Sunday, October 18, 2015


One thing that we do know from the historical and
linguistic data--the term "bishop" was not used in the
early Christian community. Yes, EPISKOPOS and
PRESBUTEROS were employed, but these terms did not (at
that time) mean "bishop."

1 Clement is dated circa 96 C.E. So, it does not tell us much about the authority structure of the church discussed in the NT. One thing that we do know from the historical and linguistic data is that "bishop" was not used in the early Christian community. Granted, EPISKOPOS and PRESBUTEROS were employed; but these terms did not, at that time, mean "bishop."

After providing classical, septuagintal and NT
denotations for EPISKOPOS, Ralph Earle observes:

"When we come to Ignatius early in the second century
(about A.D. 115), we find a very different picture.
Now there is one bishop over each local church,
together with several elders and several deacons. The
bishop is supreme in authority . . . Here we see the
beginnings of the episcopal hierarchy that flowered
during the second century. But 'in the beginning it
was not so'" (Word Meanings in the NT, page 389).

"For the distinctive NT use of EPISKOPOS it must be
sufficient to refer to Hort's Christian Ecclesia,
where it is shown that the word is descriptive of
function, not of office, thus Phil 1:1 SUN EPISKOPOIS
KAI DIAKONOIS, 'with them that have oversight, and
them that do service [minister]'" (Moulton-Millgan
Vocabulary of the Greek NT
, page 245).

"The ecclesiastical loanword 'bishop' is too technical
and loaded with late historical baggage for precise
signification of usage of EPISKOPOS and cognates in
our lit., esp. the NT" (BDAG, page 379).

This reference work (BDAG) does nevertheless say that EPISKOPOS
"In the Gr-Rom world" frequently "refers to one who
has a definite function or fixed office of guardianship
and related activity within a group . . ." (ibid).

"The monarchical bishop appears first in Ignatius. It is not certain, however, whether Ignatius describes existing conditions or sets up ideal requirements that do not correspond to reality" (J. Rohde, Exegetical Dictionary of the NT, Vol. 2:36).

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