to the Bishop as to the commandment [of God], and also to the Presbytery” (Trallians, 13). “When ye are subject to the Bishop as to Jesus Christ, ye seem to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ.” (Trallians, 2). “ It is needful then, just as ye do, to do nothing apart from the Bishop; but be subject also to the Presbytery as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ.” (ib.)
An examination of all these Epistles leads us to the following conclusions :-
1. The terms " presbyter” and “bishop” are always distinguished, the latter being used of the superior officer. In no case, we believe, are the words used as equivalent. ..
2. These epistles, assuming them to be genuine, seem to : establish beyond doubt the existence of an Episcopal organization, with the three orders of Bishop, Presbyters, and Deacons, in each of the churches, except Rome, to which they were written—i.e., in Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Philadelphia, and Smyrna.* This is evident, because Ignatius, in addressing these
Itiner of melesus Chris 13). Andment for followiniscopacy. Witness
* It is noticeable that these churches are all in the very region (Asia Minor) where Episcopacy is supposed to have first arisen, by those who