Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Hermas – a primary eyewitness source regarding the leadership structure of early church at Rome

Paul writes to the church at Rome without addressing a leader. He writes in the years 57-58, a date that is very firm in history, in a letter that is not contested. Excuses are made as to why there is no mention of Peter in Rome, even though the church has been attested in Rome perhaps from Acts 2, when visitors for Rome were present at/saved at Pentecost. In Acts 18, Aquila and Priscilla are expelled from Rome by the edict of Claudius, attested in secular history, 49 ad.

So the church at Rome is attested long before Paul writes and there is no leader there.

Ignatius, who knows and writes about Bishops in the east, writes to Rome without mentioning a Bishop. There is no question the city of Rome is important. It is the capital of the empire. This church “which presides in the place of the district of the Romans…”

Shepherd of Hermas: According to the Muratorian Canon, the oldest (ca. AD-180-200?) known list of the New Testament and early Christian writings, Hermas was the brother of Pius, bishop of Rome (ca 140-154). So he was writing earlier than Hegesippus, whose “list of bishops” is said to be the first one (c. 166), and earlier than Irenaeus (c.180). Hermas was, in fact, listed in the Muratorian Canon as a book to be read in the churches [i.e., it was liturgical].
As I slept, brothers and sisters, a revelation was given to me by a very handsome young man, who said to me, “Who do you think the elderly woman from whom you received the little book was? I said “The Sibyl.” “You are wrong,” he said. “She is not.” Then who is she?” I said. “The church,” he replied. I said to him, “why then is she elderly?” “Because,” he said, “she was created before all things; therefore she is elderly, and for her sake the world was formed.”

Afterwards I saw a vision in my house. The elderly woman came and asked me if I had already given the little book to the elders (presbuteroi, plural). I said that I had not given it. “You have done well,” she said, “for I have words to add. So when I finish all the words they will be made known to all the elect through you. Therefore you will write two little books, and you will send one to Clement and one to Grapte. Then Clement will send it to the cities abroad, because that is his job. But Grapte will instruct the widows and orphans. But you yourself will read it to this city [Rome], along with the elders (presbuteroi) who preside (proistamenoi – plural leadership) over the church." (Vis 2.4)
Roger Collins, “Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy,” (New York: Basic Books, 2008), notes “The author of the Epistle of Clement may have been the man of this name later described as the person responsible for drafting communications sent behalf of Christians of Rome to other churches.” If this Clement did compose 1 Clement, then it certainly would be understandable why the Corinthian church would have thought they received a letter from Clement (even though the name of Clement does not appear within that letter. Rather, it is from “the church of God that sojourns in Rome”).

But Hermas could not be more clear. There is a plurality of presbyters who “preside over” the church at Rome. This is no fuzzy mention, as in Ignatius, of a church in “a place of honor”. This is a clear explanation for the “argument from silence” in Paul’s letter to the Romans, in the absence of a clear leader in both 1 Clement and Ignatius.

Hermas reiterates the structure of this leadership, and the fact that they are not leading, but rather that they fight among themselves. He calls them “children”.
Look therefore to the coming judgment. You, therefore, who have more than enough, seek out those who are hungry, until the tower is finished. For after the tower is finished, you may want to do good, but you will not have the chance. Beware, therefore, you who exult in your wealth, lest those in need groan, and their groaning rise up to the Lord, and you together with your good things be shut outside the door of the tower. Now, therefore, I say to you [tois – plural] who lead the church and occupy the seats of honor: do not be like the sorcerers. For the sorcerers carry their drugs in bottles, but you carry your drug and poison in your heart. You are calloused and do not want to cleanse your hearts and to mix your wisdom together in a clean heart, in order that you may have mercy from the great King. Watch out, therefore, children, lest these divisions of yours [among you elders] deprive you of your life. How is it that you desire to instruct God’s elect, while you yourselves have no instruction? Instruct one another, therefore, and have peace among yourselves, in order that I too may stand joyfully before the Father and give an account on behalf of all of you to your Lord.” (Vis 3.9)
Hermas here is chastising the multiple leaders of the church at Rome. This is important to note because Hermas identifies himself as a slave (Vis. 1.1). It will not do to say that this is a group of priests who work for a bishop. The entire group "presides."

Yet here, in the leadership of the church of Rome, there are multiple elders who "preside"; they are acting like sorcerers. They exult in their wealth. They take the seats of honor. They want to teach, but they are guilty themselves of having no instruction.

This is very clear writing. Very clear reporting of what the church was like. For those of you who want to understand what the leadership structure of the church at Rome was like, it is hard to find a better primary source witness than Hermas. [Please pay no attention to the fact that there are many scholars whose work corroborates what Hermas says here. This is a post about primary sources.]

52 comments:

steelikat said...

As usual, an examination of the early Church does as much or more damage to the radical Protestant position as it does to the Roman position.

I know your purpose was specifically to address the question of whether there was a Pope in Rome in the first 2 centuries, but what else are you learning? Think about the implications of what you are saying here in regards to Protestantism. Does it follow that because Paul did not address a leader that there were literally no leaders, that the church in Rome was a congregationalist church with no leaders? Is it not more likely that there were a plurality of pastors, as Hermas describes?

Does Herrmas portray the situation in Rome as a good and normal thing, or is it portrayed as an aberration and a tragedy? In the light of that, how should we see the situation in America, where there is a pastor on one side of the street, another competing pastor on the other side, another down the street and at the end of the block a pastorless congregationalist church where every man thinks he's a bishop?

The early church was catholic, right from NT times. Not Roman, but certainly not Protestant either.

John Bugay said...

As usual, an examination of the early Church does as much or more damage to the radical Protestant position as it does to the Roman position.

I'm not a radical Protestant. I'm a confessional Protestant. The argument by Rome at the time of the Reformation was that "we are the Divinely Instituted authority." But the answer then, as now, was "no you're not."

what else are you learning? Think about the implications of what you are saying here in regards to Protestantism. Does it follow that because Paul did not address a leader that there were literally no leaders, that the church in Rome was a congregationalist church with no leaders? Is it not more likely that there were a plurality of pastors, as Hermas describes?

Other things we know: the Roman church was largely comprised of a network of house churches. It was a very "presbyterial" style of church government.

Does Herrmas portray the situation in Rome as a good and normal thing, or is it portrayed as an aberration and a tragedy?

There were strengths to that structure, and many bad things as well. Neither implies a causal relationship. I think from my other reading that it was specifically the Roman mindset that was bad for the church. Torrance has done a study on the concept of grace, and individuals such as Hermas and Clement seemed to have had deficient (i.e., non-Pauline, non-Christ-like) concepts of what grace was all about. But this does not affect the historical value of Hermas's portrayal.

In the light of that, how should we see the situation in America, where there is a pastor on one side of the street, another competing pastor on the other side, another down the street and at the end of the block a pastorless congregationalist church where every man thinks he's a bishop?


I'm not even trying to address that situation.

The early church was catholic, right from NT times. Not Roman, but certainly not Protestant either.

Have you ever seen Jason Engwer's series "Catholic, but not Roman Catholic"? I believe he would appreciate this affirmation from you.

By the way, Not necessarily "right from NT times." I think it's been shown that the "catholic flavor" was a development of the second century.

steelikat said...

Oh yes I've read Engwer's C not RC, and was very impressed. That Engwer remains comfortably where he is undermines his thesis. Couldn't a RC by the same logic remain comfortably where he is?

As for the substance of your column--good job and good argument! My blog comments are too often dialogs with myself.

John Bugay said...

Thanks steelikat, I appreciate this affirmation, too. I've known Jason for a while, and I believe he is comfortably an Evangelical-Free Church member. I don't think his church membership undermines his thesis at all. He is one of the more well-read people I know (and can imagine), so I'm sure he's very familiar with the "big sweep" of history. I don't think that the early church developed a "catholic" flavor means that's what was divinely intended for the church to be all along. I think it should enable Protestants to be more comfortable with "early-church" types of things. But I think that the Reformed tradition, especially, sought in a tremendous way to understand what "Godly worship" was (for example), and we should not be threatened by those types of "traditions" as well.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat: Couldn't a RC by the same logic remain comfortably where he is?

By the way, I don't think this works this way. The RCC has gotten its doctrines far too afield. I did think for a while that I could remain Catholic, worship in a Catholic Church, and still keep my Protestant sensibilities. But it didn't work that way.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Please pay no attention to the fact that there are many scholars whose work corroborates what Hermas says here. This is a post about primary sources."

Paul
Ignatius
Hermas

All primary sources.

John, do you remember these old Wendy's commercials where an old woman would look at these hamburgers and loudly ask "Where's the beef?"

It was really funny.

Now it seems like we have a situation where folks are asking:

"Where's the papacy!"

John Bugay said...

It's just a really big bun...

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I shall revise what I wrote before. It should be:

Where's the earliest papacy!!

If they say Peter, what's the primary source material that Peter was the acknowledged Pope of the early Church?

Or, who was the immediate successor to the Apostle Peter as the Pope of the Early Church?

Where's the Beef!!!

John Bugay said...

It's a really, really BIG bun ...

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Big Bun!

No meat!

Air Sandwich!

No thanks!

Rhology said...

Not Roman, but certainly not Protestant either.

A damning admission for the Roman position.

Rhology said...

steelikat needs to understand that the foundational authority for the Sola Scripturist is...the Scripture. Not the church.

Such is not the case for Rome. Rome needs the entire church to have been like the modern RCC from the very beginning, b/c of Rome's claims.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

John Bugay,

Doesn't the Magisterium have a formal, possibly infallible, apostolic succession list that they publish tracing apostolic succession from Apostle Peter to Apostle Peter's immediate successor to all the way down to Pope Benedict XVI?

And that this formal list published by the Magisterium is well-attested to by primary sources for the various successors of Apostle Peter?

Where's the Beef!!

John Bugay said...

Rome needs the entire church to have been like the modern RCC from the very beginning, b/c of Rome's claims

Well ... it always has been! Just ask Bryan Cross!

Tim Enloe said...

Don't buy the sophism that the succession list is all neat and pretty. I will get in trouble with "conservative" apologists for mentioning a "liberal" Catholic, but Francis Oakley showed a long time ago in his book Council Over Pope? that if the typical reasoning of the Magisterium regarding the qualifications of the "unbroken succession" was actually followed through, the succession would completely break down during the period of the Council of Constance (1414-1418), thus casting into doubt the validity of the election of all subsequent popes.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Tim Enloe writes:

Don't buy the sophism that the succession list is all neat and pretty.

I recall once asking on CARM what sorts of historical arguments and proofs could be made to support and validate the succession lists. There were no substantive answers. By that I mean no answers that pointed to any historical research, either from primary or secondary sources. It was simply assumed by the (perhaps) dozen or so Catholics who responded that the lists were accurate and secure.

I don't think it's safe to confidently assume that this is how all Catholics approach the succession lists, but I'm certainly willing to place some level of confidence in such a conclusion.

John Bugay said...

Tim, I think it is the "liberal" Catholics who are more willing to be honest with history. That'll be a great work to look into.

steelikat said...

Rhology,

"A damning admission for the Roman position"

Indeed, though I'm sure they'd call it an "accusation" rather than an admission. "Oh how open minded of you to 'admit' that" they'd sarcastically respond.

"needs to understand that the foundational authority for the sola scripturist..."

Why do I need to understand that? How would understanding that help me to understand the the leadership structure of the 1st century Roman church, or the catholicity or non-catholicity of the early Church per se?

Do you want to know what I think of sola scripturism?

Tim Enloe said...

John, the work I mentioned is quite dated (I believe 1969), and Oakley has since in other books and articles vastly expanded and strengthened his arguments made in that book. I don't know what his current claim about the succession lists might be, but the argument in Council Over Pope? is pretty solid and convincing - to the non dogmatic papalist, anyway.

Rhology said...

steelikat,

Sorry, I don't want to sound like I know anythg about you. I was just saying that the issue of Hermas' testimony to the church of the author's time is much more important for the RC than for the Sola Scripturist. The SS authority is just that - Scripture. Alone. Rome's is not like that at all.

steelikat said...

It seems ahistorical and naive, to me, to divide the western church into romanists and "sola scipturists." The R vs P terminology works fine, and does point to real factions (even though some Protestants don't like being called Protestants).

steelikat said...

What I'm saying is that we don't corporately or individually have good reason to be comfortable about that, that the early church really was C but not RC.

Rhology said...

Since we submit EVERYthing to Scripture, I don't see why it would bother us.

Constantine said...

Tim is right to note Constance, but Calvin found the subsequent Council of Basle to be of equal interest:

“But if they [papists] are sincere, let them answer me in good faith, --in what place, and among whom, do they think the Church resided, after the Council of Basle degraded and deposed Eugenius from the popedom, and substituted Amadeus in his place? Do their utmost, they cannot deny that that Council was legitimate as far as regards external forms and was summoned not only by one Pontiff, but by two. Eugenius, with the whole herd of cardinals and bishops who had joined him in plotting the dissolution of the Council, was there condemned of contumacy, rebellion, and schism. Afterwards, however, aided by the favour of princes, he got back his popedom safe. The election of Amadeus, duly made by the authority of a general holy synod, went to smoke; only he himself was appeased with a cardinal’s cap, like a piece of offal thrown to a barking dog. Out of the lap of these rebellious and contumacious schismatics proceeded all future popes, cardinals, bishops, abbots, and presbyters. Here they are caught, and cannot escape. For, on which party will they bestow the name of Church? Will they deny it to have been a general Council, though it lacked nothing as regards external majesty, having been solemnly called by two bulls, consecrated by the legate of the Roman See as its president, constituted regularly in all respects, and continuing in possession of all its honours to the last? Will they admit that Eugenius and his whole train, through whom they have all been consecrated, were schismatical? Let them, then, either define the form of the Church differently, or, however numerous they are, we will hold them all to be schismatics in having knowingly and willingly received ordination from heretics. But had it never been discovered before that the Church is not tied to external pomp, we are furnished with a lengthened proof in their own conduct, in proudly vending themselves to the world under the specious title of Church, notwithstanding that they are the deadly pests of the Church. I speak not of their manners and of those tragical atrocities with which their whole life teems, since it is said that they are Pharisees who should be heard, not imitated. By devoting some portion of your leisure to our writings, you will see, not obscurely, that their doctrine – the very doctrine to which they say it is owing that they are the Church –is a deadly murderer of souls, the firebrand, ruin, and destruction of the Church.”

John Calvin – Institutes of the Christian Religion

Peace.

John Bugay said...

Hi Constantine, thanks for that piece from Calvin. Do you have a reference in the Institutes? (It wouldn't surprise me if you just keyed that all in from memory!)

Tim Enloe said...

That is a most excellent quote, Constantine. I had forgotten it, so thank you very much!

The dogmatic papalists have tried to answer that problem. I'd have to dig out my sources (which I don't really have time to do right now), but if memory serves, they came up with all kinds of clever spins and twists on the various convocations of Basel so that they could show that no "legitimate" pope ever wound up underwriting any "heretical" statement that the Council made. It all starts to look like special pleading in the end, because that's exactly what it is. But it's often very entertaining to see the pretzels into which very intelligent men will tie their minds up in the service of unrealistic ideals.

steelikat said...

Rhology, I don't know what you mean by that. My best guess is that you are saying that there are people who submit SOME things to scripture and there are people who submit EVERY thing to scripture and that the latter never feel "bothered" about anything. But that can't be right, either. You must be saying something else...

It does seem to me that both non scriptural history and scripture itself, as far as we can deduce anything from it one way or another in regards to the question, suggest that the early church was catholic but not roman catholic.

natamllc said...

It's just my speculation and an assumption on my part that dear John Calvin must have had some of Isaiah in mind when writing this, taken from the citation Constantine provides us to enjoy reading and recalling why we are so adamantly opposed to that form of doctrine:

Calvin: "... notwithstanding that they are the deadly pests of the Church. I speak not of their manners and of those tragical atrocities with which their whole life teems, since it is said that they are Pharisees who should be heard, not imitated. By devoting some portion of your leisure to our writings, you will see, not obscurely, that their doctrine – the very doctrine to which they say it is owing that they are the Church –is a deadly murderer of souls, the firebrand, ruin, and destruction of the Church.”

Isaiah: Isa 2:20 In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats,
Isa 2:21 to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.
Isa 2:22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?



How ironic, isn't it? A man, John Calvin, in whose nostrils breathes the Breath of Life, such words came forth from to warn those so deluded by men in whose nostrils is just a natural breath!

So I ask now, seeing it is my turn and yours too, "...for of what account is he? :)


We had better take to heart and heed the Word of the Lord after reading that, Calvin and Isaiah, when reading this:

Luk 23:26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.
Luk 23:27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him.
Luk 23:28 But turning to them Jesus said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.
Luk 23:29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!'
Luk 23:30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.'
Luk 23:31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

John Bugay said...

Steelikat, I think you have to define what you mean by "catholic" and then define by what you mean by "Roman Catholic." If you don't do that, there's too much opportunity for misunderstanding.

Constantine said...

Hi Tim,

Thanks for the comment. Calvin's thoughts seemed appropriate and I'm glad you found some benefit therein.

Hello my friend,John.

Thank you for your kind comments.

This comes from "The Prefatory Address to His Most Christian Majesty, The Most Mighty and Illustrious Monarch, Francis, King of the French" which begins (my copy, at least) the Institutes.

Keep up the fight, gentlemen. You greatly encourage us all!

Peace.

Lvka said...

John,

No synod of presbyters, especially not the one in the largest city of the then-existing world, lacked a primate. Priests do preside over the church, so I don't know what you find so surprising about that.

John Bugay said...

No synod of presbyters, especially not the one in the largest city of the then-existing world, lacked a primate.

And you know this for sure because you were there?

steelikat said...

John, This is a comment box and it's difficult to answer your question without writing an essay.

I'll try to answer it by allusion, and you can fill in the blanks by thinking about what others have said (for example Jason Engwer to start with) about the early church and how it was more catholic than many Protestants would have guessed.

Of course catholic means universal, and the early church was catholic in that it deliberately saw itself and tried to be in visible and formal communion with the local churches throughout the world and the apostolic church. It had an ordained clergy, bishops and deacons, and its bishops were the successors of the apostles. It was episcopal. You have characterized it as "presbyterian" in structure at its earliest stages but I would argue that a simpler explanation is that in the beginning there were no presbyters and the many elders who shepherded their congregations were bishops with episcopal authority in every sense that the 3rd century and later bishops were. It must have been sacramental and liturgical and there is no reason to doubt that there were in particular seven sacraments seen as the primary means by which God dealt graciously with his church. The very body and blood of Christ were consumed at their liturgies which is why the pagans accused them of cannibalism. They were traditionalists who aimed to follow the teachings of the apostles handed down within a visible church. Lay people did not read the bible and decide within their own minds what theological ideology they would accept, rather they learned apostolic teaching from their pastors. etc. ETC. That is, I am not writing an essay I am alluding. Look at early church history and the writings of the early fathers and make up your own mind. even if you don't agree with me you can figure out what Im alluding to.

When I say that the early church was not RC I mean that in the middle agws the RCC innovated especially in ways that blurred the gospel of grace--purgatory, indulgences, ETC--again I won't write an essay and I'll let you fill in the blanks. And it introduced papal infallibility. When I say it wasn't Protestant I mean that the reformation churches and the RC both branched off from the same medieval RC parent and that the Protestants came up with their own innovations--anabaptism, nonsacramentalism, a denial of the real presence (in the way that Lutheranism and the traditional churches understand it) and that protestantism rarely seriously tries to be catholic, to be in communion with the physically and temporarily universal church, to look to the fathers and the doctors of the church to understand scripture, to accept the traditions passed down, etc.

ETC ETC. I bet you can guess in a general sense what I mean by my allusions and examples. this is already too long and i had to type this on my iPad.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat: Some of your vague statements aren't helpful. You said: [The early church] had an ordained clergy, bishops and deacons, and its bishops were the successors of the apostles. It was episcopal.

This is not really the case and we've cited many sources that simply do not see it this way. It's fairly clear that the word overseer in New Testament times was used interchangeably with elder, and it wasn't till much later that the concept of "bishop" developed.

I would argue that a simpler explanation is that in the beginning there were no presbyters and the many elders who shepherded their congregations were bishops with episcopal authority in every sense that the 3rd century and later bishops were. ... It must have been sacramental and liturgical and there is no reason to doubt that there were in particular seven sacraments seen as the primary means by which God dealt graciously with his church.

You didn't really "argue" this and this sort of thing is really a lot to assume. We know with reasonable certainty how and when bishops and sacraments "developed"; your account is very vague and it assumes a lot of things which just aren't true.

I'm not going to ask you to do a lot of typing, and all of this is really off the subject of the post.

steelikat said...

"You didn't really argue this..."

Right, as I mentioned earlier all I got is a comment box and an iPad and it would take an essay to fully answer your question. I was hoping I could answer your question by allusion, that you were well-read enough to know what I was talking about. The argumentts are out there, and you don't really believe that I "assumed" that there are good reasons to believe that the early church is already sacramental. As for the specific English words "elder" and "overseer" I didn't mean, by not explicitly using them, that I somehow objected to those words vs. "bishop," or "pastor," or what have you. It's pure semantics and beside the point. The point is they had em, and deacons too. They didn't speak English and would not have used any of those literal words.

I've given you enough clues so that you can guess what I meant by "c but not rc" (or p).

steelikat said...

Oh, I know this was worded clumsily: by "ordained clergy, elders, and deacons" I didn't mean to imply a tripartite distinction--rather, I meant "elders and deacons" to further specify "ordained clergy." That is, I would agree that the presbyterate, distinct from the episcopate, did not appear to be present in the earliest church.

steelikat said...

Here's something for you to think about, if there is no distinction in the nt between "elders" and "overseers" (and I agree that there isn't), how can you decide that the early church is presbyterian rather than episcopal?

Or to put it differently, you seem to be identifying 1st century pastors with 2nd century presbyters, rather than identifying 1st century pastors with 2nd century episcopoi. The latter seems both more logical and more historically supportable.

It seems to me based on what you said in your article that your reasoning is based on something like "in Rome" (for example) "there were a plurality of Elders/overseers who did not always see eye to eye and acted like they considered each other equals..."

If so, I don't think you have a good reason, I think that is a non-sequitur. "Proto-episcopalian" works just as well as "presbyterian" to explain that state of affairs.

steelikat said...

"clergy, elders and deacons" does look like a list of three things.

I meant "ordained clergy (elders and deacons)" Two specific things in a larger more general category.

Lvka said...

And you know this for sure because you were there?

No, John.

I know this because every other little city in the ancient world we know of, East or West, had a bishop presiding over its local council of elders: whether it's little Lyon in France, or great metropolises like Alexandria and Antioch in the East. To make a question-begging exception for the world's largest city is neither here nor there.

John Bugay said...

how can you decide that the early church is presbyterian rather than episcopal? ... If so, I don't think you have a good reason, I think that is a non-sequitur. "Proto-episcopalian" works just as well as "presbyterian" to explain that state of affairs.

Steelikat, there are a couple of issues going on here. The first thing I want to do is to say that, contra Rome's claims that the papacy was instituted by Christ, conferred on Peter, and that somehow "Peter's successors" had all of Peter's prerogatives -- this view "from the ground" by Hermas shows very clearly and supports the view that in the city of Rome in the early part of the second century, there was a network of house churches, these house churches had "presbyters", but that there was no hierarchy of authority structure among them. There was enough of an absence of leadership that no one individual could take Hermas's role and say to these folks, "stop your bickering."

This is not just my conclusion. Francis Sullivan concludes:

* from 1 Clement that the structure of leadership at Rome did not differ much from that at Corinth--and that letter gives us good reasons to conclude that there was no bishop in charge of the church of Corinth at that time."

* If their had been a bishop in charge of the church of Corinth at that time, Clement [would have] said something about the obligation of the guilty parties to submit to their bishop. There is nothing of the kind in that letter.

* In Hermas, as above, we have a very clear picture; all the terms describing leadership are in the plural.

* "However, the argument is not based merely on silence about a bishop; in my view the stronger evidence in both 1 Clement and The Shepherd is the consistent use of the plural in referring to those in positions of leadership.

And I say this not only in response to you, but to Lvka, who here is anachronistically reading the structure of his own church back into the earlier era, where the historical data simply does not warrant it.

Cont

John Bugay said...

That much is very clear.

Next, to your point that: "Proto-episcopalian" works just as well as "presbyterian" to explain that state of affairs.

I understand that some Anglicans would argue this way but I would not.

Again, going back to Sullivan, whose work "From Apostles to Bishops" makes a fairly thorough study of the earliest writings of the church, suggests that there were "two lines of apostolic succession in the postapostolic church," both through their missionary co-workers and through the local churches.

He says: "In the course of the second century, in the churches of Corinth, Philippi and Rome, there was a transition from the leadership of a college of presbyters to the leadership of a single bishop, but they do not throw any light on how that transition took place."

"I think it most likely that a developing along both lines [both traveling/missionary and leaders of fixed local churches] of apostolic succession gave rise to the monoepiscopate during the second century."


Again, there is no warrant for Catholics or anyone to read into this process that there was some kind of "sacramental succession" beyond normal transitions of leadership that would be expected to occur when you've got an organized group of people.

There are two kinds of evidence he proposes.

"The evidence from both the New Testament and from such writings as 1 Clement, the Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians and the Shepherd of Hermas favors the view that initially the presbyters in each church, as a college, possesed all the powers needed for effective ministry. ... Hence, the development of the episcopate would have meant the differentiation of ministerial powers that had previously existed in an undifferentiated state, and the consequent reservation to the bishop of certain of the powers previously held collegially by the presbyters."

But then he allows that this historical evidence alone "does not sustain this claim; for that we must also invoke theological reflection."

"Theological Reflection" opens the doors to all kinds of things. This is where such concepts as "holy orders" and other "spooky" and "sacramental" concepts are anachronistically applied back onto the practices as they occurred. It is far better to trace "what they knew and when they knew it."


He proposes a multiple-staged process by which "the Spirit guided the process of the development of the episcopate." And this he lets stand as the explanation for the fact that somehow the episcopate is of divine institution.

But this does not do, especially not when you've got official Roman Catholic doctrine that explicitly says that the decisions of these men are equivalent to something having been "divinely revealed" in the Scriptures.

John Bugay said...

It's one thing to say "the episcopacy was a development," it's another thing to articulate the system of leadership that was in place throughout the New Testament.

Robert Reymond, in his Systematic Theology, provides a chapter on the government of the church, in which he describes the history of "presbyterianism," including its Old Testament roots (going back to Moses), and "that it lay behind Paul's practice of "appointing a plurality of elders in every church he planted (Acts 14:23) to govern and oversee it." "He would later instruct Titus to appoint elders [plural] 'in every city'". And as Sullivan describes, this was the pattern evident in many churches well into the second century.

Paul Hoffer said...

Of course appointing leaders is one of the things that a bishop does....

John Bugay said...

Of course appointing leaders is one of the things that a bishop does....

Are you offering this as the way in which this got done in the early church? The apostles appointed leaders, to be sure, but the Didache 15 notes a different process:

Appoint for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money, and true and approved; for unto you they also perform the service of the prophets and teachers.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi John, Since the Didache was written as an insruction manual for early bishops-yes.

John Bugay said...

... the Didache was written as an insruction manual for early bishops ...

And that certainly is a fine bit of wishful thinking on your part. It is clearly addressed to the entire Christian assembly.

steelikat said...

John,

Thanks but you didn't address the question. Neither Roman Catholic "development" nor plurality have anything to do with it.

1. We are talking about the early church.

2. There are even now a plurality of bishops. There is more than one bishop in the world. Furthermore there are colleges of bishops and collegiate decision making in episcopal hierarchies. There is nothing in what you described that rules out the presbyterate being the later development rather than the episcopacy being the later development. Logically and historically that is a more likely answer, since: 1. In all ancient churches, the presbyters are vicars and representatives of the bishop wherever the bishop's flock is too large for him to minister to each member personally. 2. The institution of an episcopacy where it did not previously exist would have been a radical alteration in church govt that would be expected to produce controversy, schism, etc, and we have no record of that--rather, as soon as there are clearly and undoubtedly bishops per se they act like and consider themselves to be successors to the alleged earlier presbyters and successors to the apostles. 3. The institution of a presbyterate would have been a far less radical change given that the presbyters were vicars, in a sense, of their bishops. 4. If there were no bishops in the earlier church the question arises as to who exercised the authority and powers that the later bishops had. If you say that your "presbyters" did so individually as pastors that's just another way of saying they were bishops and it was the later subordinate presbyterate that was the novelty. You might suppose that the authority of the later bishop was invested in the presbyterial colleges, but your Hermas reference seems to portray a college of bishops acting as though they consider themselves bishops and pastors individually and personally.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat, I was giving you some historical background on the office of bishop. I am still not sure what it is that you are trying to say.

At any rate, I won't have time to look at this throughout the day but I will try to get back to this at some point.

It would be helpful if you were to summarize what your position is.

steelikat said...

We agree that in the nt no distinction is made between presbyters and bishops. We agree that in the earliest church there seems to have been just one office. Later on there were two, presbyters and bishops were distinct. If we are going no further than that we seem to agree.

When I described how I thought the early church and even the earliest nt church was catholic I mentioned an ordained clergy, elders and deacons, with elders being the succesors of the apostles, as an example of it's catholicity. Your response was that the episcopacy was a later development, that the nt pastors were to be identified with the later presbyters rather than the later bishops.

My reply is that if you are going to pick one of the two later offices to identify the earlier unified office with, it makes no sense to identify nt era elders with the presbyterate, rather they must be identified with the episcopate, and it is the separate office of presbyter that must be seen as the later development (see my above comment for some reasons why).

Lvka said...

And I say this not only in response to you, but to Lvka, who here is anachronistically reading the structure of his own church back into the earlier era, where the historical data simply does not warrant it.


John,

first-century Antioch and second-century Lyon are not "anachronistically" compared to first-century Rome.

Actually, what might more rightly be said is that you are the one anachronistically comparing the post-Reformation structure of your own Church to that of first-century Rome. -- wouldn't you agree?

Turretinfan said...

Luka,

You are not a follower of Lucian of Antioch, are you?

-TurretinFan

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