Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood

May 10th, 2010 | By | Category: Featured Articles

At the heart of the separation of Catholics and Protestants lies a disagreement about the ecclesial hierarchy. Who are the rightful shepherds of Christ’s flock? This article will examine the Catholic Church’s doctrine of the sacrificial priesthood, and in doing so, will lay the foundation for our subsequent discussion on the critical issue of apostolic succession. We will argue for the following four claims. The hierarchical difference between the clergy and the laity was ordained by God and is supported by the Biblical data. The distinction between presbyters and bishops existed from apostolic times and was intended by Christ. Christian ministers are ordained into a visible priesthood that is distinct from the general priesthood of all believers. Finally, Holy Orders is a sacrament.

Contents:

I – Introductory Notes
II – There is a Distinction Between the Clergy and the Laity
III – There is a Distinction Between the Orders
IV – The Clergy are Ordained to a Sacrificial Priesthood
a. The Hermeneutic of Continuity as a Historical Principle
b. Geographical Emphasis and Additional Notes on Terminological Development
c. Christ, the True High Priest
d. The Ordination of the Apostles
e. Proof of a Sacrificial Priesthood
f. Some Objections to a Sacrificial Priesthood
g. Conclusion on the Clergy’s Ordination to the Sacrificial Priesthood
V – Ordination is a Sacrament
VI – The Nature of Holy Orders
VII – Conclusion

I – Introductory Notes

a. The Church’s Mission

Here at Called to Communion, we have presented evidence that Christ founded a visible Church, His bride and mystical Body, and that to deny that the Holy Spirit perpetually protects and guides this Body is to affirm the ecclesiological equivalent of deism.1 But in our discussion on the nature of the Church, we have spoken little of her mission. Protestants and Catholics alike understand the mission of the Church to be nothing other than the mission of Christ: preaching the gospel for the salvation of souls. But according to Protestant doctrine, justification of souls comes solely by a single act of faith, and faith is an intellectual assent moved by the will. The preaching of God’s Word is thus understood to be the fundamental mission of the Church, and though this does not exclude the sacraments from proper church duty, it relegates the sacraments to a second tier of importance in Protestant theology.

Juan de Juanes – The Last Supper (1560)

The Catholic Church affirms the necessity of preaching the gospel, but she also believes and teaches that the sacraments are at the heart of the Church’s mission, which is the same as Christ’s mission.2 Catholics and Protestants agree that souls are saved by grace.3 But how is grace received? Setting aside the questions of operation and efficacy, both Catholics and the Reformed agree that saving grace is signified by the sacraments as well as by the preaching of the Word.4 Since nothing is more central to salvation than grace, and nothing is more central to the Church’s operation than salvation, it stands to reason that grace, or rather the sacraments whereby grace is signified, are at the center of the Church’s mission alongside of preaching the gospel.5 Below we will examine the nature of the office of the Christian clergy that Christ Himself established to administer those sacraments.

b. Semantic and Etymological Considerations

Holy Orders, according to the Catholic definition, is the sacramental initiation of a man into the clergy of the supernatural society that is the Church.6 But there are many potential misunderstandings that need to be addressed before proceeding to discuss Holy Orders. Catholics and Protestants mean different things when we say ‘priesthood’ and when we speak of Church hierarchy in general. So before beginning our discussion, we should clarify what we (Catholics) mean by the terms.

St. Augustine defines ‘order’ as “the distribution which allots things equal and unequal, each to its own place.”7 Etymologically, the English word comes from the Latin ‘ordo,’ which means a rank, class, or hierarchy within a social structure. In Roman political usage, it referred to the senatorial body.8 Subsequently, ‘ordinatio‘ / ‘ordinare,’ which became ‘ordination’ and ‘ordain’ respectively, meant initiation into that hierarchical class or structure.9 The English words ‘ordain’ and ‘order’ come from the same Latin word. We might “ordain” one thing and “order” another, but in some way we’re doing the same thing to both. Now when Catholics speak of “Holy Order,” as opposed to mere “order,” they are referring to the hierarchy of Christ’s Church, namely: the Christian clergy.

There are several other relevant terms to discuss before beginning our study of Holy Orders. The Christian word ‘priest,’ to which we shall refer repeatedly, is potentially a source of much confusion and debate. This is because the modern English word ‘priest’ refers to one who offers sacrifice, whereas ‘presbyteros‘ did not, in itself, have such a reference. Etymologically, the word ‘priest’ comes to us from the Greek πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros); i.e., the word has evolved phonetically.10 This shows us that the word ‘presbyter’ (its Latinized form) was in use long after the New Testament era. It survived long enough and broadly enough to evolve into the modern English word ‘priest.’ But the Greek word ‘presbyteros‘ didn’t mean “priest;” it simply meant “elder.” There is a separate word, ἱερεύς (hiereus), which meant “priest” as we mean it today. The common English meaning of the word ‘priest’ is one who mediates and offers sacrifice on behalf of the people. The word ‘presbyteros‘ evolved into ‘priest’ only phonetically. In the New Testament and early apostolic period, the word ‘hiereus‘ was never applied to any Christian minister so far as we can tell from the historical evidence. Ministers were always referred to as ‘diakonos‘ (minister), ‘presbyteros‘ (elder), or ‘episkopos‘ (overseer). Around the end of the second century, the term ‘hiereus‘ was applied to the order of the episcopacy, and by the middle of the third century, it was applied to the presbyterate as well.11

It is not precisely the words themselves that we are seeking to understand; rather it is the realities to which those words refer. We are interested in the substance of the idea of the Christian priesthood, not only its linguistic expression, which is merely the sound [or symbol] we use to refer to the idea. The truth of the Christian priesthood is enclosed in a shell of sounds and linguistic nuance, and examining these semantic points is necessary for the purpose of discarding that shell and discovering the meat inside.

To understand the development of language, especially theological language, one needs to understand the concept of terminological technicalization, i.e., the process that occurs when the common usage of a term changes from a non-specialized sense to a more technical and specific sense. The story of the Christian theological triumph is the story of taking the common and “baptizing” it. And the story of Christian terminological development is the story of taking common terminology and investing it with technical theological significance. The word ‘baptism’ itself is an example of this.12 Another Christian example is the technicalization of the Greek term ‘eucharistia.’ Originally, this term meant “thanksgiving,” but it evolved into a technical reference to the principal liturgical action of the Church. This was sometimes referred to as the “breaking of bread” in the New Testament, but the “breaking of bread” was also commonly used in reference to non-liturgical meals and probably to non-Eucharistic liturgies.13Eucharistia‘ had several meanings other than a specific reference to what we now call the “Eucharist.” Anglican liturgist Gregory Dix estimates that the technicalization of this term spanned a generation.14 This ‘technicalization of terminology’ is not unique to Christian theology; it is an observable linguistic phenomenon common to the human experience. But in the context of Christianity, it seems to mirror our own theology of baptism and of the principle that grace perfects, rather than destroys, nature.

This brings us to the terms relevant to our present inquiry: ‘presbyteros,’ ‘hiereus,’ and ‘episkopos,’ their Latin equivalents: ‘presbyter,’ ‘sacerdos,’ and ‘episcopus,’ and their English equivalents: ‘presbyter’ (or elder), ‘priest,’ and ‘bishop.’ For the sake of simplicity, we will now refer to the Latin and Greek by the English terminology (understanding that ‘presbyter’ will be used for ‘presbyteros‘ and ‘priest’ used for ‘hiereus‘/’sacerdos‘). The terms ‘presbyter’ and ‘bishop’ were subject, as were many other words, to the technicalization of terminology that we just explained. That is, ‘presbyter’ was not originally a technical reference in the Greek language to a religious minister, much less to a Christian minister. The word developed in technicality through wide and consistent reference to the particular idea of the Christian minister, and thus became a technical reference to the office. The same thing happened with the term ‘bishop.’ This makes it much easier to understand how in their earliest usage (the New Testament and First Clement), the terms appear to be used interchangeably. At that point in time, they were still developing from common references to Christian ministers into technical terms indicating the clear distinction between the offices. To understand the history of the terms ‘presbyter’ and ‘bishop’ or to understand the way in which they were used in isolated cases is not sufficient to understand the concepts. It is also necessary to understand the realities to which those words were referring. As the Dominican Pedro de Soto observed regarding the minor Orders specified by the Council of Trent, “to preserve anything at all, it is not sufficient merely to go on uttering its name, but the reality behind the name must be understood and preserved too.”15

c. The Theology of Holy Orders Is Founded upon Christ

The foundation for any theological study must be the Rock of Christ, and if our theology is to progress, the Incarnation must ever remain its center.16 For this reason, if we are to discover the truth behind Holy Orders, both our starting and central focal point must be the Incarnation.

Jesus Christ is the true High Priest of mankind, and He stands at the head of all Christian liturgy and the hierarchy of all things created.17 His ordinatio to the high priesthood of humanity culminated at His baptism where the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and the Father said “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”18 The Catholic doctrine of Holy Orders begins with and is unhesitatingly committed to the reality of Christ’s true high priesthood. Whatever priesthood Christians have, whether common by baptism or visible and specific by ordination, exists only by participation in the true priesthood which belongs to Jesus Christ the High Priest. The Christian doctrine of Holy Orders must not and cannot undermine the necessity and uniqueness of Christ’s high priesthood.

The Incarnation is a game-changer; nothing remains the same. Through this unsearchable mystery, the mundane is sanctified, and the common is invested with a new and sacred signification. This sanctification of the ordinary can be seen in the institution of the very center of Christian worship, the Eucharist. At the Last Supper, Christ was “investing a universal jewish [sic] custom with a new and peculiar meaning…”19 The eucharistic [thanksgiving] prayer would have been said everywhere and always by faithful Jews at all meals, but especially at liturgical meals. 20 This prayer had now received a profound significance and, according to Catholic theology, an actual efficacy. The significance of this efficacy invested into such a central and primitive necessity as breaking bread, which is at the heart of Christian worship, is paralleled with the mystery of the Incarnation and the birth of mankind’s true High Priest and King. As the institution of the Eucharist made an efficacious sacrament of ordinary bread and wine, so did the mystery of the Incarnation transform proper worship from didactic ritual into efficacious sacramental liturgy. According to Catholic theology, the signs (sacraments) under the New Covenant fulfill and exceed those under the Old Covenant. If the laying on of hands effected a true ordination under the Levitical priesthood, much more, then, does the laying on of hands effect a true ordination under the New Covenant. If the ministers were priests of God under the Old Covenant, much more are they priests under the New Covenant.

Union with Christ is centrally important to the doctrine of Holy Orders because to achieve it and to lead others to the same is the central aspect of the priestly mission under the New Covenant. The ministers of Christ continue His mission; they are sent to do what He came to do. St. Athanasius says that, “God became man that man might become God.”21 If the true High Priest was ordained ultimately for the purpose of calling lost souls to repentance and salvation, and if union with Christ is what it means for a soul to be saved, and if the Church He founded was entrusted with the mission of saving souls, then at the heart of the Church’s missio is the mediation of whatever it takes to achieve that union with Christ.22 Thus, Pseudo-Dionysius says, “Every hierarch, according to his nature, position, and order, is initiated into divine things and divinised, so that he might impart sacred divinisation to those who follow him.”23

And an ancient Gallican ordination prayer says:

Let us unite in prayer, brethren, that this [ordinand] who is chosen to help bring about your salvation, may, through the clemency of God’s goodness, receive the blessing of the priesthood, and obtain, through the merit of his virtues, the priestly gift of the Holy Spirit so as not to be inferior to his office.24

The New Covenant, along with its new priesthood, ushered in a new era for God’s people. Whereas before Christ wine could no more justify a sinner than could the blood of a man, and no more could bread offer us participation in the life of the Trinity than could a man’s flesh. But now that the true High Priest has been ordained to earthly ministry, His Blood indeed justifies,25 and His Body, bruised for our iniquities,26 offers us eternal life.27 This is the profound effect of the Incarnation, and it is exactly on this foundation that Holy Orders were established to minister the sacraments and to preach the Word of God unto the salvation of mankind.28

II – There is a Distinction Between the Clergy and the Laity

Martin Luther believed that the power to ordain was essentially derived from the Christian congregation of a true Church. As a result, he did not believe that there was any true difference between the clergy and the laity, except in official duties. That is, he believed that all Christians were the same in regard to possessing what is essential to the Church and differed only in respect to “the work that God has given them to do.”29 But the Catholic Church does not teach that her ministers are more holy, more spiritual, or more essentially Christian than the laity.

Now it is true that both the laity and the clergy are the same in regard to possessing what is essential to the Church in that they both have essential roles. However, they do not possess what is essential to the Church in the same way. The clergy possess what is essential to the Church as the visible leaders, which leadership is necessary for a visible Church.30 The laity do not possess this quality that is essential to the Church; rather, they possess the essential quality of being the people of God. That is, clergy and laity are both equally essential to the Church just as sheep and shepherds are both equally essential to a sheep farm. But this essential equality does not undermine the difference between the clergy and laity any more than it undermines the difference between sheep and shepherds.

Furthermore, Luther says that the difference between clergy and laity is not in status but in respect to the work that God has given them to do. As Christians before God, it is true that there is no difference in status between the clergy and laity; both are sinners saved by God’s grace. 31 But there is a difference between the clergy and laity in regard to their roles in the Church. Luther’s phrase, “they do not all have the same work to do,” is true but incomplete. The distinction is not only in the work that they do, but in the work that they are capable of doing. No man has the right to act as a priest before God unless that right is given to him by someone who has the authority to grant such a right. But as stated above, no one has that authority naturally because the Church is a supernatural society. To govern and to do the essential work of a supernatural society requires supernatural authorization and supernatural equipping. Holy Orders, as a sacrament, accomplishes exactly this. By conceiving the Church without the sacrament of Holy Orders, the question of one’s right to clerical status becomes merely a question of natural aptitude. Thus the magisterium is handed over to the academia. By contrast, we will show that Jesus Christ did grant the right of clerical status to certain men and did not grant it to others. In the current section, we will argue that denying the distinction between the laity and clergy is a theological error with serious consequences.

a. Natural Hierarchical Order

The act of creation ordered, or we might say, ordained the heavens and the earth into a particular hierarchy. This divine ordination is the pedagogical archetype of nature and the symbol of right theology. Nature is inherently purposeful and instructive. St. Paul tells the Corinthians that nature teaches men not to have long hair, and he tells the Romans that creation teaches men about God’s invisible qualities. 32 The Proverbs also reveal that nature instructs men unto wisdom. 33 When we look at nature, we look at the handiwork of God. More importantly, we see exactly what God intended us to see, and in exactly the way He wanted us to see it. We do well to learn from what God reveals through nature. Perhaps Thomas Howard said it best:

To the men of old, it did not mean nothing that the sun went down and night came and the moon and the stars appeared and then dawn and the sun and morning again and another day, which would itself wax and then wane into twilight and dusk and night. It did not mean nothing to them that the time of work was under the aegis of the bright sun and that it was the sun that poured life into the seeds that they were planting and that brought out the sweat on their foreheads, and that the time of rest was under the scepter of the silver moon. This was the diurnal exhibition of what was True — that there are a panoply and a rhythm and a cycle, a waxing and a waning, a rising and a setting and then a rising again. And to them it was not for nothing that the king wore a crown of gold and that the lord mayor wore medallions. This was the political exhibition of what was, in fact, True — that there are royalty and authority and hierarchy at the heart of things and that it is possible to see this in lions and eagles and queen bees as well as in the court of the king. . . . The former mind, in a word, read vast significance into everything. Nature and politics and animals and sex — these were all exhibitions in their own way of the way things are. This mind fancied that everything meant everything, and that it all rushed up finally to heaven. We have an idea of royalty, this mind said, which we observe in our politics and which we attribute to lions and eagles, and we have this idea because there is a great King at the top of things, and he has set things thus so that our fancies will be drawn toward his royal Person, and we will recognize the hard realities of which the stuff of our world has been a poor shadow when we stumble into his royal court.34

Howard points out that the ancient mind rightly understood nature itself as exhibiting truths about reality and about God. It was not accidental that God arranged creation into so ordered a hierarchy; this act was meant to show us the way things are and the way things ought to be. Nature should inform our anthropology, our ecclesiology, and above all, our theology.35 This point needs special emphasis for the modern Western mind because the last five hundred years of our history have been riddled with wars and revolutions aimed at a deliberate flattening of the natural order, a systematic rejection of the archetype. St. Augustine was right: order is “the distribution which allots things equal and unequal, each to its own place.” And our recent history is marred with one shameful attempt after another at denying that pedagogical distribution. We can barely bring ourselves to admit that there are “things equal and unequal,” much less that they should be arranged in a certain way. The egalitarian pipe-dream of modernism has at its heart an implicit rejection of this cosmological order that exists for the purpose of teaching men of God’s invisible qualities, the divine nature, and of salvation.36 All of our laws are derived from and ought to teach us of this divine law,37 and if we have kings, they ought to teach us of the true lordship of Jesus Christ. Creation shows us that things are not equal. As St. Paul might say, “doth not even nature itself teach you” that some things are higher than others? Since the mission of the Church, and consequently the hierarchy of the Church, is directly related to teaching men about salvation and about the divine nature, as we argued above, a rejection of this natural order or a distortion of it inevitably leads to the rejection or distorting of Holy Orders.

Our society overwhelmingly designates hierarchy as something negative, something which separates rather than unites. But the symbolism inherent in the cosmos informs us that our society has it backwards! Unity is not achieved by a denial of natural inequality. Instead, it is achieved by properly ordering that inequality. Furthermore, inequality in one respect does not mean inequality in all respects. For example, a man and a child are unequal in stature but equal in dignity as human beings. Because of the fundamental flaws in modern egalitarian philosophy, there is a strong tendency to reject any appearance of hierarchical themes. To deny Holy Orders on the basis of a broad denial of hierarchy is to measure the Bride of Christ by the “standard” of modern egalitarian political theory.

Martin Luther’s early rejection of the distinction between the clergy and the laity can be understood as a “spiritual egalitarianism.” 38 But Martin Luther did not stop at reducing the clergy and laity to equal authority. In fact, he turned ecclesial hierarchy on its head! For Luther the Christian congregation, not the clergy, had the right to exercise Church authority. 39 More explicitly, the clergy do not judge the people, the people judge the clergy. In support of his view, Luther cited several New Testament passages (John 10:4-5, 8; Matthew 7:15; 24:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).40 Luther’s position was not that a minister was individually subject to a layman, but that a minister was ultimately subject to the local congregation. Much like modern democracy, for Luther the Church governors (the clergy) derived their authority from the governed (the laity). According to Luther, as soon as the clergy stopped faithfully preaching the Word of God and therefore stopped serving the laity, they lost their authority. This was because the authority of the clergy was not derived from Christ through Holy Orders, but from a direct calling from God, manifested through the congregation by election.

The problems with Luther’s doctrine are manifold. First, as we discussed above, it rises from the false assumption that inequality is something bad. Since Luther perceived the difference between the clergy and the laity as something negative, and since equality is better than inequality, it seemed to follow that God’s true plan was that the clergy and laity should be equal. But this is false because of the reasons given above, that the proper arrangement of unequal things (order) is a good. 41 Secondly, it contradicts the New Testament and early Church history because, as we will argue in the next section, Christ Himself commissioned the Apostles and they, not the various congregations, ordained the clergy. Thirdly, it contradicts the visibility and objective identifiability of the Church, which has been argued for in previous articles on Called to Communion. If the local congregation, that is, any group of persons professing to be Christians, has only their collective opinion of the correct interpretation of Scripture by which to identify the Church, then no visible congregation can objectively be identified as the true Church because this collective opinion is inherently and only subjective. 42 Finally, Luther’s doctrine on Church hierarchy is false because it presupposes Ecclesial Deism, which concept Bryan Cross explained in a previous article. 43

b. Holy Orders in the New Testament

This brief subsection, while not a complete examination of the New Testament data, will demonstrate that the concept of Holy Orders is consistent with the biblical evidence. Furthermore, we will argue that an ecclesial hierarchy is established in the Scriptures by showing that Jesus gave the Apostles authority, and that the Apostles gave authority to others. We will examine the ordination ritual below in section VI.

The authority invested in the Apostles is made explicit from the beginning. At the selection or designation of the twelve, Jesus gave them authority to do exactly the things that He had been doing: healing the sick and driving out demons. (Mark 3:13-15.) This same terminology is used again when He sent them to preach the Word. (Matthew 10:1, Mark 6:7, Luke 9:1.) It seems then, that this kingdom authority, i.e., the authority to do the essential work of the kingdom of God, is connected with the authority and calling to evangelize. Again, Jesus explicated this unique authority in John 20 when He breathed the Holy Spirit upon them and gave them the authority to forgive sins. (John 20:19-23.) In that same passage, Jesus says He is sending them as the Father sent Him. It becomes clearer that the mission and authority entrusted to the Son by the Father are being handed on to the Apostles when these passages are read in light of the only two times Christ mentions the Church in the gospels. (Matthew 16:18-19, 18:15-18.) In both passages, He gives the Apostles the authority to “bind and loose,” which was a technical term for legislative authority.44 St. Paul confirms that he was an Apostle by virtue of his sending, not by mere man, but by Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:5; Galatians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:11.) The New Testament data culminates with the Jerusalem Council where the Apostles convened to make a binding decision on the entire universal Church. (Acts 15.) These passages show that Christ invested the Apostles with ecclesial authority as the hierarchical leaders of the Church, His Body.

Because our next article will focus on apostolic succession, here we will focus on the authority delegated by the Apostles while they were still living. The New Testament shows that the Apostles, especially Sts. Peter and Paul, established and recognized authoritative leaders in every Church.45 That the Apostles believed themselves to possess the power to delegate their authority by establishing Church leaders is shown by the replacement of Judas (Acts 1:15-26) and by the ordination of the seven deacons at Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-6). St. Paul makes the need for hierarchical structure explicit from the beginning, and gives instructions for the selection of bishops and deacons, that they should be blameless, sober, of good character, etc. (1 Timothy 3:1-13.) Further, he understands these appointed leaders as having actual authority, as shown when he exhorts the faithful to obey those who are “over” them. (1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Corinthians 16:16.) The author of Hebrews does the same. (Hebrews 13:17.)

These passages show that the Apostles believed themselves to possess authority in the Church and the power to confer that same authority upon others. They also show that in the New Testament, authority was derived either directly from Christ, as in the case of the Apostles, or from ordination by one of the Apostles. There is no indication that authority was derived from the congregation. This is also consistent with the Old Testament model of religious hierarchy. Moses and Aaron, the Levitical priests, the judges, the prophets, and the kings were all either commissioned directly by God or derived their authority by visible succession from someone who was. In short, the biblical model of Church authority is top-down, not bottom-up.

e. Holy Orders in Early Christian Legislation

In the late first century, or earlier by some estimates, St. Clement of Rome writes to the Church at Corinth in response to sedition that had arisen between the laity and the clergy. His epistle makes multiple references to the necessity of obedience to the clergy.46 St. Clement, who labored with St. Paul and was ordained by St. Peter, did not believe that the clergy at Corinth derived their authority from the local congregation. 47 If he had, he would have believed that it was the congregation’s right to depose such leaders. But he believed just the opposite, saying that “Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices.”48

Some have contended that St. Clement appears to have qualified his statement by adding “those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices.” Did St. Clement believe that the clergy have the right to govern only so long as those who are being governed agree with what the clergy are teaching and doing? In other words, was St. Clement advocating the bottom-up hierarchy that Martin Luther would later adopt? No, he was not. St. Clement did not believe that the authority of the clergy was derived from the local congregation. But surely there must be some licit method of deposing unfaithful clergy. Where does this power reside? Only those who have the power to grant authority in the first place have the right to revoke it. If a king grants authority to a man, that authority cannot be taken away from him by someone lesser than the king. So according to St. Clement, was it the local congregation that granted the authority to the clergy in the first place? No it wasn’t. He writes in the same passage:

Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry. As for these, then, who were appointed by them, or who were afterwards appointed by other illustrious men with the consent of the whole Church, who have ministered to the flock of Christ without blame, humbly peaceably and with dignity, and who have for many years received the commendations of all, we consider it unjust that they be removed from the ministry.49

In the same letter St. Clement said that “the layman is bound by the precepts pertaining to the laity.” He goes on to say, “Let each of us, brethren, ‘in his own order’ with a good conscience not transgressing the prescribed rule of his own office give thanks to God honorably.”50 According to St. Clement, the clergy held an office essentially distinct from the laity, and the laity were obligated to submit to their clergy. The authority of the clergy was derived from a bishop in material succession from the Apostles through the consent of the whole Church, not just the local congregation. 51 It stands to reason, then, that St. Clement could not have considered the local congregation to have authority to depose their clergy. His epistle confirms this by telling the local congregation that they were sinning by attempting to depose their clergy. For St. Clement, nothing short of the authority of a bishop, operating within the consent of the whole Church, was required for deposing a duly ordained minister, because it was from Christ through the Church that those ministers had received their authority.

Some of the earliest Church councils also confirmed the actual distinction between the clergy and the laity. In the early fourth century, the Council of Illiberi [Elvira] said that those who convert to the faith from any heresy are never to be promoted to the “clerical estate.”52 The same council also affirms the hierarchical nature of the ecclesial structure saying:

If any deacon ruling the people without a bishop or priest baptizes some, the bishop will have to confirm these by a blessing; but if they should depart the world beforehand, in the faith in which anyone of them has believed, that one can be justified.53

Finally, the council of Nicaea (AD 325) also reveals much about the early Christian doctrine of Holy Orders. For example, canon 5 presents a clear distinction between the laity and the clergy. Canons 6 and 7 discuss jurisdictional powers of the bishops and their due honor. Canon 8 presents clergy who convert to the Catholic Church from schismatic groups as distinct from laity. This confirms that there is a change beyond mere ecclesial recognition that occurs at ordination.54 The Church used her full authority at that council to defeat Arius by definitively declaring Trinitarian orthodoxy in the Nicene Creed. At the same time, she confirmed the ancient distinction between the clergy and the laity, and declared that there should never be two bishops in one city, thus confirming monepiscopacy.

f. Conclusion on the Distinction Between the Clergy and Laity

We know of many lay heretics presuming to hold clerical office in the early years of the Church, but the Church fathers consistently regarded their actions as both illicit and invalid.55 If the early Church believed that ordination was a power of the local congregation, then it would have been inconsistent to believe that other local congregations (i.e., the heretics) did not also have the power to ordain. This is because there would be no principled reason to say that one local congregation had validly ordained clergy and the other did not since both congregations inherently had the right to ordain whomever they wanted. This again confirms that Luther’s theory of congregational ordination was a departure from the faith of the early Church. As shown in our readings above, the early Church considered Holy Orders essential to the leadership and unity of the Catholic Church.56 Therefore, the denial of the fundamental distinction between laity and clergy is an error.

Satan disrupted the hierarchy of man’s powers at the Fall. 57 As a result, the natural hierarchical and liturgical relationship between man and God was damaged. What God had ordered, man, by sin, disordered. Every heresy and every schism tend toward repeating the effects of that original sin. They disorder what has been ordered, and in this way they weaken the hierarchy that was ordained by God. No heretical or schismatic doctrine ever made this corruption more explicit than the Protestant denial of Holy Orders.58 The kingdom of God, which sojourns this earth under the form of the Church militant, was divinely established by Jesus Christ. And the clerical hierarchy is a principle of unity and authority that cannot be discarded.

III – There is a Distinction Between the Orders

We mentioned above that the earliest references to the clerical offices, particularly with respect to presbyter and bishop, appeared to be ambiguous. From the beginning, whenever the terms ‘bishop,’ ‘presbyter,’ and ‘deacon’ were used in any authoritative capacity, the usage was consistent with episcopal government. In monepiscopal Church government, all bishops are presbyters, but not all presbyters are bishops. That is, the office of bishop includes all functions of the presbyterate, but the presbyters cannot perform all functions of the bishops. 59 This fact alone explains much of the apparent interchangeability of terms in the earliest texts. On the other hand, the way in which the Church immediately began to speak of these offices was incompatible with non-episcopal ecclesial governments (i.e., everything but Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican structures). This technicalization of clerical terminology corresponds with the Church’s developing explication of the divine liturgy as sacrificial worship, which we shall discuss in the next section. Just as sacrifice had always been present in the liturgical worship, though her terminology had not always explicitly corresponded with how she now speaks of herself, likewise, the offices of presbyter and bishop had always been separate, and the terminological distinction would only later become solidified. Once it did, it continued on without ambiguity until rejected by (some of) the early Protestants.

a. Distinction of Office in the Scriptures

The distinction between presbyter and bishop did not arise from a vacuum. By studying the first century Jewish context in which the two offices emerged, we find that the terminological distinctions known to be in place by the second century reflect actual distinctions of office that we would naturally expect to exist from the beginning of the clerical ministry. The first century Jewish hierarchy, which had at its head the Sanhedrin, a council of elders, was one obvious and immediate contextual reference for the Christian clergy. 60 Yet this collegial body was not entirely egalitarian; the elders were united and ruled under the authority of the high priest. This structure is reflected in the single bishop surrounded by presbyters in the early Church. Going back even further, Moses was commanded by God to appoint seventy elders and to go up to the Lord together with Aaron and his sons. But only Moses was to approach the Lord.61 This hierarchical order was deliberately replicated when Jesus, the true High Priest, selected His Apostles, and seventy other disciples.62 That is to say, the hierarchy of the Church was built on the existing Jewish paradigm. The ninth century bishop of Hadatha, Isho’dad of Merv, says:

the twelve Apostles . . . received in one hour the great degrees of Apostleship, and of priesthood, and of high-priesthood and of prophecy. But the seventy received the degree of eldership in that hour; and these were also called bishops, as of old elders were called bishops.63

One initial question to ask of the New Testament data is whether or not the Apostles were bishops. This question, or any question about the early bishops, cannot rightly be answered if we limit ourselves to an anachronistic definition of the word ‘bishop.’ 64 The Catholic doctrine of episcopal government simply requires that the Apostles possessed episcopal authority, that every successive generation had men with the fullness of the episcopal authority, and that at some point in the first century some of the men ordained by the Apostles, or their successors, did not receive the fullness of that authority.65 It does not require that the Apostles were uniformly referred to as “episkopoi” or that each of them were immediately assigned a city in which to establish resident pastorship. Whether the Apostles ought to be called bishops, elders, priests, or simply evangelists, their unique authority as Apostles is certainly inclusive of all those things. And whether or not the Apostles should be referred to as bishops, the next generation did not hesitate to say that the Apostles appointed bishops.66 Whatever authority the clergy possessed, it was received from the Apostles. The episcopal ministry, or “bishoprick” as the King James Version translates it, of the Apostles is explicitly stated in Acts 1:20 concerning the replacement of Judas Iscariot.67

On the other hand, Peter refers to himself as a “fellow elder” in 1 Peter 5:1. But this apparent interchangeability should not be understood as a denial of any possible distinction within the clergy. This passage is not problematic for the monepiscopal system because the language was not technically specific during that early stage of development. Furthermore, like bishops, whatever elders have is received from the Apostles; thus an Apostle is clearly eligible to be called an elder.

Another important point to consider is that the literal meanings of these as yet non-technical words (‘presbyteros‘ – elder; ‘episkopos‘ – overseer) were naturally interchangeable in regard to the offices in question. That is, given the original literal meaning of the word, elders, or older men, would naturally have been chosen to hold the role of overseers, and overseers would almost exclusively be chosen from among the elders. Thus, in a practical sense, we would expect that all the early bishops would have been elders, in the sense of being elderly, and that all of the early presbyters would have shared in the oversight of ecclesial affairs. In other words, given that the priesthood was divided into two tiers, and given that ‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter’ were not yet technical terms, it would be natural to expect that even members of the second tier could be described as overseeing by virtue of their assistance with oversight of ecclesial affairs. Saying that the second tier of authority (presbyter) exercises oversight does not necessarily deny its subordination to or its distinction from the first tier (bishop). Therefore, if a member of the second tier of the priesthood was ever referred to as an ‘episkopos,’ it would not disprove the apostolic origin of the monepiscopacy.

Another relevant passage is Philippians 1:1, wherein Paul refers to “bishops” in the plural. An anachronistic reading of this passage has caused some to assume that since the term ‘bishop’ presently refers to the sole, residential pastor of a particular church, a reference to bishops in the plural proves that the early churches were led exclusively by collegial groups of bishop/elders. Since the clerical terminology was in a stage of early development, and the literal meanings of the terms in question were naturally interchangeable, this conclusion does not follow. It is entirely possible that in this case “bishops” refers to a group of (what we now call) presbyters along with a bishop (or even multiple bishops). But the opinion of St. John Chrysostom and St. Jerome, in this case, is that since St. Paul referred to multiple bishops, he must have been referring to what we now call presbyters.68 This is consistent with monepiscopacy because there could have been some towns that had only presbyters in the first century and whose small Christian communities were under the jurisdiction of a mobile bishop for a short period of time.69 Petavius is of the opposite opinion, that at least the majority of those referred to as bishops were (what we now call) bishops.70 Both theories are consistent with monepiscopacy as an apostolic institution.71

The episcopal ministry per se does not contain any reference to isolation, and so it is possible that in the early Church more than one bishop could have established residency in a city. Although it appears to be an established tradition from the time of the Apostles, the ‘one bishop’ rule was not formally defined until the Council of Nicaea.72 If there ever was more than one bishop in a city, it would not disprove episcopal government. It would only show that the one-bishop rule was of disciplinary rather than dogmatic nature. 73 Likewise, the episcopal ministry per se does not contain any reference to residency. St. Paul and the other Apostles were mobile and clearly exercised episcopal authority. So neither mobility nor the occasional presence of multiple bishops in a city disproves monepiscopacy.

On the other hand, we know that notwithstanding the possibilities of multiple bishops in a city and mobile bishops, the earliest extra-biblical texts consistently point to an established tradition of a single resident bishop. 74 The reference in Philippians 1:1 to “bishops,” therefore, should likely be understood according to the literal meaning “overseers.” As stated above, St. John Chrysostom and St. Jerome both held the opinion that those same “bishops” would have been referred to as presbyters a generation later once the technicalization of the terms was complete. 75

There isn’t any good evidence in the New Testament for the egalitarian theory of ecclesial government, but on the other hand, there are two strong pieces of evidence that the monepiscopacy was already present in early form among the first Christian churches. The first is Titus 1:5-9, wherein St. Paul speaks to St. Titus, clearly a bishop, and instructs him to appoint elders in every town. Verses 6 and 7 show that there is already some distinction between the terms ‘elder’ and ‘overseer,’ because St. Paul lists them both. If they were identical in St. Paul’s mind, then the reference in verse 7 would be redundant. This passage also shows that, as the Church has always believed, the fundamental distinction in power between a presbyter and bishop is that only the latter could ordain. The second piece of strong evidence in favor of the first century monepiscopacy is that St. James presided as the bishop of Jerusalem.76 Even many scholars who consider the monepsicopacy to be a second century development agree that St. James, whether or not he was referred to as such, presided as the sole residential bishop of the Jerusalem church.77

b. The Monepiscopacy in the Early Church

About the year 107 AD, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote seven letters to various churches stressing obedience to the bishop and the importance of sacramental unity. John Calvin rejected these important epistles as spurious, calling them “nauseating absurdities.”78 The scholarly world accepts these epistles today, but as late as the 19th century they were still being rejected by Presbyterian scholars such as W. D. Killen.79 Killen claimed that the epistles were later forgeries aimed at giving credibility to the monepiscopacy and papal authority in Rome. But in respect to the Ignatian epistles and what they mean for Christianity, there appears to be a significant change in the Reformed response. In a recent discussion on the subject of monepiscopacy, a Presbyterian remarked that there really wasn’t anything in St. Ignatius with which a Reformed Protestant would take issue. Before scholars returned to the position that the Ignatian epistles are authentic, Protestant [Presbyterian] leaders were calling them nauseating absurdities and papal forgeries. Now that they are widely accepted by scholars as authentic, some Presbyterians claim that the epistles really do not contain anything contrary to Presbyterianism. A consistent approach to the Ignatian epistles will yield the conclusion that the Church government described in Asia Minor in the early second century is inconsistent with Presbyterian polity.

The fact of the matter is that the Ignatian epistles describe a monepiscopal hierarchy firmly in place by the beginning of the second century. For Protestants, this means that “the pure light of Christianity was greatly obscured” within a decade of the death of the last Apostle, and not centuries later as had often been assumed.80 The difficulty for non-episcopal Protestants is to explain how the Church universally accepted this (supposed) corruption so quickly and without protest. Some scholars argue that while St. Ignatius proves that monepiscopacy was firmly established in Asia Minor at the beginning of the second century, other locations did not adopt this hierarchy until the middle of the second century. 81 There is wide consensus among scholars that by the second half of the second century, the entire Christian Church had universally adopted the monepiscopal hierarchy. In the middle of the third century, when Pope St. Stephen I writes to Fabius, bishop of Antioch, he is able to take such a structure for granted, saying, “Therefore did not that famous defender of the Gospel [Novatian] know that there ought to be one bishop in the Catholic Church [of the city of Rome]?”82

One view of episcopal development is that churches were originally established with a presbyterial structure, where individual churches were governed by a body of presbyters, and then a single leader, eventually called ‘bishop’ emerged.83 This view, however, is not based on what we read in the fathers, but on several arguments from silence. St. Ignatius does not mention the bishop of Rome when he writes to the Romans. And Pope St. Clement does not write to the Corinthians in his own name, but in the name of the Church of Rome. It is largely on these two pieces of evidence, and a few other things like them, that some scholars conclude that the Roman episcopacy was a development proceeding from a body of presbyters. Neither St. Clement, St. Ignatius, nor any other ante-Nicene father actually affirms this, and to the contrary, St. Irenaeus explicitly denies it by listing the bishops of Rome all the way back to St. Peter.84 Furthermore, as Oswaldo Sobrino rightly points out, modern scholars who deny first century episcopacy consistently make the mistake of defining ‘bishop’ in overly narrow and anachronistic terms.85

The bishop is essentially a man who is duly ordained with the fullness of the ministerial (episcopal) office of the Catholic Church. This includes the power to preside over the sacraments, to preach the homily during the liturgy, and most uniquely, to confer Holy Orders upon other men. If there was ever a time when such men were often mobile, or were occasionally found in cities with other such men, or even a time when such men were not consistently referred to as ‘bishops,’ it would not follow that the episcopacy did not exist. It would follow that the episcopacy did not exist in the first century only if there were not any men who fit the above description, i.e., men who had the fullness of the ministerial office including the ability to confer Holy Orders. But there is no evidence of any time when such men did not exist in the Catholic Church.

The modern theory of episcopal development faces other difficulties. The idea of absolute presbyterial equality runs contrary to Jewish and ancient Mediterranean culture, and against nature, as explained above. That something is contrary to Jewish or Mediterranean culture is not, in itself, evidence that it is false. The idea that slavery should be outlawed or that women could provide reliable testimony was also contrary to that culture, but we affirm both of those principles. The point is that an egalitarian government would have been unnatural for this culture. Furthermore, we have no mandate from Christ that Church government should be egalitarian, nor do we have historical evidence that it ever was. Therefore, merely pointing out a lack of clarity regarding clerical terminology (‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter’) falls far short of showing or even implying that the early Church was governed by presbyterial bodies composed of men all having equal authority.

In the New Testament, there is no indication that the disciples shared equally in leadership roles. 86 And when Jesus spoke of the heavenly kingdom, His hearers immediately envisioned hierarchy extending below the ultimate throne of God. For example, Sts. John and James requested the highest seats in the kingdom.87 The government of the early Church developed in a culture where top-down hierarchy was assumed, and the evidence does not support a starting point of a bottom-up collegial government.

Furthermore, scholars have shown that the ministry of presbyters grew by bishops delegating additional roles to presbyters over the second and third centuries.88 The modern theory of episcopal development, therefore, requires the following implausible scenario. Presbyters originally had full authority to preside over the Eucharist, to preach at the liturgy, and to confer Holy Orders. Then it became customary for the governing body of presbyters to elect one of their own as the overseer or ‘bishop.’ It immediately became lawful only for that bishop, or a presbyter whom he delegated, to preside over the Eucharist. Presbyters could no longer preside on their own authority; they needed the authority of the bishop. 89 Presbyters even lost their right to preach unless the bishop delegated this duty to them. 90 This scenario is implausible on an empirical level because there is no historical record that any presbyter ever ordained another presbyter,91 or that the bishop’s authority was derived from the presbyters. On the contrary, the early Church universally taught that the presbyters’ authority was delegated from the bishop, and that their ministry was an extension of the bishop’s ministry. The scenario is also implausible because its starting point of presbyterial government would have been an unprecedented innovation given the Jewish hierarchical paradigms, discussed above, that were present when the early Church began. Finally, it is implausible because if presbyterial Church government had actually been the apostolic Tradition, then the monepiscopacy would have been a violent innovation. We know that the monepiscopacy was universally accepted no later than the end of the second century by all Christians everywhere. It is implausible to believe that the entire Church universally accepted such an erroneous innovation in such a short timespan without any protest or objection on the part of the faithful.

One common objection to first century episcopacy is based on the testimony of St. Jerome, who advocates, without ambiguity, the opinion that presbyters and bishops were originally the same office. He says:

This has been said to show that with the ancients presbyters were the same as bishops: but gradually all the responsibility was deferred to a single person, that the thickets of heresies might be rooted out.92

It is clear that St. Jerome understands the episcopacy to be a valid development and that bishops had distinct powers from presbyters, but he attributes this to “custom” and not to an “ordinance of the Lord.”93 How could St. Jerome understand the distinction to be mere “custom” and yet valid and binding?

One possible solution to this problem, which also synthesizes the data well, is this. Christ established a priesthood by sending the Apostles to preach the gospel and to “do this in memory of Me.” The original members of this priesthood all possessed the fullness of the episcopal ministry. That is, according to the modern definition of the term, they were all bishops. Because of the meanings of the words, these men could be, and often were, referred to as either ‘elders’ or ‘overseers’ (‘presbyters’ or ‘bishops’). This explains both the interchangeability of terminology we witness in the first century, and St. Jerome’s assertion that they were originally one office. We must maintain that the division of the priesthood into orders that would eventually be called ‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter’ was intended by Christ, but it is quite plausible that it was the Apostles, by the Holy Spirit, who actually divided the offices. 94 In the same way, it was not Christ directly, but the Apostles who established the diaconate.95 By the time St. Paul wrote his letter to St. Titus, it appears that the division has already taken place. The Apostles had started ordaining men to a “second-tier” of the priesthood.96 These men, who would eventually be referred to as ‘elders,’ had limited authority. But by the end of the first century, bishops were delegating roles to them such as presiding over the Eucharist, baptizing, and all other priestly functions except ordaining other men. This would explain why the Church came to understand the presbyter’s ministry as an extension of the bishop’s ministry and not the other way around. The three-tier hierarchy was of divine origin, not of ecclesial origin.97 The terminology would not be universally solidified until the second century, but the distinct orders were there from the beginning, intended by Christ, and actualized by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles.

This model accounts for the available data and is a strong alternative to the modern theory of initial presbyterial government. 98 If original presbyterial government means simply that presbyters were sometimes referred to as bishops (and vice versa), it might be a matter of semantics. But if one means that the episcopacy is an innovation by a generation subsequent to the apostolic age and that it rose from a system of collegial leadership, this opinion is not supported by the evidence. It is also possible that St. Jerome did, in fact, believe that the distinction between bishop and presbyter was of ecclesial and not divine origin. In this case, he would simply have been mistaken, although there are good reasons to believe that he understood, as the Catholic Church does, the distinction of orders to be of divine origin.99

As the Eastern Orthodox scholar and Metropolitan John D. Zizioulas argues, the unity and identity of the Church was “episcopocentric” from the beginning, meaning that the Church was that body which rallied to her bishop, and the bishop was the chief pastor. Moreover, the bishop was the one who offered Eucharistia.100 In this way, the founding principle of sacramental unity is apparent. The Church rallies around the bishop and is united by the Eucharist, which he, properly speaking, offers on behalf of the people of God. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch (AD 107) says:

Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup unto unity of His blood, one altar, as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery, and deacons, my fellow-servants, so that whatever you do, you may do it according to God.101

Christian unity in each city initially relied on the rigid structure of a single congregation celebrating a single Eucharist together under one bishop. With the rapid growth of Christianity, the third century pushed that structure to its limits. The fourth century Church saw the beginnings of “presbyterocentric” unity, and the emergence of the parish. Presbyterocentric unity simply refers to the emergence of smaller congregations, each united by a head presbyter. These congregations were still united under the city’s bishop. But in the first two or three centuries, under “episcipocentric unity,” the single bishop was the only principle of unity of the particular Church. That is, each city, generally speaking, had only one Church gathering and it was directly under the bishop. From the beginning, the monepiscopacy was the hierarchical foundation on which the local Church was built, and the one bishop, together with the one Eucharist, was the indispensable source of unity for the local Church.102

c. Distinction of Powers in the Growing Church

In the previous section, we showed from authoritative sources that early canonical legislation unequivocally reflects the episcopal hierarchy, but a similar list showing canonical legislation regarding the various powers within Holy Orders would take an entire paper itself.103 A quotation from J. Gaudemet, complete with original footnotes, in his paper “Holy Orders in Early Conciliar Legislation,” serves as an example adequate for our purposes:

The bishop alone could consecrate a church104 mingle the charism, reconcile penitents and consecrate virgins.105 But in the absence of the bishop, priests were permitted to reconcile penitents in articulo mortis, if he had previously authorised them to do so. The Roman Council held about the year 374 made a similar provision.106 It relates that during the paschal season priests and deacons took part in the reconciliation of penitents in the presence of the bishop. But it is made quite clear that they were acting in the name of the bishop. At other times of the year, by special license, the priest could reconcile penitents in danger of death. The deacon did not possess the same authority. But the text does say that if he had done so but once out of necessity, he would be excused. Preaching was as a rule also reserved to the bishop.107 Yet from the fourth century it was also undertaken by priests at Alexandria.108

This quotation illustrates that the bishop possessed the fullness of the Christian ministry from the early centuries of Christianity and that the bishops gradually delegated their powers, or rather a share in their powers, to presbyters. The Church has always taught that these powers, though proper to the episcopacy, are granted to the presbyterate by extension. In fact, every presbyter acts as an extension of the bishop.

IV – The Clergy Are Ordained to a Sacrificial Priesthood

Having shown that the Church has always taught that there is a hierarchical distinction between the clergy and the laity, and that within Orders a hierarchy of powers exists, let us examine the nature of Holy Orders regarding the priesthood. A separate paper will be necessary to discuss the ambiguities and implications of a sacrificial priesthood, but no discussion on Holy Orders could be conducted without handling the question of sacrifice. John Calvin objects to the Catholic concept of priesthood as follows:

Christ ordered dispensers of his gospel and his sacred mysteries to be ordained, not sacrificers to be inaugurated, and his command was to preach the gospel and feed the flock, not to immolate victims.109

Calvin was far removed from the Fathers on this critical issue. St. Cyprian, whom Calvin generously quotes in regards to the ritual of ordination, refers explicitly to the “sacrifice celebrated by the priest.”110 St. Cyril of Jerusalem would later say:

Then, after the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless service, is completed, over that sacrifice of propitiation we entreat God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world; for kings; for soldiers and allies; for the sick; for the afflicted; and, in a word, for all who stand in need of succour we all pray and offer this sacrifice.111

St. Cyprian of Carthage and St. Cyril of Jerusalem both unequivocally affirm the sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic liturgy. The early Church taught that Christian ministers were ordained into a sacrificial priesthood although emphasis on certain aspects of the priesthood varied by location. To conceive of the Eucharistic sacrifice as only a sacrifice of thanksgiving or a purely internal sacrifice would be to remove the words of the early Church from their historical context and would run contrary to explicit statements like the ones above.

a. The Hermeneutic of Continuity as a Historical Principle

The ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ is an important principle for the right study of theology. God’s plan of salvation unfolds over time in redemptive history, and because of this, to study any doctrine as if it emerged from a theological vacuum is a path to inevitable error. We must not do violence to the continuous revelation of God to His people. Without the deuterocanonical books, for example, the nearly seamless transition in broad theological themes from the Old to New Covenant is more difficult to detect. The deuterocanonical books contain and foreshadow many of the teachings of Christ, which teachings in the absence of these books would seem to be novel and even radical re-applications of Judaic theology.112 To remove this portion of divine revelation would be to disrupt the hermeneutic of continuity and leave us interpreting the New Testament as if it emerged from a temporary theological vacuum. That is, we would miss the full context in which the New Testament revelation was delivered.

Something similar happens when the emergence of the Christian hierarchy is considered apart from its historical and theological context. As argued below, when we place the New Testament clerical structure within its first century historical context, and understand it as a fulfillment of its type under the Old Covenant, we find that the Jewish covenantal and familial structures already in place bear striking similarities to the ones that survived into the second and third centuries. The logical conclusion is that the episcopal/sacrificial priesthood is the best explanation of all the available evidence.

The Christian priesthood is not to be understood as a direct continuity of the Levitical priesthood.113 And the early Christian clergy saw a need to differentiate its identity, in some ways, from the temple cult that was closely associated with the Sadducee party.114 At the same time St. James, who was the first century Bishop of Jerusalem, explicated both his priestly vocation and Levitical inheritance by wearing the priestly garments prescribed in Exodus as he entered the temple to offer prayers “for the forgiveness of the people.”115

J. Schmitt finds evidence of early Christians adopting themes directly influenced by the Essene movement. One profound point of congruity is that the “priestly” community of Khirbet Qumran was governed by priests united under a ‘mebaqqer,’ which translates to ‘overseer,’ or in Greek, ‘episkopos.’116 The sacrificial priesthood united under a single bishop would have stood in no need of an inorganic development in the first century. In fact, the sacrificial priesthood in the context of monepiscopacy is just the sort of thing we should expect to find naturally once we understand its historical context.

b. Geographical Emphasis and Additional Notes on Terminological Development

The Christian community solidified ‘presbyter’ as the technical reference for Christian ministers by the early second century, and the Latin Church continued to use the word for centuries. In the surviving historical evidence, the first usage of the terms ‘hiereus‘ or ‘sacerdos‘ in reference to bishops is found in the late second century. Later, the same terms would be applied to the presbyter by extension. Yet even after these terms were standardized, Christians continued to use the term ‘presbyter.’ The Church at Rome, with her longstanding reputation for conservatism, continued to use the word even as its usage waned in other churches.117 Thus, the term was preserved in living languages until this very day. For when we say the English word ‘priest,’ as explained above, we are only using the modern pronunciation of the old Greek word ‘presbyteros.’ To be sure, the word ‘priest’ means something different than the word ‘presbyteros‘ meant in ancient times, but the reason for the difference is precisely because of the Church’s understanding of what it meant to be a presbyter. That is, ‘priest’–the modern developed form of the term ‘presbyter’–has been invested with sacrificial meaning over the centuries because that is what the presbyter does. He offers sacrifice.

Following Calvin, the first Protestants believed the clerical vocation of preaching the gospel to be the center of the clerical ministry, even to the exclusion of other aspects such as sacrifice. But the early Church did not have so narrow a definition of the clerical ministry, and the definition varied by emphasis from one city to another. Of the Christian hierarchy J. Danielou writes:

At Alexandria its principal function, in the Pauline tradition, seems to have been the ministry of the word; the priest was a doctor and a missionary. This is particularly striking in Origen. At Antioch, the minister was the one who offered the sacrifice, the hiereus — as Ignatius of Antioch demonstrates. Finally, the Judaeo-Christian community at Jerusalem, perhaps influenced by Essene organisation, looked on the minsters as elders (presbuteroi), overseers (episkopoi), whose principal function was government. This view is also found in the Roman Church, whose Judaeo-Christian affinities have been demonstrated by Cullmann.118

These varying emphases by region were not exclusive of one another. For example, the priestly function emphasized at Alexandria was the ministry of the word, but this does not mean that they denied the sacrificial nature of the priesthood. Origen, the famous Alexandrian priest, specifically refered to priests offering sacrifice. 119 Likewise, the emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the priesthood at Antioch did not mean that they denied the importance of preaching the Word. The point here is that the cultures that used ‘presbyter,’ ‘sacerdos,’ ‘episkopos,’ or any other term, used living languages to express these ideas. The terms evolved continually and were nuanced by cultural influence. ‘Presbyter’ was a reference to the same order throughout the Christian world, but it expressed something slightly different when uttered in one community than it did in another. To restate what was said above, our objects of interest are the realities to which these words referred, and not only the words themselves.

c. Christ, the True High Priest

The priesthood of the clergy, just as the common priesthood of believers, is a participation in the priesthood of Christ, the true High Priest of mankind.120 J. Lecuyer finds a two-fold ordination of Christ as High Priest: one at the Incarnation, and the other at His baptism.121 In support of his view, he cites Hebrews 10:5-9:

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’ as it is written of me in the roll of the book.” When he said above, “Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Lo, I have come to do thy will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.

On the other hand, Tixeront points out that Christ was formally ordained by the commission of God the Father, i.e., He was not the High Priest merely by virtue of the Incarnation. Because He was both God and Man, Christ was a natural mediator between God and man, and a priest is “precisely a mediator.”122 By Incarnation, Jesus assumed all the qualifications to become the High Priest. Now every priest is a mediator, but not every mediator is a priest. Jesus was the High Priest of mankind at His birth, not merely because of who He was, but also because of His sending from the Father. 123 This commission from the Father was initially hidden from men. But the commission was formally manifested, that is, publicly revealed to men, at Christ’s baptism by the sign of the Holy Spirit and the words of the Father, “Thou art My beloved Son; with Thee I am well pleased.”124 In this sense Christ can be seen as having a second ordination or anointing.

Hebrews is the New Testament book that teaches us of Christ’s High Priesthood, but many have taken its teachings to include an abolishment of the ministerial priesthood. As Christ came to fulfill and not abolish the Law, so too did He come to fulfill and not abolish the priesthood.125 But does His high priesthood exclude the possibility of priests under the New Covenant? No, it does not. If Christ’s true high priesthood does not exclude our participation in that same priesthood by baptism, then it does not exclude the ministerial priesthood precisely because it too is a participation in that same priesthood. The only book of the Bible to refer to Christ’s High Priesthood, Hebrews, does not address the question of our priesthood whether properly speaking, as in Holy Orders, or common by baptism.126 That is to say, the claim that Christ’s priesthood excludes the possibility of any priesthood under the New Covenant is not made in Hebrews. It is extra-biblical speculation. The only priesthood to which Hebrews refers besides that of Jesus Christ is specifically the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The book shows that Christ’s sacrificial action as true High Priest does away with a need for that priesthood because the sacrifice of that priesthood was a foreshadow of Christ’s true sacrifice. The text does not apply to a priesthood under the New Covenant because the sacrifice of the new priesthood is the same as Christ’s sacrifice. The Church Fathers always believed that the Eucharist was a true sacrifice, and for that reason they referred to the ministers who offered it as ‘priests.’ But if the book of Hebrews logically excluded priests under the New Covenant, then the Church universally misunderstood the book of Hebrews until the first Protestants.

Now St. Paul refers to his own ministry as priestly using the term ‘hierourgeo‘ (Romans 15:16). But if a priest could not exist because Christ is the true priest, then a priestly ministry could not exist because Christ’s is the true priestly ministry. St. Paul’s usage of this term to describe his own ministry shows that he believes himself to be a part of a ministerial priesthood. 127 Moreover, when the Apostles used the Greek ‘episkopos‘ to describe a minister ordained to the fullness of the Christian priesthood, they were essentially linking the bishop to the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is not apparent to us in modern culture, but it was especially apparent to the Hellenized Jews because the first person to be called ‘episkopos‘ in the Septuagint was Eleazar, the son of Aaron. Thus for the early Christians, ‘episkopos‘ had priestly overtones directly linked to the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. 128 As already stated, neither the visible ministerial priesthood nor the common priesthood of all believers are opposed to Christ’s true priesthood because both (ministerial and common) are priesthoods by participation in His priesthood. That is, a ministerial priesthood is not a new priesthood. It is the same, and therefore not opposed to, the true priesthood of Jesus Christ. 129

We say that Christ fulfilled the priesthood, but He is not a priest in succession from the Levitical order; He is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.130 The priesthood of Christ, and the clergy by extension, fulfilled and perfected what all of the Old Testament priestly types had lacked. In ancient Mediterranean culture, we see that kings, like Melchizedek, assumed the role of high priest. In the age of the patriarchs, priesthood was a birthright of the firstborn, and also the right of the head of the family. Job, as the head of a large family, performed priestly duties, as did Noah. Later, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would all offer sacrifices as priests. And Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, was the priest of Midian.131 Then under the Mosaic covenant, the Levitical priesthood was established on the basis of lineage. Yet, the royal priesthood was an on-going theme; we see that King David offered sacrifice on behalf of the people.132 The priesthood of Christ is a fulfillment and a perfection of all of these priestly types, but most directly, that of Melchizedek.

d. The Ordination of the Apostles

This section is not intended to be a commentary or reaction to what has been officially taught by the Church regarding the ordination of the Apostles, but rather an examination of four key biblical passages to serve as a backdrop for our continued study on Holy Orders.133 We cannot understand the priesthood of the Apostles without first understanding Christ’s priesthood, and we cannot understand general Christian priesthood without first understanding the priesthood of the Apostles. To what end and in what manner were the Apostles ordained, then, is our present question. The first relevant passage is found in Mark’s gospel:

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve–designating them Apostles–that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.134

This passage is clearly a parallel to Exodus 24, which we cited earlier, where we see a three-tiered order of priests, with Moses at the top as the high priest, then Aaron and his sons, and then the seventy elders. It is no coincidence that Jesus ascends a mountain in prayer as He establishes the priesthood of the New Covenant. If there is a new priesthood, there must be a new law,135 and if the old law is fulfilled,136 then the old priesthood must be fulfilled.137 The Apostles are given authority to do the very same thing that Christ had been doing: preaching the gospel and waging war against the kingdom of Satan.138 That is, the Apostles were ordained for the express purpose of continuing Christ’s mission. It is clear, therefore, that the mission of the Church is nothing but Christ’s mission, just as the priesthood of the clergy is nothing but a participation in His priesthood.139

The next relevant passage is the Last Supper, in which Jesus commands them to “do this in memory of Me,”140 i.e., continue to commemorate (make ἀνάμνησις of) my death. The Church has always read this passage as an ordination of the Apostles, a commissioning of the Apostles to offer the sacrifice of eucharistia. In continuity with what we have just stated about the Apostles carrying on His work, it is especially notable that He then says, “and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”141

The mission of the Church, like that of Christ, is to heal the sick.142 And as St. Ignatius said, the Eucharist is the “medicine of immortality.”143 It is supremely fitting that the priesthood should be ordained in this manner, to carry out the task of administering the sacrament of the Eucharist to the spiritually sick.

Thirdly, the fathers have consistently read the breathing of the Holy Spirit in John 20 as an apostolic ordination.144 This passage contains a three-fold action. Verse 21: He sent them not in a unique way, but “as the Father sent Me.” The theme of the Apostles carrying on the very mission of Christ is reiterated. Verse 22: He breathed the Holy Spirit on them. This signified that actual grace was conferred, thus making it a sacrament, which we will discuss below. All of the ordination prayers from antiquity until today use this same formula, “receive the Holy Spirit.”145 Verse 23: Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins. Again, He invested the Apostles with the authority and mission of doing exactly what He Himself had been sent to do. St. John Chrysostom says that He gave them:

a certain power and spiritual grace . . . not to raise the dead or perform miracles, but to remit sins. For there are various spiritual gifts (charismata). That is why the evangelist adds: ‘whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven’, thus indicating the kind of power Christ was giving them. It was only after forty days that they received the power of miracles.146

Jesus commissions the Apostles as the heads of the Church and in this way gives them the authority to administrate and perform the fundamental action of the Church: saving souls. Forgiveness, obviously, lies at the very heart of this mission. To understand what Christ intended for His Church, we should look to His own words. In the gospels, Jesus only mentioned the “Church” twice. In both of those instances, this same connection of earthly and heavenly authority is present. He gives the unique authority of “binding and loosing” to the twelve Apostles.147 The term “binding and loosing” is clearly related to the authorization to forgive sins. This is a technical legislative term which was known to have been used in connection with the ecclesial powers of the Sanhedrin for including or excluding members from communion.148 This is further confirmation of the sacramental and authoritative nature of the Christian priesthood.

Finally, the seal of ordination is definitively conferred upon the Apostles at Pentecost.149 The fathers saw Pentecost as the anti-Babel. Whereas the people of earth were scattered and divided into nations and tongues at Babel, they were re-gathered into one people at Pentecost. The life of Christ, which is the very unity of the Church, was poured out through the Holy Spirit and received as flaming tongues by the Apostles on that glorious day.

Now each of these four ordinations emphasize a different aspect of the apostolic mission. The first calling of the Apostles and sending them out two by two emphasized preaching a call to repentance, exorcism, and healing the sick. The Last Supper signifies the commission to offer the sacrament of the Eucharist. The appearance of Christ to the Apostles in John 20 signifies the ecclesial authority of the Apostles and the authority to forgive sins.150 At Pentecost, the emphasis is clearly on the Word, hence the sign of flaming tongues.

Pentecost is the birth of the Church, the mystical body of Christ, outside of which there is no salvation. Those who heard St. Peter’s preaching at Pentecost were not initiated into that body by merely believing the gospel message, although faith was necessary. When they asked, Peter explained that to be initiated into the body it was necessary to “repent and be baptized.”151 Thus, we see the need for a convergence of all aspects of the priestly vocation. Preaching the Word is essential, but the mission of the Church is not limited to the spoken or written Word. It is inclusive of sacramental action. It was through word and sacrament that the Church was born as the new Israel. Earlier we saw that Christ had ascended a mountain together with the priests of the new law to establish the New Covenant. St. John Chrysostom observed that Pentecost was the day that the new priesthood descended that mountain, and that the Apostles “did not come down from the mountain carrying, like Moses, tablets of stone in their hands; but they came down carrying the Holy Spirit in their hearts… having become by his grace a living law, a living book.”152 Likewise, Isho’dad of Merv confirms that the sign of tongues was given “to show that they were treasurers and guardians of the Spirit, and interpreters and organs of God the Word, as the tongue is to the mind and the sense.”153

Not only did Pentecost more clearly reveal the apostolic commission to preach the gospel, but also the right to preach it, and the authority to interpret it. The gospel was thus entrusted to the Church, and the Apostles received power by the Holy Spirit to deliver that gospel faithfully through spoken and written word. Pentecost shows that the mission to expound the Scriptures, by preaching the Word, was integral to the apostolic office and thus integral to the episcopal office. The Christian priesthood, in this manner, was foreshadowed in part by the Teachers of the Law, but more properly by the royal priesthood. The new law accompanied a new priesthood, and Pentecost was a sign of both realities.154

As we mentioned, there is a strong tendency, especially in the the late Fathers through the medieval theologians, to associate the John 20 passage with the power to administer the sacraments. This is true particularly with the power to forgive sins, but also with the other powers unique to the apostolic office. The commission, power, and authority to administer the other sacraments proceed directly from this gift of the breathing of the Holy Spirit. Christ had His power and authority by virtue of His ordination of the first order, the Incarnation, and His second ‘ordination’ at baptism was the public manifestation of His commission to go into the world and preach the gospel. Christ came to heal the sick and cast out demons, but this aspect of His ministry is bound specifically with who He is. That is, His power and authority were present from the original ordination of the Incarnation. But why does He come? He tells the disciples explicitly that He came to “preach the Word.”155 This is exactly what He did after His ‘second’ ordination at baptism.156 Likewise, the Apostles received that secondary commission (ordination) at Pentecost, demonstrated by the sign of tongues, and immediately went out to preach the gospel.157 In terms of ordination, what baptism was to Christ, Pentecost was to the Apostles. Both of these events were sealed by the sign of the Holy Spirit.158 St. John the Baptist foretold this saying, “I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”159

e. Proof of a Sacrificial Priesthood

The vocabulary of the Christian Church has developed over the generations with ‘presbyter’ and ‘bishop;’ it was no different with sacrificial language. The universality of terminological agreement was solidified first with the ‘presbyter’/’bishop’ distinction, and next with the sacrificial language. Interestingly, it was only after these two concepts were universally understood that the Church finally solidified her Trinitarian language. That is, the Church spoke consistently of the clergy and of the sacrifice of the mass before she could speak as we do today about the Trinity.160

Over the centuries, the word ‘presbyter’ was invested with sacrificial meaning by virtue of the action that presbyters performed, namely the sacrifice of the Eucharist. Eventually the word itself evolved into the English word ‘priest.’ So whatever investment we have in that English word is actually derived from the meanings invested into the word ‘presbyter’ by the Church. Furthermore, it is true that the original meaning of the word was “elder,” but even in the New Testament period this word was already being invested with priestly significance. For example, we see presbyters acting as priests in the New Testament. Revelation 5:8 has presbyters (elders) offering up the prayers of the saints, and St. Paul describes his duty as “priestly” (hierourgeo) in Romans 15:16.

If the Church fell into error regarding the sacrificial priesthood, as Protestants claim, it would be an enormous error. The immediate and universal acceptance of the sacrificial priesthood without contention or debate is solid evidence that it is not an error but belongs to the Apostolic Tradition. The early Church Fathers consistently bear witness to the sacrificial nature of the priesthood.161 The Didache, one of the earliest Christian texts outside of the New Testament, says:

And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. And let no man, having his dispute with his fellow, join your assembly until they have been reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be defiled; for this sacrifice it is that was spoken of by the Lord; {In every place and at every time offer Me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great king, saith the Lord and My name is wonderful among the nations.}162

St. Clement of Rome writes in the first century:

Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices [προσενεγκόντας].163

At the beginning of the second century, St. Ignatius writes:

Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice—even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God. (Letter to the Philippians)

St. Justin Martyr writes around the middle of the second century:

God speaks through Malachias, one of the twelve, [minor prophets] as follows: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices from your hands; for from the rising of the sun until its setting, my name has been glorified among the gentiles; and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a clean offering: for great is my name among the gentiles, says the Lord; but you profane it.’164 It is of the sacrifices offered to Him in every place by us, the gentiles, that is, of the Bread of the Eucharist and likewise of the cup of the Eucharist, that He speaks at that time; and He says that we glorify His name, while you profane it. 165

St. Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, writes to St. Victor, Bishop of Rome, in the year A.D. 190, about ninety years after the Apostle John died:

Again there is John, who leant back on the Lord’s breast, and who became a sacrificing priest wearing the mitre, a martyr and a teacher; he too sleeps in Ephesus.166

St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, writes toward the end of the second century:

Again, giving directions to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits of His own, created things— not as if He stood in need of them, but that they might be themselves neither unfruitful nor ungrateful— He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks, and said, This is My body. Matthew 26:26, etc. And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant; which the Church receiving from the apostles, offers to God throughout all the world, to Him who gives us as the means of subsistence the first-fruits of His own gifts in the New Testament, concerning which Malachi, among the twelve prophets, thus spoke beforehand: I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord Omnipotent, and I will not accept sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun, unto the going down [of the same], My name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is My name among the Gentiles, says the Lord Omnipotent; Malachi 1:10-11 — indicating in the plainest manner, by these words, that the former people [the Jews] shall indeed cease to make offerings to God, but that in every place sacrifice shall be offered to Him, and that a pure one; and His name is glorified among the Gentiles.167

So we can see the concept present from the earliest writings of the Church. But as always, the terminology and doctrine (teaching) would take some time to gain universal consistency.

St. Cyprian of Carthage in the middle of the third century would explicitly speak of the sacrifice. He records the following miraculous occurrence:

And another woman, when she tried with unworthy hands to open her box, in which was the holy (body) of the Lord, was deterred by fire rising from it from daring to touch it. And when one, who himself was defiled, dared with the rest to receive secretly a part of the sacrifice celebrated by the priest; he could not eat nor handle the holy of the Lord, but found in his hands when opened that he had a cinder.168

St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes:

Then, after the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless service, is completed, over that sacrifice of propitiation we entreat God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world ; for kings; for soldiers and allies; for the sick; for the afflicted; and, in a word, for all who stand in need of succour we all pray and offer this sacrifice.

Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls , for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.

And I wish to persuade you by an illustration. For I know that many say, what is a soul profited, which departs from this world either with sins, or without sins, if it be commemorated in the prayer? For if a king were to banish certain who had given him offense, and then those who belong to them should weave a crown and offer it to him on behalf of those under punishment, would he not grant a remission of their penalties? In the same way we, when we offer to Him our supplications for those who have fallen asleep, though they be sinners, weave no crown, but offer up Christ sacrificed for our sins, propitiating our merciful God for them as well as for ourselves. (On the Mysteries. V)

St. Ambrose write:

Even if one does not now see that Christ is sacrificed, still He Himself is sacrificed on earth, whenever the body of Christ is sacrificed. Yea, it is obvious that He even offers Himself in us, for His Word sanctifies the sacrifice which is offered. (In Ps. 38.25)

St. Jerome writes:

Our Lord so instructed His Apostles that, daily at the sacrifice of His body, believers make bold to say, Our Father, Which art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name; they earnestly desire the name of God, which in itself is holy, to be hallowed in themselves;…169

St. Augustine mentions the Eucharistic sacrifice without argument:

he asked our presbyters, during my absence, that one of them would go with him and banish the spirits by his prayers. One went, offered there the sacrifice of the body of Christ, praying with all his might that that vexation might cease.170

And elsewhere he writes:

The fact that our fathers of old offered sacrifices with beasts for victims, which the present-day people of God read about but do not do, is to be understood in no way but this: that those things signified the things that we do in order to draw near to God and to recommend to our neighbor the same purpose. A visible sacrifice, therefore, is the sacrament, that is to say, the sacred sign, of an invisible sacrifice. . . . Christ is both the Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the sacramental sign of this should be the daily sacrifice of the Church, who, since the Church is His body and He the Head, learns to offer herself through Him.171

St. John Chrysostom compares the priest’s sacrifice at the altar to the prophetic and priestly prayer of Elijah on Mount Carmel:

The priest stands there to cause not fire, but the Holy Spirit, to descend. He prays at length, not so that fire falling from on high may consume the offerings, but that grace, descending on the Host, may reach men’s souls and make them brighter than silver that is tried by fire.172

f. Some Objections to a Sacrificial Priesthood

According to John Calvin, Christ’s High Priesthood is exclusive of any true priesthood among men:

He once offered a victim of eternal expiation and reconciliation, and now also having entered the sanctuary of heaven, he intercedes for us. In him we all are priests, but to offer praise and thanksgiving, in fine, ourselves, and all that is ours to God.173

Yet St. Augustine said, commenting on Revelation 20:6:

This is spoken not only of bishops and presbyters, who are now properly called priests in the Church; but just as we call all (Christians) christs because of the mystical chrism, so are all priests, for they are members of the one Priest.174

With St. Augustine, we affirm that in contradistinction to the universal priesthood of all believers, bishops and presbyters are properly called priests, or at least priests in a different sense than are laypersons. That is, a universal priesthood by baptism in no way excludes a visible priesthood, and Christians being ‘christs’ does not exclude the existence of One who is the Christ, namely Jesus of Nazareth.

Some have objected either that the term ‘sacrifice’ was always used symbolically, or that it was merely spoken of as an offering of thanks and never propitiatory. But the sacrifice referred to is the sacrifice of the Eucharist, and the Church has never believed that the Eucharistic sacrifice was a mere recollection of a past event.175 Additionally, Harnack’s work indicates that the apprehension of the Eucharist as a “symbol” in no way implies that it is not the real thing.176 But the sacrifice spoken of is consistently and explicitly linked to the Eucharist. That ‘eucharistia‘ meant “thanksgiving” is important, but “thanksgiving” is not incompatible with propitiation. The Fathers regularly spoke of the Eucharist as conferring grace177 and effecting salvation178. But above all, the Fathers always linked the Eucharist to the propitiatory sacrifice of Calvary. They spoke of it not as a new sacrifice, but as the non-bloody re-presentation of the same sacrifice.179 St. Ambrose of Milan, the tutor of St. Augustine, said:

We saw the Prince of Priests coming to us, we saw and heard Him offering His blood for us. We follow inasmuch as we are able, being priests; and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. And even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. For even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the sacrifice, nevertheless it is He Himself that is offered in sacrifice here on earth when the Body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer Himself He is made visible in us, He whose words make holy the sacrifice that is offered.180

Therefore, since the priestly sacrifice is the Eucharist itself, and the Eucharist is the same sacrifice of Christ, it follows that the sacrifice spoken of by the fathers is the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. Now the Eucharist, as propitiation, does not in any way make Christ’s sacrifice insufficient, nor does it re-sacrifice Christ. This is because the Eucharist is not a new sacrifice, but the same sacrifice of Calvary. St. Ambrose confirms this above by showing that Christ is offered in the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist. St. Cyril of Jerusalem explicitly referred to the Eucharistic sacrifice as propitiatory.181 Furthermore, the early Fathers understood the Eucharist as the fulfillment, not abolishment, of its Old Covenant type. If the old sacrifice, which was only a type, was understood as propitiatory, how much more the new and perfect sacrifice? Thus Chrysostom says:

In ancient times, because men were very imperfect, God did not scorn to receive the blood which they were offering . . . to draw them away from those idols; and this very thing again was because of his indescribable, tender affection. But now he has transferred the priestly action to what is most awesome and magnificent. He has changed the sacrifice itself, and instead of the butchering of dumb beasts, he commands the offering up of himself. 182

St. John Chrysostom explains that the imperfect sacrifices in the Old Covenant were didactic rituals. But God did not abolish sacrifice under the New Covenant; He provided the perfect sacrifice to accomplish what those imperfect rituals had foreshadowed. We are commanded to offer up that same sacrifice, and that is precisely what the priest does by celebrating the Eucharist.

At the same time, it is true that there are priestly sacrifices in other senses. Origen says that proclaiming the gospel is ‘priestly work.’ 183 He also says:

When you see that the priests and the levites are no longer handling the blood of rams and bulls, but the Word of God by the grace of the Holy Spirit, then you can say that Jesus has taken the place of Moses.184

Yet what he says fits with the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice. He also says:

The Apostles, and those who have become like Apostles, being priests according to the Great High Priest and having received knowledge of the service of God, know under the Spirit’s teaching for which sins, and when, and how they ought to offer sacrifices, and recognize for which they ought not to do so. 185

St. Cyprian of Carthage says:

If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is himself the high priest of God the Father; and if he offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father; and if he commanded that this be done in commemoration of himself, then certainly the priest, who imitates that which Christ did, truly functions in place of Christ.186

St. John Chrysostom says:

Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the sacrificial victim who is placed thereon!187

One final objection worth mentioning is that in the New Testament the Greek term ‘hiereus‘ is never used for a Christian minister. The objector reasons that if God had intended us to understand presbyters and bishops as belonging to a visible sacrificial priesthood, then the term would have been used in the New Testament. According to this objection, if the Catholic doctrine of the sacrificial priesthood is correct, then we should expect to find the New Testament using this term at least once to refer to Christian ministers. But this is an argument from silence and it presupposes solo scriptura. 188 Moreover the objection can be independently refuted by considering three counter points. First, while the term is not used specifically and directly to refer to a priest, there are passages showing presbyters carrying out priestly duties,189 and the same word in a different form is used to describe Paul’s own priestly ministry 190. Secondly, while Hebrews is the only book among those of the New Testament to refer to Christ as the High Priest, this theme can be detected in other canonical books. It does not follow that because a particular book does not mention Christ as a priest that that book is denying His priesthood. Neither can we conclude that the New Testament, taken as a whole, is denying the sacrificial priesthood by only referring to it indirectly. Finally, in first century Judaism the word ‘hiereus‘ referred specifically to the Levitical priesthood that was still in active duty while the temple stood. Though the Christian clergy explicated their priestly heritage in various ways, they also needed to differentiate themselves for practical and theological reasons. The antitype is not often referred to with the same word as the type; at least something is different! Aside from the Jewish priesthood, ‘hiereus‘ also referred to the pagan priesthood, and the earliest Christians shyed away from using this term in order to distance themselves from the pagans.

g. Conclusion on the Clergy’s Ordination to the Sacrificial Priesthood

To summarize the development of the priestly terminology: by the end of the second century, the term ‘hiereus‘ and its Latin equivalent ‘sacerdos‘ were being used to refer specifically to the bishop. The term was understood from the beginning to apply to presbyters by participation in the episcopal ministry, but never to deacons, because they did not offer sacrifice. From the middle of the third century, the term would be applied directly to presbyters as well. Until the sixth century, the terms were still generally reserved for the bishop, but that gradually began to change. By the eleventh century, the usage had reversed so that the terms for ‘priest’ were generally applied to the presbyter and not the bishop. The bishop was still understood to be a priest, but was not often referred to as such. 191 This explains why the old word ‘presbyter,’ which has become the English word ‘priest,’ is the word which was invested with the meaning of hiereus/sacerdos and not the word ‘bishop.’

We have stopped well short of a complete study on the sacrificial priesthood, but to understand Holy Orders, it is important to understand that the clergy are ordained to a sacrificial ministry. We have shown that this concept is consistent with the New Testament data, and is confirmed by the fathers. We have also addressed various Protestant objections to the sacrificial priesthood.

V – Ordination is a Sacrament

a. Protestant Objections

We have provided evidence that Holy Orders is consistent with natural hierarchy, is a true fulfillment of the Old Testament priestly types through participation in Christ, and is sacrificial in nature. But none of these, individually or together, necessarily mean that Holy Orders is a sacrament. If it is a sacrament, however, then the Protestants were in serious error for rejecting an ordinance of the Lord. John Calvin, believing there to be only two sacraments, quotes St. Augustine in support of his view:

“After the resurrection of our Lord, our Lord himself, and apostolic discipline, appointed, instead of many, a few signs, and these most easy of performance, most august in meaning, most chaste in practice; such is baptism and the celebration of the body and blood of the Lord.” Why does he here make no mention of the sacred number, I mean seven? Is it probable that he would have omitted it if it had then been established in the Church, especially seeing he is otherwise more curious in observing numbers than might be necessary?192

To the contrary, St. Augustine says elsewhere:

our Lord Jesus Christ has appointed to us a “light yoke” and an “easy burden,” as He declares in the Gospel: in accordance with which He has bound His people under the new dispensation together in fellowship by sacraments, which are in number very few, in observance most easy, and in significance most excellent, as baptism solemnized in the name of the Trinity, the communion of His body and blood, and such other things as are prescribed in the canonical Scriptures, with the exception of those enactments which were a yoke of bondage to God’s ancient people, suited to their state of heart and to the times of the prophets, and which are found in the five books of Moses. As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the Apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful, e.g., the annual commemoration, by special solemnities, of the Lord’s passion, resurrection, and ascension, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven, and whatever else is in like manner observed by the whole Church wherever it has been established.193

St. Augustine states that the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are clear from Scripture, but there are “other such things,” i.e., other sacraments, received on the authority of Tradition. He doesn’t mention Holy Orders here, but he at least affirmed that there are more than two sacraments, and as we will see below, he counted Holy Orders among them. The early Church held Holy Orders to be a sacrament. But the word ‘sacrament’ has developed in meaning over the years such that what was meant in the sixteenth century was not precisely what was meant in the fourth or fifth centuries when the word was first used by St. Augustine.194

Martin Luther also denied that Holy Orders is a sacrament. He retained a role for bishops in his ordination rites, but insisted that they only confirm men chosen by the people. If the bishop were to refuse to ordain such elected men, the congregation itself should ordain them to the clergy anyway.195 Because Luther rejected Holy Orders as a sacrament, the clergy were not necessary at all for valid ordination. 196 Luther argued that the biblical requirement that the ordinand be “blameless” is evidence that even St. Paul did not dare to ordain anyone who was not approved by the congregation. 197

Both Luther and Calvin correctly recognized that the election by the congregation, even in the case of bishops, was an important aspect of Christian ordination dating back to the apostolic age. But they were mistaken to confuse election and ordination. John Calvin says that other pastors should preside at the election. But his reasons are not that a valid ordination cannot occur without them, but rather the clergy ought to be present, “lest any error should be committed by the general body either through levity, or bad passion, or tumult.” He does not believe that a valid ordination can occur without the consent of the people, and he cites St. Cyprian of Carthage in support of this position. 198 However, even supposing that he required clergy to be present and considered the proper act of ordination to be effected by the clergy, he would still be opposed to apostolic Tradition because the first Calvinist ministers did not possess the power of ordination. That is, the second generation of Calvinist ministers may well have been ordained only by Calvinist ‘clergy,’ but the first generation of Calvinist ‘clergy’ were mostly ordained by the mere consent of the congregation, and hence were not actually clergy.

The first century congregation of Jerusalem elected the first deacons, but the people did not ordain them. The congregation presented the chosen men to the Apostles, who prayed over them and laid hands on them, thereby conferring the sacrament of Holy Orders. 199 There is no example in the New Testament or in early Church history of anyone other than a bishop ordaining a Christian minister. 200 We will argue in the following sections that the early Church considered Holy Orders to be a sacrament and that the first Protestants erred in rejecting it as such.

b. Definition of Sacrament

The Catholic Catechism defines sacraments in this way:

The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.201

Protestant scholar Allister McGrath affirms that the doctrine that sacraments “convey the grace which they signify” can be traced back to the second century. St. Ambrose, according to McGrath, is especially responsible for expounding or developing this doctrine clearly. His pupil, St. Augustine, would go on to pave the way for Catholic teaching on the subject from the medieval period and on through to the present. Thus McGrath writes, “It is clear that a major function of the sacraments, in the thought of Augustine and his medieval successors, is that of the efficacious bestowal of grace.”202 Sts. Ambrose and Augustine were indeed repeating and expounding a doctrine of sacramental efficacy that predated their work.

But does Holy Orders as found in the Fathers match the definition of a sacrament as something that includes the efficacious bestowal of grace? The patristic evidence demonstrates that the early Church held the rite of Holy Orders to confer grace and to effect a real change in the ordinand. 203 Many Fathers explicitly referred to Holy Orders as a sacrament, and as St. Augustine said, none of them doubted it. 204 Furthermore, as shown above,205 Holy Orders was directly instituted by Christ. As St. Thomas Aquinas said several hundred years before the Reformation, “a sacrament is nothing else than a sanctification conferred on man with some outward sign. Wherefore, since by receiving orders a consecration is conferred on man by visible signs, it is clear that Order is a sacrament.”206

One Protestant objection is that if Christ instituted seven sacraments, then why didn’t the Church recognize Holy Orders as a sacrament until the middle ages? This is false because it was recognized as a sacrament long before the Middle Ages. The Council of Trent was by no means the first authority to count Holy Orders among the sacraments.207 That is to say, Holy Orders was definitively taught as a sacrament by the universal Church long before the Reformation. Our next section will show that it was held to be a ‘sacrament’ by the early Church Fathers.

c. Evidence from Scripture and Tradition

The Biblical evidence that Christ established Holy Orders begins with the fact that Christ invested the Apostles with real authority and ordained them as priests of the New Covenant. 208 That the laying on of hands in ordination confers grace is evident from 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6. 209 The concept of Holy Orders conferring grace is common among all the early ordination prayers. 210 For St. Cyprian of Carthage, Christ Himself ordains the priest. 211 If Christ Himself confers ordination, its efficacy should not be doubted. In addition to his quotation above, St. Augustine also says:

Both of these, Baptism and Orders are Sacraments, and each is given to a man by a certain sacred rite.212

St. Augustine also referred to certain signs under the Old Covenant as “sacraments,” but he distinguished them from the sacraments under the New Covenant by noting that the latter “give salvation.” 213 Regarding Holy Orders, he also says:

In like manner as if there take place an ordination of clergy in order to form a congregation of people, although the congregation of people follow not, yet there remains in the ordained persons the Sacrament of Ordination; and if, for any fault, any be removed from his office, he will not be without the Sacrament of the Lord once for all set upon him, albeit continuing unto condemnation.214

And St. Gregory of Nyssa says:

The bread again is at first common bread, but when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called, and becomes, the Body of Christ. So with the sacramental oil; so with the wine: though before the benediction they are of little value, each of them, after the sanctification bestowed by the Spirit, has its several operation. The same power of the word, again, also makes the priest venerable and honourable, separated, by the new blessing bestowed upon him, from his community with the mass of men. While but yesterday he was one of the mass, one of the people, he is suddenly rendered a guide, a president, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries; and this he does without being at all changed in body or in form; but, while continuing to be in all appearance the man he was before, being, by some unseen power and grace, transformed in respect of his unseen soul to the higher condition.215

St. John Chrysostom says:

For the priestly office is indeed discharged on earth, but it ranks among heavenly ordinances; and very naturally so: for neither man, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself, instituted this vocation, and persuaded men while still abiding in the flesh to represent the ministry of angels.216

St. Basil the Great (AD 374) affirms that in ordination “a spiritual charism” is received at the imposition of hands.217 Pope St. Leo I (Bishop of Rome from AD 440-461), speaking of Holy Orders, instructs that care be taken in the ritual lest, “the ministration of a Sacrament so great and of so great blessing should be thoughtlessly discharged.”218 Later in the fifth century, Pope Anastasius II compares it to baptism. 219 Pope St. Gregory (Bishop of Rome from AD 590-604) also calls it a sacrament. 220 Even some of the early Protestants, most notably the Puritan, Richard Baxter, affirmed Holy Orders as a sacrament. 221

The technicalization of terminology is a lengthy process which is generally accelerated only as contextual pressure is applied. As it became more critical to clarify the Church’s doctrine on the sacraments in the middle ages, it became more common to refer to Holy Orders, and the other sacraments, as ‘sacraments.’ It seems that the word ‘sacrament’ had a broader meaning in the early Church than in the medieval Church. In the present day in the East, those same realities are referred to as ‘mysteries,’ which is the literal meaning of the word ‘sacrament.’ As with the clerical terminology, we are concerned not only with the words themselves, but with the realities to which they refer. Thus, the question becomes not how many times was the sacrament referred to as such in the early Fathers or in the New Testament, but whether or not the Church consistently understood the action of ordination to be instituted by Christ and to be an effectual outward sign of inward grace. As we have observed, the answer is clearly in the affirmative.

d. Conclusion on Ordination as a Sacrament

In order to deny the authority of the visible Church, it was necessary for the first Protestants to deny the sacrament of Holy Orders. If the first Protestants had acknowledged that Holy Orders was actually a sacrament, then they would have had to acknowledge the sacramental authority of their bishop. But if Holy Orders is a man-made rite and not a true sacrament, then the so-called ‘bishop’ has only as much authority as the congregation grants him. Therefore, by denying the sacrament of Holy Orders, Protestants were able to conceive of their actions as obedient to God [by obeying their own interpretation of Scripture] rather than disobedient to God [by disobeying God’s appointed authorities], because they did not believe that their so-called ‘bishops’ were actually ordained under a true sacrament. They believed that the authority of the clergy was derived from the consent of the Christian congregation such that if the clergy ever started preaching the Word in a way that contradicted the congregation’s interpretation of Scripture, then the offending clergy were to be deposed by the congregation and would no longer be true clergymen. Thus, the clergy held no real authority over the people. Such a doctrine of authority was entirely incompatible with Holy Orders as a sacrament, and so denying the sacrament was a necessary step for Protestants in order to justify being and remaining Protestant. In order to establish the new tradition and law of the Protestant community, the first Protestants had to reinvent what it meant to be a Christian minister.

VI – The Nature of Holy Orders

a. In the Ordination Prayers

According to Dom Botte, all of the earliest prayers of ordination had four things in common. 222 First, that the calling of the ordinand, and the hierarchical structure into which he was initiated, was by the will of God. 223 Calvin also concurs on this point.224 Secondly, the bishops are successors to the Apostles. Our next article on Apostolic Succession will address this issue more thoroughly, but relevant to our present discussion, in her ordination prayers, the early Church consistently understood this action to be appointing a successor to the Apostles. The terminology associated with this point was closely linked to the role of the Holy Spirit and the sending at Pentecost. Lecuyer relates that, “According to Severian, the imposition of the gospel on the head [during ordination] represents the same sign as the tongues of fire upon the heads of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.”225 The third point of commonality in ordination prayers is that the presbyter’s “priesthood” is associated with the bishop’s. Fourthly, the clergy were “not simply ministers of worship.” They were pastors of souls and teachers of the Word. They administered the sacraments and governed the Church. Dom Botte captures this well saying:

Their essential mission is to govern the Church and feed the flock. They are not only high priests, but also–one might say supremely–pastors and doctors.226

b. Requirements for Ordination

There have always been requirements for ordination. John Calvin, in accordance with the Fathers, views a calling from God as a requirement of ordination; i.e., no one ought to assume the role without an actual calling to the ministry. 227 Another one of the primary requirements, which Calvin also stresses, is holiness. This requirement is repeated in the New Testament228 and again in the Fathers. 229

But what if an ordained man ceases to be holy or a man who is not holy is ordained? Is the ordination therefore invalid? First, the New Testament text does not indicate any possibility of this invalidating orders. There are similar exhortations to the baptized. For example, in Galatians 5:16 St. Paul tells the baptized to “live by the Spirit.” But the baptized do not lose baptism by ceasing to “live by the Spirit,” nor does it follow that they never were baptized. 230 Secondly, St. Augustine believed that both Baptism and Holy Orders were not repeatable. 231 Lastly, as we have argued above (Section V) Holy Orders is a sacrament. Both Catholics and Reformed Protestants agree that the efficacy of a sacrament depends not on the holiness of the minister but on the promise of Christ. 232 Therefore, since Holy Orders is a sacrament, its effects are not dependent upon the minister.

But could the effect depend on the recipient (ordinand)? Grace received through the sacraments is a gratuitous gift from God, not a reward for holiness. This gift does not depend upon either the holiness of the minister or of the ordinand. The exhortations to ordain only holy men are true and practical commands that the bishops must obey. Only men who are actually called to the priesthood (by God) should be ordained. Because of men’s sinfulness, many unworthy men have been ordained just as many men have unworthily received the sacrament of the Eucharist. But because of the efficacy of the sacraments, those men are still validly ordained.

There were various additional requirements for ordination. Several early councils prohibited bishops from ordaining men from outside their diocese. 233 They did this to keep peace between bishops234 and so that the personal character of the ordinand could be rightfully judged. The ordination ceremony must be public, preferably in the cathedral, because it concerned the whole Church. 235 Other requirements included age, which was generally 25 to 30 for deacons, 30 to 35 for priests, and 35 to 40 or older for bishops. Age minimums still exist for all of these and may vary by diocese. The Council of Hippo in 393 required that ordinands possess a ‘knowledge of the scriptures.’ Those in certain professions were also considered ineligible for ordination. Some examples of barred professions include those involved with pagan religious rites, magistrates who had taken part in forbidden games, trustees of inheritances (until the inheritance was settled), and members of the armed forces.236 From the earliest days of the Church, only men were chosen for the clergy, including bishops, priests, and deacons, and this Tradition was confirmed in the early legislation on the matter. 237

Another major requirement that varied by time and place is clerical celibacy. There was no universal law in the early Church regarding continence, but it was widely practiced among the ordained from the beginning, and by the second century it was practiced by the majority of the clergy.238 Continence was by no means exclusive to the West. Many Eastern priests and bishops practiced continence as well. Those married men ordained to the priesthood would be expected to live with their wives as brother and sister in the majority of cases. In the early cases of married bishops, the bishop would often have to separate from his wife, and she would be forced to live in a convent or become a deaconess.239 It appears to have always been the case that the clerics could not remarry after ordination.240 In the East, Theodosius II, in AD 420, imposed continence on all married bishops, and Justinian made the law definitive in the sixth century.241 The West was stricter in this respect, and its legislation on continence began in the fourth century and extended to deacons and even to sub-deacons in some churches.242 St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, Pope St. Leo, and St. Augustine were all in favor of clerical continence.243 By the eleventh century, the West would only ordain unmarried men, and both East and West would retain the tradition of ordaining only celibate bishops.

The most common Protestant objection to priestly celibacy is that we know that the apostolic age had married clergy. We knows this because in the New Testament all three offices: bishop, presbyter, and deacon, are required to have only one wife.244 But the Catholic Church does not teach that clerical celibacy is dogma. Clerical celibacy is a discipline of the Church like fasting during Lent. For that reason, the rule of priestly celibacy could theoretically change. That is why the Eastern Churches which are in union with the See of Peter are able to retain their tradition of married priests. For this reason, the discipline of clerical celibacy is in no way contradictory to the New Testament passages cited above. In fact, it is clearly in keeping with the New Testament praise for celibacy.245 Furthermore, the Church Fathers have consistently understood the passages regarding one wife as a prohibition of second marriage for clergy. Protestants reject both this traditional reading and any honor given to religious celibacy whatsoever.

c. Rituals of Ordination

The earliest surviving record of the ordination rite is The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. What we can determine is this. First, the ordination ritual was always performed in the context of sacrificial liturgy, i.e., the Eucharist, just as its Old Testament type had been. 246 From apostolic times, the ordinand was required to fast before the ritual. 247 The bishop was elected, not ordained, by the people. 248 Then, neighboring bishops, no fewer than three, would lay hands on him to confer ordination that would be confirmed by the Metropolitan. 249 A single bishop would then read the ordination prayer. This is the ordination prayer of St. Hippolytus:

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all consolation, you who live in the highest, but regard the lowest, you who know all things before they are,

you who gave the rules of the Church through the word of your grace, who predestined from the beginning the race of the righteous through Abraham, who instituted princes and priests, and did not leave your sanctuary without a minister; who from the beginning of the world has been pleased to be glorified by those whom you have chosen,

pour out upon him the power which is from you, the princely Spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son Jesus Christ, which he gave to your holy Apostles, who founded the Church in every place as your sanctuary, for the glory and endless praise of your name.

Grant, Father who knows the heart, to your servant whom you chose for the episcopate, that he will feed your holy flock, that he will wear your high priesthood without reproach, serving night and day, incessantly making your face favorable, and offering the gifts of your holy church;

in the spirit of high priesthood having the power to forgive sins according to your command; to assign lots according to your command; to loose any bond according to the authority which you gave to the Apostles; to please you in mildness and a pure heart, offering to you a sweet scent,

through your son Jesus Christ, through whom to you be glory, power, and honor, Father and Son, with the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Church, now and throughout the ages of the ages. Amen. 250

In cases of presbyters, other presbyters would also lay their hands on the ordinand during the ritual, but in the case of a deacon, only the bishop would lay hands. In the early Roman Church [the Church in the city of Rome], the ordination rituals entailed only these prayers and the laying on of hands, but other traditions were organically incorporated into the Roman rite and would eventually become standard for Western Christendom. 251

By the fifth century, the book of the Gospels was imposed on the forehead of the bishop at ordination, symbolizing his servitude to the Word. The tradition of anointing the bishop on the head with chrism oil appears to date back to about the same time. The traditions of bestowing a ring on the bishop, and the handing on of the pastoral staff, extend at least to the sixth century. 252 After the ninth century, anointing of the hands with oil was added for both priests and bishops, but only bishops were anointed on the head as a sign of authority. 253 About this time, or perhaps later, the “Delivery of the Instruments of Office” was added to the rite. This consisted in handing on the paten and chalice together with bread and wine, consecrated or unconsecrated, to the ordinand. 254 This tradition was slow to spread and its actual date of origin is uncertain.

d. The Chorepiscopi

In the second and third centuries, Christianity experienced rapid growth. As the Christian Church extended her reach from the city to the countryside, the single episcopocentric congregation, i.e., the body united around a single bishop and having a single Eucharist, began to manifest its limitations. The chorepiscopi were rural bishops [or priests] ordained to address the growing needs of the Church. They were more prominent in the East than in the West. It appears that some of the chorepiscopi were priests, but especially in the beginning the majority were actual bishops. 255 The chorepiscopi who were ordained to the fullness of the episcopate could ordain presbyters and deacons, but only with the written permission of the city bishop to whom they were subject. 256 The chorepiscopi were gradually replaced by priests as the rural ecclesial structure moved from rigid episcopocentricity to presbyterocentricity, which is the re-centering of local Church unity from the bishop to a lead presbyter. These individual congregations under such presbyters would in turn be united with other congregations under the city’s bishop. This development set the stage for the emergence of what we know today as the local parish in the fourth and fifth centuries. In the late fourth century, the Synod of Sardica forbade the ordination of chorepiscopi when a presbyter would suffice, and the Second Council of Nicaea in AD 787 is the last to mention the office.

e. The Diaconate

The nature of the priesthood of both bishop and presbyter is evident from the facts above, but the diaconate stands in need of some additional treatment. The diaconate was a permanent office in the early Church, although plenty of deacons went on to become priests or bishops. Gradually, the diaconate became only a stepping stone to priesthood in the West and was thus only temporary in duration. However, the permanent diaconate was restored after Vatican II in 1967. Whether temporary or permanent, the deacon has always been understood as an assistant to the bishop. As the bishop and presbyters serve at the altar, the deacon serves the bishop and assists at the altar in the same way the Levites did in the Old Testament. Some have claimed that the ministry of deacons is solely for the material care of the poor and the supervision of “the tables,” but this belief was condemned by the Council of Trullo in AD 691.257

The early Church has unanimously understood the seven men ordained in Jerusalem (Acts 6) to be the first deacons, though the word is not specifically used there. 258 It was the custom among early Churches, especially at Rome, to have seven deacons after this model. Later divisions not of apostolic origin were added to this order: archdeacon and sub-deacon. Neither of these two are active today. Though the early deacons were considerably powerful, they were never allowed to offer sacrifice. 259 In the middle of the second century, deacons regularly distributed communion. 260 But by the time St. Hippolytus writes in the early third century, it appears that they were considered extra-ordinary ministers of communion, meaning that distribution of communion was no longer seen as their proper duty. By the fourth century, they were no longer allowed to give holy communion when priests were present.261 One reason for this change was the growing importance of presbyters due to the increase in the number of rural Christians. During the third and fourth centuries, more priests were needed to consecrate the host, whereas in the first two centuries it was generally the bishop alone who consecrated the host. This gradual change in the duties of the deacon is not an abandonment of any apostolic institution or dogma. Rather it is a practical development related to the liturgy.

f. The Minor Orders

The minor orders are sacramental, but not sacraments. 262 That is, these were instituted by the Church, not by Christ. These minor orders date back to the early Church. In the middle of the third century, Pope Cornelius reports that Rome had “forty six priests, seven deacons, seven sub-deacons, forty-two acolytes, fifty-two exorcists, readers, and door-keepers, more than fifteen hundred widows and poor persons.” 263 We will not explain all of these minor orders in detail, but we should mention that the East typically recognized only two minor orders below the diaconate, sub-deacons and readers, although other offices were mentioned in Eastern documents.

In the West, hands were not imposed on those initiated into minor orders. But initiation for each minor order would include a specific outward sign. The arch-deacon was given a pitcher, a basin, and a towel. The sub-deacon was given an empty paten and chalice. The acolyte was given a candlestick, candle, and a pitcher to carry the wine. The exorcist was given the book in which exorcisms were written. Likewise, the reader was given the codex from which he would read. Lastly, the doorkeeper was given the keys to the church. The Eastern Churches did impose hands, and they also gave items to the minor-orders, but only after ordination.264

As for deaconesses, there seems to have been a minor order of sorts, sometimes referred to as ‘deaconess,’ that emerged and eventually disappeared. One of the primary functions of the deaconess was to assist during female baptisms for the sake of propriety. In Romans 16:1, St. Paul refers to Phoebe as a deaconess, but the word ‘deacon,’ and its feminine form, ‘deaconess,’ simply meant “minister.” In the same way that ‘presbyteros‘ sometimes referred to an old man, so the terms ‘deacon’ and ‘deaconess’ occasionally referred to one who ministered in the Church, and not necessarily to an actual order. ‘Deacon’ became a technical term for the diaconate early in the first century, but ‘deaconess’ was not a technical term during that time. The reason that ‘deacon’ is known to be a technical term is because of its wide and consistent use in early patristic literature and in 1 Timothy. 265 The term ‘deaconess’ appears much less frequently and less consistently than the term ‘deacon.’ It is clear that the deaconesses did not receive Holy Orders, although their initiation ritual was similar to deacons in the East. The Council of Nicaea, at canon 19, explicitly declared that deaconesses are to be counted among the laity. Later, the Council of Orange in 411 AD forbade the ordaining of women to the office of deaconess at all. The prevalence of deaconesses continued longer in the East than the West, but by the eleventh century the office appears to have disappeared completely. It should be noted that there was a minor order under the title of ‘widow.’ Both the office of deaconess and widow had strict age requirements of fifty or sixty years old, although in one case, which met with disapproval, a deaconess was initiated in her twenties.

g. A Refutation of Presbyterial Ordination

In the early Church only the bishop could ordain. 266 To state it more plainly, as Anglican scholar Charles Grueber points out, there is not one single instance of ordination by one presbyter to another in history, nor in any canon of any council, nor do we have any record of a Church father advocating it. 267 Proponents of presbyterial ordination often point to 1 Timothy 4:14 as evidence of Timothy being ordained by a presbyterial body.268 But this is not good evidence because the term ‘presbyteros,’ as we have argued above, was not yet a technical term; it simply meant elder. Furthermore, in 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul refers to Timothy’s ordination as by his own hand. So we know that at least one bishop had participated in his ordination, namely Paul. Thus, 1 Timothy 4:14 is not evidence for presbyterial ordination. 269

Another argument used by proponents of presbyterial ordination is St. Jerome’s explanation of ordination in Alexandria:

For even at Alexandria from the time of Mark the Evangelist until the episcopates of Heraclas and Dionysius the presbyters always named as bishop one of their own number chosen by themselves and set in a more exalted position, just as an army elects a general, or as deacons appoint one of themselves whom they know to be diligent and call him arch-deacon. For what function, excepting ordination, belongs to a bishop that does not also belong to a presbyter?270

The most obvious problem with using this as an example of presbyterial ordination is that it never uses the term “ordain;” rather it uses the term “elect” which is consistent with the monepiscopal ordination. Secondly, St. Jerome goes on, as shown in the quotation above, to state explicitly that bishops have the power of ordination and not presbyters. Furthermore, Cirlot has decisively refuted the opinion that Alexandrian presbyters ordained their own bishop. 271

h. Cardinals and Archbishops

The sacramental hierarchy received by the Church is: bishop – presybter – deacon, and this has not changed. The term ‘archbishop’ is given as an honorific title to the bishop of an archdiocese which is so named for its prestige or importance. The title archbishop does not indicate a higher position in the hierarchy than a bishop; there is no higher office than bishop. The pope himself, in terms of his sacramental ordination, is simply a bishop.; “pope” is not a fourth level of hierarchy. 272

Similarly, ‘cardinal’ is not a new order in the hierarchy. In late antiquity and up to the middle ages, this title could be applied to both priests and deacons. The cardinal bishops took on greater importance in 1059 when, at the decree of Nicholas II, they were given the duty of assisting in papal elections. The papal elections became exclusively their responsibility in 1179 by the Decretal of Alexander III, “Licet de vitandâ,” at the Third Lateran Council. All of this is a matter of Church discipline. 273

VII – Conclusion

This discussion of Holy Orders is the foundation for our next article on the critical topic of apostolic succession, and so it is important to summarize what we have shown here. We have argued first that the mission of the Church is to save souls, souls are saved by grace, and grace is received through the sacraments. Therefore the sacraments are integral to the mission of the Church. This sacramental mission is centered on Christ, who at His Incarnation invested the whole of creation with a new and sacred significance. He did so most visibly with the sacred mysteries of salvation. These mysteries, or sacraments, were entrusted to the Church, His Bride and Mystical Body. He hand-selected certain men to carry on the task of administering these sacraments, breathed on them the Holy Spirit, and sent them out to preach the gospel and to heal the sick.

We found that this sacramental hierarchy reflects the natural hierarchy of the cosmos and that neither hierarchy nor liturgy are “necessary evils.” Order is nothing but “the distribution which allots things equal and unequal, each to its own place.”274 Through Holy Orders the ordinand receives an indelible effect of grace. This initiation into the hierarchy is a good ordered towards the building up of the Church. We have given evidence that the hierarchical difference between the clergy and laity is not a corruption, but is the divinely ordained structure of the body of Christ.

We showed that there were various powers divided among the orders such that certain rights and powers were exclusive to one order. The bishops could ordain and presbyters could not. Priests, i.e., bishops and presbyters, could offer the sacrifice of mass, while deacons could not. We traced the development of the terminology and noted that the offices have always been distinct though the terminology had not always been precise.

An important section of this article is devoted to demonstrating the sacrificial nature of the priesthood. We showed that the Fathers understood the Eucharist as one and the same sacrifice of Calvary and that only bishops or presbyters could offer this sacrifice. We argued that the sacrificial language employed by the Fathers was not mere lip service, and that the Eucharist was inherently propitiatory. We next argued that the early Fathers spoke of Holy Orders in a way consistent with the Catholic definition of a sacrament and that there are many examples of the Fathers explicitly referring to it as such. We concluded that Christ indeed established a visible sacrificial priesthood by instituting the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Finally, in the discussion on the nature of Holy Orders, we argued the following. First, that the early ordination prayers and rituals confirmed the things we have been claiming regarding the nature of the priesthood. That is, the Church has always understood herself to be ordaining men in the manner of and to the offices described above. We also saw that only men were ordained, and that priestly celibacy has ancient roots in the early Church. We argued that presbyterial ordinations were unheard of in the early Church, and explained that the titles of archbishop and cardinal do not constitute additions to the apostolic three-tier hierarchy of the clergy. Historical evidence confirms that the Catholic hierarchy, as it has developed, is compatible with the early Church.

Christian communities that lack the monepiscopal hierarchy cannot support their divergence from ancient tradition either by the authority of the Church Fathers or even by the Scriptures. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout the ages have been under the authority of particular Churches that preserve this apostolic foundation of Church hierarchy. Common to Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglicans, this hierarchy alone represents a coherent interpretation of the New Testament and early Church evidence. Our next article will argue that through the vehicle of apostolic succession, this sacramental hierarchy was passed on through the generations, and that whoever does not have it, is not united to the Church.

  1. Bryan Cross and Tom Brown argued that the Church is visible here, and Bryan Cross argued that a denial of Catholic ecclesiology amounts to ‘ecclesial deism’ here. []
  2. I.e., Christ’s mission is to save souls and redeem the world. []
  3. Cf. Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:5, 8. []
  4. The Westminster Confession of Faith says, “The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.” Westminster Confession of Faith [hereinafter WCF], ch. XIV, sec. 1. []
  5. To set the sacraments beside preaching in the Church’s mission does not deny the importance of preaching the gospel, nor does it deny the internal aspect of justifying faith. []
  6. CCC 1536 defines Holy Orders in this way: “Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.” []
  7. Augustine of Hippo, City of God, bk. 19, ch. 13. []
  8. See http://www.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/lookup.pl?stem=ordo []
  9. Cassell’s Latin-English Dictionary (1957) defines ordinatio as “a setting in order, arrangement.” Further on the etymology of “ordain” can be found http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=ordain&searchmode=none. []
  10. Cf. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=priest&searchmode=none. []
  11. P.M. Gy, “Early Terminology of the Priesthood,” in The Sacrament of Holy Orders, Some Papers and Discussions Concerning Holy Orders at a Session of the Centre de Pastorale Liturgique [hereafter Holy Orders], p. 115 (1955). []
  12. Of course this word didn’t originally refer to the initiation rite of the Church, but through widespread and consistent reference to that idea, it became a technical reference to that rite. Originally the Greek word for baptism simply meant immersion or washing. []
  13. Acts 2:42, we can infer, is a reference to the Eucharist instead of the Lord’s Supper/Agape. And because of its occasion on Sunday, Acts 20:7 is a definite reference to the Eucharist. (The Lord’s Supper/Agape was a liturgical meal celebrated by early Christians. It is distinct from the Eucharist although it is not uncommon for some Christians to refer to the Eucharist as the Lord’s Supper.) In the Agape meal, bread was blessed but not consecrated as the Body of Christ. It was celebrated in the home on a Sunday evening. The Eucharist, on the other hand, was celebrated on Sunday morning and the bread was consecrated as the Body of Christ. []
  14. St. Paul uses ‘eucharistia‘ to refer to Thanksgiving for meat offered in the market – 1 Cor 10:30. For a discussion of the length of the technicalization, see Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, p. 79 (1945). []
  15. Quoted in A. Duval, O.P., “The Council of Trent and Holy Orders,” in Holy Orders, p. 246 (1955). []
  16. Christ is the center of God’s plan for mankind. Catechism of the Catholic Church [hereinafter CCC], para. 112. Christ is the center of the revealed mystery. CCC, para. 158. Christ is the key, center, purpose, and Master of all man’s history. CCC, para. 450. []
  17. See, e.g., Hebrews 3:1. []
  18. Mark 1:11. []
  19. Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, p. 56 (emphasis original). []
  20. Ibid., p. 55. An example of the Jewish prayer can be found at pages 52-53. []
  21. St. Athanasius On the Incarnation, sec. 54. []
  22. I use the Latin missio because of the ancient dismissal phrase of the Latin rite, Ite missa est (literally: “Go, it is the dismissal”), which has the same root word from whence we derive both “mission” and “mass.” The Church’s mission (missio) is the missa (mass). []
  23. Quoted in Jean Daniélou, “The Priestly Ministry in the Greek Fathers,” in Holy Orders, p. 119. []
  24. Quoted in Tixeront, p. 193 (emphasis added). []
  25. Romans 5:9. []
  26. Isaiah 53:5. []
  27. John 6:55-57. []
  28. These effects of the Incarnation should not be understood exclusively, that is, as excluding the necessity of Calvary. We are by no means commenting on the necessity of Calvary vis-à-vis the mystery of the Eucharist. []
  29. Cameron Mackenzie, The “Early” Luther on Priesthood of All Believers, Office of the Ministry, and Ordination, p. 2-3, available here. []
  30. A so-called ‘visible institution’ that does not have visible leadership is either invisible or it is not an institution. See Bryan Cross’s and Tom Brown’s article, Christ Founded a Visible Church, Called to Communion. []
  31. See St. Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 1:13-16. St. Paul calls himself the chief sinner and shows that in respect to sin nature, and being saved by grace, he is of the same status as the laity. If this is true of an Apostle, much more is it true of the non-apostolic clergy. But he does not indicate here, or anywhere else, that clergy and laity are of the same status in all respects. In fact, several Pauline passages clearly indicate a distinction between the clergy and laity. See below, section II.b. []
  32. 1 Corinthians 11:14 and Romans 1:20, respectively. []
  33. Proverbs 6:6. []
  34. Thomas Howard, Chance or the Dance? A Critique of Modern Secularism, pp. 12-13 (Ignatius, 1989). []
  35. To understand how and why the symbolism of nature is inherently meaningful and instructive, I recommend first, Dr. Peter Kreeft’s excerpt from “Women and the Priesthood” on ‘Sexual Symbolism’ which can be found online here, and my own article The Divine Metaphor. For a more thorough examination, see Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000). []
  36. Cf. Romans 1:20. []
  37. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II Q.93 a.3, available here. []
  38. Cameron Mackenzie uses this term (approvingly) to describe Luther’s doctrine on ordination. Cameron Mackenzie, The “Early” Luther on Priesthood of All Believers, Office of the Ministry, and Ordination, p. 8. However Luther’s view on Holy Orders may have changed throughout his lifetime is irrelevant to the current discussion. This is because he may have increased the importance and necessity of hierarchical order and hence lessened the authority of the congregation later on in his life, but these clergy invested with greater authority were still the same ones ordained by the authority of the congregations years before. Luther’s walls may have been better constructed than his foundation, but his foundation was still weak. []
  39. Ibid. []
  40. Ibid., p. 9. []
  41. The argument runs like this. 1. God’s plan for the clergy/laity distinction is good. 2. Any bad plan cannot be God’s plan. 3. Inequality is bad. 4. Therefore inequality between clergy and laity is not God’s plan. This argument is false because of 3. Inequality is not bad in itself, and ordered inequality is good. []
  42. Bryan Cross and Tom Brown argued for a visible Church in the article Christ Founded a Visible Church, Called to Communion. See also Bryan Cross, Why Protestantism has no Visible Church. []
  43. Bryan Cross, Ecclesial Deism. Deism is the belief that God created the world and left it to run its own course without intervention. Ecclesial Deism is the belief that God established the Church and did not guide it by the Holy Spirit, but rather left it to run its own course without intervention. See ibid.. []
  44. See, e.g., Francis A. Sullivan, From Apostles to Bishops, p. 21 (2001); Stephen Ray, Upon This Rock, pp. 37-38 at fn. 41 (1999). []
  45. The precise nature of the office and authority of these leaders will be discussed in more detail in . []
  46. See especially chs. 1 and 54. St. Ignatius of Antioch teaches this same doctrine about a decade later, “we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself,” and obedience to the bishop and the presbytery is necessary so that “you may in all respects be sanctified.” St. Ignatius to the Ephesians sec. 6 and sec. 2 respectively. []
  47. Tertullian The Prescription Against Heretics, sec. 32 (showing that he was ordained by St. Peter); Philippians 4:3 (showing that he labored with St. Paul); Eusebius Church History, 3.4.10. []
  48. St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, 44.4, quoted in William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. I, [21] p. 11. []
  49. St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, 44.1 quoted in William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. I, [21] p. 10-11 (emphasis added). Again, it may be claimed that the rightful clergy described in this passage are qualified by holiness, but such a claim is not supported by the text. If St. Clement held such a nominal view, then he would be directly undermining the fundamental purpose of his letter. Some in the Corinthian congregation were attempting to depose their clergy because they believed that those clergy were not fit for the office. It is absurd to suppose that St. Clement was saying, “You do not have the right to depose these leaders because no clergy who is fit for the office may be deposed.” St. Clement knows that the laypersons responsible for this sedition did not believe that the clergy were fit for the office. That was the point of his letter, to tell them that they did not have the right to do what they did. He did not argue that they misjudged, and that the clergy were actually fit for the office. Rather, he told them that they simply do not have the authority to make such a judgment. []
  50. 1 Clement 40-41 (emphasis added). []
  51. By using the phrase “the consent of the whole Church,” St. Clement was not merely referring to the consent of church-members everywhere, as opposed to the local church. He was appealing to the authority of the Church as Church. For example, the Jerusalem council of Acts 15 is rightly understood as an act of “the whole Church” because the highest leaders of the Church convened, and with their full authority, definitively bound the consciences of all Christians everywhere. There was no universal vote taken of the laity; neither do we have any precedent of such an occurrence in all of Church history. []
  52. Council of Illiberi Canon 51, trans. William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. I, [611aa], p. 257. []
  53. Council of Illiberi Canon 77, quoted in Denzinger, Sources of Catholic Dogma #52e, p. 25 (emphasis added). []
  54. The canons can be found online here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3801.htm. []
  55. See Tixeront, pp. 52-54, for examples. See also Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, 41.4-8. []
  56. See also St. Gregory of Nazianzus Orations, 2:4-5; 28:2. []
  57. Before the Fall, man’s lower powers were subject to his higher power of reason, and his power of reason was subject, by grace, to God’s will. []
  58. See John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.19.22-33. []
  59. The most incontrovertible difference is the bishop’s ability to ordain, which presbyters do not have, as will be shown below. []
  60. E. Schuerer has argued that the term ‘presbyter’ was not applied to the Elders of the Jewish synagogues of the dispersion until the end of the third century. Ehrhardt argues that the Gospels and Acts prove that it was used for first century Jewish Elders in Palestine. Arnold Ehrhardt, The Apostolic Succession in the First Two Centuries of the Church, p. 27 (1953); Ehrhardt cites E. Schuerer, Gesch. d. Jued. Volkes, 3rd ed., 3.39, ff. The word ‘presbyter,’ it seems, was especially associated with the Sanhedrin. This would have given it certain ecclesial undertones as it began to be used by the early Christians to describe their own ministers. []
  61. Exodus 24:1-2. []
  62. Luke 10:1. Some translations say seventy, others say seventy-two. []
  63. The Commentaries of Isho’dad of Merv, ed. and trans. by M. D. Gibson, p. 9. []
  64. Some modern scholars have arrived at some surprisingly erroneous answers to this question because they limited the definition of the word ‘bishop’ to its modern meaning. See, e.g., http://www.catholic-convert.com/documents/PeterInRome.doc. []
  65. It is possible that the Apostles ordained only bishops and that they instructed the bishops to ordain some men as mere presbyters, but that does not appear to be the case. Rather, it appears that the Apostles themselves appointed both bishops and presbyters while they were alive. For example, St. Peter seems to have ordained St. Clement of Rome as a presbyter, although it is possible that St. Clement was ordained as a bishop from the beginning. Most scholars believe that St. Clement was elevated to the episcopacy after St. Peter’s martyrdom in AD 62. Since two others, Sts. Linus and Anacletus, are known to have preceded St. Clement in the episcopate at Rome, it appears that he was originally a presbyter. See Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, 32. Eusebius identifies St. Clement with Paul’s co-worker in Philippians 4:3. Church History, 3.4.10. The passage in Philippians does not prove that St. Clement was a presbyter (and not a bishop), but it is certainly consistent with this theory. []
  66. Cf. 1 Clement, ch. 42. []
  67. Concerning Judas, St. Peter says, “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it'; and ‘His office [bishoprick] let another take.'” (Acts 1:20 RSV); Acts 1:21-26 explains that Mathias was selected by lot to fulfill the ‘episcopate’ of Judas Iscariot. This demonstrates that there was an actual epsicopal ministry proper to each of the twelve. []
  68. See St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on Philippians, 1:1. []
  69. We have no direct evidence of this happening so we should conclude that if it ever did happen, it was only for a short amount of time, until a bishop could be appointed. []
  70. Petavius, Dissertat. Ecclesiastic., 1. I, cap. ii (ed. Vives, t. VII.). []
  71. See also Tixeront, p. 79. []
  72. Council of Nicaea (AD 325), canon 8, available at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3801.htm. []
  73. This can be shown to be compatible with Catholic ecclesiology because even today there are certain situations that allow for multiple bishops to reside in a single city (though not as pastors over the same flock). For example, auxiliary bishops are sometimes ordained, and work alongside and in the same city with regular bishops. Also, certain Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, such as the Ukrainian Catholic Church, have their own bishops who reside within the physical diocesan jurisdiction of a Western bishop. These extraordinary provisions are seen as administrative or disciplinary exceptions. In no way do they conflict with the apostolic ‘one bishop per city’ rule. In the case of Jerusalem in the first century, St. James is known to be the bishop even while other Apostles, including St. Peter, were present. Acts 12:17; 15; 21:17-19; Josephus, Antiq., XX, ix, 1; Eusebius, Church History, 2.1, 23. Since we know that St. Peter, all things being equal, would be the chief, it shows that sometimes there were Apostles or bishops in cities alongside the present bishop of that city. In those cases, even Apostles conceded some authority or jurisdiction to the local bishop. How much more would authority be conceded to the single local bishop in cases of visits by ordinary bishops? Therefore, the existence of two bishops in one city in the first century is compatible with monepiscopacy. (The word ‘conceded’ is being used in the sense of a concession from one naturally or in some sense higher in authority. For example, Pope St. Anicetus conceded the administration of the Eucharist to St. Polycarp in Rome on one occasion. This is a concession because it was Pope St. Anicetus’s right to administer the Eucharist. In that sense, ‘concede’ presupposes a top-down hierarchy. In that same way, St. Peter appears to have conceded some authority to St. James in the city of Jerusalem.) []
  74. 1 Clement, one may object, does not clearly refer to a single bishop, but his epistle is consistent with a single resident bishop. The earliest records that are unambiguous about the episcopacy affirm the single resident bishop, e.g., St. Ignatius of Antioch. []
  75. Tixeront, p. 99. []
  76. See Acts 15:12-14; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:12; Eusebius, Church History, 2.1.2. []
  77. An example of one such scholar is Francis Sullivan. See his book, From Apostles to Bishops, 2001. []
  78. Cf. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.13.29. For more on Calvin’s rejection of these epistles, see http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/06/john-calvins-rejection-of-epistles-of.html. []
  79. The Ignatian Epistles are Entirely Spurious. For a brief refutation of his work, see http://godfearin.blogspot.com/2008/05/were-letters-of-ignatius-forged.html. []
  80. The quotation is from Killen’s book cited above referring to the period during which he thinks the epistles were forged. St. John the Apostle is traditionally believed to have died around the end of the first century. []
  81. Tertullian says that the residential monepiscopacy of Asia Minor has St. John the Apostle as their “author.” Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.5. []
  82. St. Stephen, Ina de Gnos (251 AD), quoted in Denzinger, Sources of Catholic Dogma [hereafter Denzinger], #45, p. 22. []
  83. This view is not exclusive to Protestants nor do all Protestants hold it. For example, Catholic scholar Francis Sullivan adopts this view in his From Apostles to Bishops (2001). Even some Catholic scholars believe that Rome herself was governed by a body of presbyters until the middle of the second century. This erroneous opinion was refuted by David Albert Jones, O.P., in the British Journal “New Blackfriars,” 80 (No. 937) (March 1999), p. 128. Sullivan’s From Apostles to Bishops is, in part, an attempt at refuting Jones. Sullivan’s work was refuted by Oswaldo Sobrino, available at: http://www.catholic-convert.com/documents/PeterInRome.doc. []
  84. St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.3. []
  85. Sobrino writes, “The mindset identified by Jones becomes most apparent in the critical literature consistently limiting the term ‘bishop’ to a quite narrow and anachronistic definition. Explicitly or implicitly, the scholars denying a first century episcopate will usually define the term ‘bishop’ as denoting ‘a solitary permanent resident church administrator for one city.’ Oswaldo Sobrino, Was Peter the First Bishop of Rome?, available at: http://www.catholic-convert.com/documents/PeterInRome.doc. []
  86. St. Peter is mentioned far more often than all the others, always first, and in a prominent role. See R.E. Aguirre’s guest post on Called to Communion, The Primacy of Peter According to the New Testament: and the Principle of Historical Fulfillment, available at: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/04/the-primacy-of-peter-according-to-the-new-testament-and-the-principle-of-historical-fulfillment/. St. John is referred to as the “beloved disciple” indicating a kind of honor even if not explicitly higher than others in rank. Sts. Peter, James, and John are often found in more intimate settings with Christ, and certain things, such as the Transfiguration, are revealed to them ahead of the others. []
  87. Mark 10:35-37. Jesus corrects Sts. John and James and uses this as an opportunity to teach them of the radically different way in which Christians are to achieve the “highest seats.” Notice, however, that He does not repudiate the idea of the existence of “highest seats.” In fact, He confirms that those seats exist and that they belong to someone. Mark 10:40. Jesus teaches them that the way to achieve greatness in the hierarchy of the kingdom is not in the expected manner, but He does not deny the hierarchical nature of the kingdom. He does not destroy the idea of visible hierarchy; He turns their expectation of how to advance in this hierarchy on its head: “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Mark 10:43. []
  88. See Gregory Dix, Shape of the Liturgy; J. Gaudemet, “Holy Orders in Early Conciliar Legislation,” printed in Holy Orders, p. 191-192 (1955).; Tixeront, p. 86-87. []
  89. St. Ignatius of Antioch shows that in the early second century, presbyters were able to consecrate the Eucharist only by delegation from their bishop: To the Smyrnaeans, 8. []
  90. J. Gaudemet, “Holy Orders in Early Conciliar Legislation,” printed in Holy Orders, p. 191-192 (1955).; Tixeront, p. 84-87. In these citations, Tixeront and Guademet argue that the right to preach was generally reserved to the bishop at least through the first century. Harnack and Hatch disagree with them on this point. []
  91. Anglican scholar Charles S. Grueber, Holy Order, a Catechism [hereinafter Grueber], p. 61-64 (1883). []
  92. St. Jerome, Commentary on Titus, 1:5. []
  93. In his Letter to Evangelus, St. Jerome asks, “For what function, excepting ordination, belongs to a bishop that does not also belong to a presbyter?”; St. Jerome, Commentary on Titus, 1:5. []
  94. In saying “we must maintain,” I mean that for Catholics, it must be accepted de fide irrespective of one’s opinion of history, because it was defined at Trent. Council of Trent, sess. XXVIII, canon 6. However, as we are arguing in this article, this solution is fully compatible with the evidence, and in fact, the evidence points to some such conclusion. The contrary (modern) theory of episcopal development is not well supported by the evidence, as we have argued. It is also conceivable that the Apostles did not divide the office themselves, but rather instructed those whom they ordained to do so. Both theories (that the Apostles divided it themselves, and that they instructed their successors to do so) are compatible with the monepiscopacy, but the evidence appears to indicate that the former is more likely to be the case. []
  95. Acts 6:1-6. []
  96. St. Peter seems to have ordained St. Clement of Rome as a presbyter, although it is possible that St. Clement was ordained as a bishop from the beginning. Most scholars believe that St. Clement was elevated to the episcopacy after St. Peter’s martyrdom in AD 62. Since two others, Sts. Linus and Anacletus, are known to have preceded him in the episcopate at Rome, it appears that he was originally a presbyter. See Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, 32. Eusebius identifies St. Clement with St. Paul’s co-worker in Philippians 4:3. Church History, 3.4.10. The passage in Philippians does not prove that St. Clement was a presbyter (and not a bishop), but it is certainly consistent with this theory. []
  97. Council of Trent, sess. XXVIII, canon 6. []
  98. A similar model, proposed by Dr. Kirk, is examined by Arnold Ehrhardt in The Apostolic Succession in the First Two Centuries of the Church, p. 12-15 (1953). []
  99. See “Jerome on the Tri-fold Ministry,” http://wellofquestions.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/jerome-on-the-tri-fold-ministry/. []
  100. John Zizioulas, Eucharist Bishop Church (2001), especially. p. 87 (stating the main thesis of his book). []
  101. St. Ignatius of Antioch, to the Philadelphians, 4. []
  102. Cf. especially the epistles of St. Ignatius, and of St. Cyprian, De Unitate. []
  103. Cf. the canons of the Council of Nicaea for a starting point. []
  104. Council of Orange (441), canon 10. []
  105. Councils of Carthage, (390), canon 3; (397), canon 36; Codex Ecclesiae Africanae, canon 6; Council of Toledo (400), canon 20. []
  106. In Epistola ad Gallos episcopos, canon 7. []
  107. Harnack and Hatch disagree with this point, at least concerning the apostolic age, while Tixeront concurs with Gaudemet. Tixeront, p. 84-87. []
  108. J. Gaudemet, “Holy Orders in Early Conciliar Legislation,” printed in Holy Orders, p. 191-192 (1955) (all but fourth footnote original). []
  109. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.19.28. []
  110. St. Cyprian of Carthage On the Lapsed 26; he is referring explicitly to the Eucharist. []
  111. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures: On the Mysteries, v.8. []
  112. Compare, e.g., Matthew 6:19-20 to Sirach 29:11; Matthew 7:12 to Tobit 4:15; Matthew 7:16, 20 to Sirach 27:6. []
  113. Hebrews 7:14. []
  114. J. Schmitt, “Jewish Priesthood and Christian Hierarchy in the Early Palestinian Communities,” in Holy Orders, p. 61 (1955). []
  115. St. Hegesippus holds this opinion in the middle of the second century as is made clear from his text preserved (approvingly) by Eusebius in Church History, 2.23.4-6. See also Exodus 28:41-43. I owe this point to patristic scholar Mike Aquilina. See Mike Aquilina, The Mass of the Early Christians, p. 23 (2001). []
  116. J. Schmitt, “Jewish Priesthood and Christian Hierarchy in the Early Palestinian Communities,” in Holy Orders, p. 65, 67 (1955). See also B. E. Thiering, “Mebaqqer and Episkopos in the Light of the Temple Scroll” (1981), available at: http://www.jstor.org/pss/3265535. Michael Giesler also points out that early Christian clerical celibacy may have been influenced by the celibacy practiced among the Essenes. Michael Giesler, “Celibacy in the First Two Centuries,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, p. 26 (Jan. 2009). Schmitt also finds evidence in the New Testament, especially in Hebrews, that the first century Church experienced a merging of convert priests from both the Reformist movements (e.g., the Essenes), and the temple cult. J. Schmitt, “Jewish Priesthood and Christian Hierarchy in the Early Palestinian Communities,” in Holy Orders, pg 70-71. These converted priests would have carried ecclesial themes, clerical structures, and theological concepts with them into the Church. []
  117. P. M. Gy observes that the Francs were using it less frequently than the Romans in the eighth century, for example. P. M. Gy, “Early Terminology of Priesthood,” in Holy Orders, p. 108 (1955). []
  118. J. Danielou, “The Priestly Ministry,” in Holy Orders, p. 121 (1955). At this point Danielou cites Oscar Cullmann, Peter: Disciple – Apostle – Martyr (S.C.M., 1953). []
  119. Origen, On Prayer, 18. []
  120. Cf. Tixeront, p. 7-15 (containing plenty of references to the book of Hebrews and to the Church fathers); CCC 941, 970, 1121, 1268, 1279, 1545, 1548 (“Christ is the source of all priesthood”), 1554, 1565, 1589, 1591. []
  121. J. Lecuyer, “The Mystery of Pentecost and the Apostolic Mission of the Church,” in Holy Orders, p. 151 (1955). []
  122. Tixeront, p. 16-17. []
  123. It was “as the Father sent Me” that Jesus sent out His disciples. John 20:21. In other words, Christ ‘ordained’ His Apostles and commissioned them as priests in the same way that He was commissioned or ‘ordained.’ The Apostles were ‘ordained’ as priests by Jesus sending them; so too Jesus was ‘ordained’ by being sent from the Father. []
  124. Mark 1:11. []
  125. Matthew 5:17. []
  126. A. Gelin, “The Priesthood of Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” in Holy Orders, p. 43 (1955). []
  127. For more evidence that St. Paul believes himself to belong to a ministerial priesthood, see Taylor Marshall’s podcast, “Was Paul a Catholic Priest,” available at: http://pauliscatholic.com/2009/07/episode-9-was-paul-a-catholic-priest/. []
  128. Arnold Ehrhardt, The Apostolic Succession in the First Two Centuries of the Church, p. 28 (1953). []
  129. For more, see P. Idiart, “The Priest, Pagan and Christian” (sec. 2 – “Christ the Priest, Sole Archetype of All Ritual Priesthood”), in Holy Orders, p. 268-291 (1955). []
  130. Hebrews 7:11-17. []
  131. Tixeront, p. 5-6 (citing biblical passages). See Genesis 8:20 for evidence of Noah’s priesthood, and Exodus 3:1 for an introduction of Jethro as priest of Midian. []
  132. E.g., 2 Samuel 24:25. []
  133. The Council of Trent declares that the ordination of the Apostles occurred at the Last Supper. Sess. XXII, De Sacrif. Missae, cap. I, and canon 2, V. supra., p. 33. []
  134. Mark 3:13-15. Note that some manuscripts omit “designating them Apostles,” but Luke 6:12-13 proves that whether or not the phrase was originally included in Mark, the concept is biblical. []
  135. Hebrews 7:12. []
  136. Matthew 5:17. []
  137. Hebrews 7:11, 17-28; 8:6-7, 13; 9:15. See also CCC 1541. []
  138. See N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, esp. pp.451-454 (1996). []
  139. Cf. CCC 1565. []
  140. Luke 22:19. []
  141. Luke 22:29-30. []
  142. Mark 2:17. []
  143. St. Ignatius, To the Ephesians, 20:2. []
  144. John Calvin also agrees that this passage signifies ordination (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.19.29), but disagrees that the Holy Spirit was given for expiation of sins (Ibid., 4.19.28). The passage in question is John 20:21-23. []
  145. See Dom Botte, “Holy Orders in the Ordination Prayers,” in Holy Orders (1955). Trent condemned those who deny that the Holy Spirit is given in ordination. Sess. XXIII, canon 4. []
  146. St. John Chrysostom, In Joan., Homil., 87 (al. 86), 3 (P.G. 59, 471), quoted in J. Lecuyer, “The Mystery of Pentecost and the Apostolic Mission of the Church,” in Holy Orders, p. 136 (1955). []
  147. Matthew 16:18-19; 18:18. Note that the “you” related to the keys is singular in Matt 16:19, giving the keys to St. Peter alone, but is plural in the second part of verse 19, giving the power to “bind and loose” to all of the Apostles. Tertullian, for example, links these passages together, namely the authority to forgive sins with the binding and losing and St. Peter as the rock on which Christ built the Church. See Tertullian, On Modesty, 21. []
  148. Francis A. Sullivan, From Apostles to Bishops, p. 21 (2001); Stephen Ray, Upon This Rock, p. 37-38 fn. 41 (1999). []
  149. St. Irenaeus, for example, links Pentecost (as an ordination of sorts) with the commission of preaching the gospel. Against Heresies, 3.1.1. The earliest ordination prayer for bishops that we possess clearly links ordination with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and with the founding of the Church. This aspect of the ordination prayer is a direct reference to the sign of Pentecost. The prayer reads: “pour out upon him the power which is from you, the princely Spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son Jesus Christ, which he gave to your holy Apostles, who founded the Church in every place as your sanctuary, for the glory and endless praise of your name.” St. Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 3.3. For a fuller discussion of the link between Pentecost and Ordination in the early Church fathers, see J. Lecuyer, “The Mystery of Pentecost and the Apostolic Mission of the Church,” in Holy Orders, p. 131-167 (1955). []
  150. Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:23. []
  151. Acts 2:38. []
  152. St. John Chrysostom, In Matthaeum, Hom. I,1: PG 57,15, cited in Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (1993). []
  153. As quoted in J. Lecuyer, “Pentecost and the Mission of the Church,” in Holy Orders, p. 141 (1955). []
  154. Leviticus 10:11 shows that the old priesthood was entrusted to teach the Law to Israel. []
  155. Mark 1:38. []
  156. Mark 1:14. []
  157. Acts 2:14-36. []
  158. “Sealed by the sign of the Holy Spirit” is a reference to God’s mark of approval as a king gives his mark of authority (e.g. King Xerxes in Esther 3:12). Cf. Ephesians 4:30. []
  159. Mark 1:8. []
  160. The bishop/presbyter distinction was universally recognized by the early second century. The earliest written evidence of the terms ‘hiereus‘/’sacerdos‘ applied to a bishop is the late second century. This usage became universal by the late third century. Trinitarian language was not universally consistent with today’s language until I Constantinople in 381 AD. []
  161. In addition to the quotations below, see Tertullian, Prescription Against Heresies, 41 (accusing the heretics of giving the duties of the priesthood to a layperson); On Exhortation to Chastity, 7. For more quotations, see: http://www.catholic.com/library/Sacrifice_of_the_Mass.asp. []
  162. Didache 14:1-5. (Lightfoot’s translation) []
  163. 1 Clement 44, quoted in William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. I, [21], p. 11. John Keith has translated the term as “duties” instead of Sacrifices. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 9 (1896). The text literally means, “presented the offerings” according to this translation: http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/main/clementofrom/ministry.shtml (fn. 16). Sacrifice is a much more faithful rendering of “presented the offerings” than is the ambiguous “duties.” In fact, stripping the meaning of the word and reducing it to “duties” shows a clear Protestant (non-sacrificial) bias. []
  164. Malachi 1:10–11. []
  165. St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 41, quoted in William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. I, [41], p. 60. []
  166. Quoted in Eusebius, History of the Church, III.31. []
  167. Against Heresies, 4.17.5. []
  168. St. Cyprian, On the Lapsed, 26. []
  169. Against the Pelagians III.15. []
  170. St. Augustine, City of God, 22.8. Later in the same work he refers to the “sacrificing priest.” Id., 22:10. []
  171. The City of God, 10, 5; 10,20. []
  172. St. John Chrysostom, Sac; P.G. 48, 642, quoted in J. Danielou, “The Priestly Ministry,” in Holy Orders, p. 126 (1999). []
  173. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.19.28. []
  174. St. Augustine, City of God, 20:10. []
  175. See Protestant scholar J. N. D. Kelly and his study on the Greek term ‘ἀνάμνησις': Early Christian Doctrines, pp. 196–197 (1958). []
  176. Harnack says, “What we nowadays understand by “symbol” is a thing which is not that which it represents; at that time [i.e., antiquity] “symbol” denoted a thing which in some kind of way really is what it signifies.” History of Dogma, I. p. 397 (1988). The Fathers clearly teach the Real Presence of Christ, that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Harnack’s explanation of the ancient understanding of what it means to be a symbol explains how the Fathers could believe that the Eucharist was truly the Body and Blood of Christ and also a symbol. However, the Eucharist is real in a way that other “symbolic” things are not (this is understood now and in antiquity). The point here is not to defend the doctrine of Transubstantiation, but only to show the weakness of the argument that denies the reality of the sacrifice of the Eucharist by relegating the mystery to symbolism. Since the modern mind apprehends ‘symbolism’ to mean that something is not real, whereas the ancient mind did not, this argument is weak. That is, the patristic use of the word ‘symbol’ in reference to the Sacrament does not connote what the modern use of the term ‘symbol’ connotes to us. And because of this the patristic use of the term ‘symbol’ to refer to the Eucharist does not imply that the Fathers thought of the Eucharist as “merely symbolic” à la Zwingli. []
  177. Cf. St. Epiphanius, The Man Well Anchored 57 []
  178. Cf. St. Ignatius, to the Ephesians, 20:2. See Protestant scholar Allister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, p. 426 (1993). []
  179. Cf. Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10. See those verses especially in the KJV as evidence that the sacrifice of Calvary was propitiatory. []
  180. St. Ambrose of Milan, On Twelve Psalms, 38.25, quoted in William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. II, [1260], p. 150. []
  181. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures: On the Mysteries, v.8. []
  182. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Corinthians, 24:2. []
  183. Origen, Commentary on Romans, 10:2. []
  184. Origen Homiliae in Jos. 2:1, quoted in J. Danielou, “The Priestly Ministry,” in Holy Orders, p. 123 (1955). []
  185. Origen, On Prayer, 18. []
  186. St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letters, 63:14. []
  187. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 8:8. See also Homilies on First Corinthians, 24:1(3), 2; Homilies on Hebrews, 17:3(6). []
  188. That is, it assumes that if something is not found in Scripture, then the Church doesn’t need to believe or teach it. []
  189. E.g., Revelation 5:8. []
  190. Romans 15:16. []
  191. P. M. Gy, “Early Terminology of the Priesthood,” in Holy Orders, p. 115 (1955). []
  192. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.19.3, quoting St. Augustine, De Doct. Christ., Lib. 3 cap. 9. The Westminster Confession of Faith also denies Holy Orders as a sacrament. WCF, 27.4. ) []
  193. St. Augustine, Letter 54 to Januarius, 1.1. []
  194. Tixeront, p. 254. []
  195. Cameron Mackenzie, The “Early” Luther on Priesthood of All Believers, Office of the Ministry, and Ordination, p. 11. []
  196. Ibid., p. 16. []
  197. Ibid., p. 11 []
  198. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.3.15 []
  199. Acts 6:1-6. []
  200. Grueber, p. 53. See also the first footnote under section VI.g. []
  201. CCC, 1131. []
  202. Allister McGrath, Christian Theology: an Introduction, p. 426 (1993). That this doctrine can be traced back to the second century shows that sacramental efficacy did not originate with Sts. Ambrose and Augustine but rather was expounded with greater clarity by them. Sacramental efficacy is also taught by the New Testament, but it is not our purpose to demonstrate that here. []
  203. E.g., St. Cyprian of Carthage says that in the sacraments “divine benefits” are bestowed and that believers “receive the Lord’s grace.” Epistle to Magnus, 12. []
  204. St. Augustine, Against Parmenianus, 2.28-30 []
  205. Section II.b; IV.d []
  206. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Sup. 34.3. []
  207. E.g., Henry of Suso calls it a sacrament in 1271. G. Fransen, “The Tradition in Medieval Canon Law,” in Holy Orders, p. 204 (1955). The Catholic Encyclopedia says that the same number of sacraments (as Trent) were reached: “in the Decree for the Armenians by the Council of Florence (1439), in the Profession of Faith of Michael Palaelogus, offered to Gregory X in the Council of Lyons (1274) and in the council held at London, in 1237, under Otto, legate of the Holy See.” Catholic Encyclopedia, “Sacraments”, available at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13295a.htm. []
  208. See supra, sections II.b and IV.d. []
  209. For a discussion on grace conferred by ordination, see Tixeront, p. 245-248 (1928). []
  210. Dom Botte, “Holy Orders in the Ordination Prayers,” in Holy Orders, p. 21-22 (1955). []
  211. St. Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle 68, ch.1, 10. []
  212. St. Augustine, Against the Letter of Parmenian, 2.14.28, quoted in Williams Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. III, [1617], p. 64. []
  213. St. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms, 73.2, quoted in William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. III, [1475], p. 19. []
  214. St. Augustine, On the Good of Marriage, 24:32, in NPNF1, III:412. []
  215. St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ. []
  216. St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, 3.4. []
  217. St. Basil the Great, To Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, quoted in William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. II, [919], p. 6. []
  218. Pope St. Leo I, Epist. ad Dioscor Alexand., c. 1. []
  219. Anastasius II, Epist. ad Anastas. August.. []
  220. Pope St. Gregory I, Lib. 4, Exposit. Reg., c. 5. []
  221. Richard Baxter, Confirmation and Restoration, p. 88-90. Anglican scholar Charles Grueber claims that Luther, Chemnitz, and Antonio de Dominis were among the early Protestants who rejected Holy Orders as a sacrament and that Melancthon and Baxter were among those who retained it as a sacrament. Grueber 1883, pg 84-86 []
  222. These four points are taken from Dom Botte, “Holy Orders in the Ordination Prayers,” in Holy Orders, p. 20-22 (1955). []
  223. Cf. St. Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle 68, ch.1. []
  224. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.3.10-11. []
  225. J. Lecuyer, – in the discussion following Dom Botte’s “Holy Orders in the Ordination Prayers,” found in Holy Orders, p. 24 (1955). []
  226. Dom Botte, “Holy Orders in the Ordination Prayers,” in Holy Orders, p. 21 (1955) (emphasis original). []
  227. Calvin did not believe, however, that a validly ordained bishop (according to the Catholic definition) was necessarily a part of that call. []
  228. E.g. Acts 6:3; 1 Timothy 3:1-3; Titus 1:6-8. []
  229. Cf.St. Hippolytus in The Apostolic Tradition, ch. 2 (“He who is ordained as a bishop, being chosen by all the people, must be irreproachable”). []
  230. From Apostolic times, baptism was only given once. Even in the case of men who had been baptized by heretics, when these men re-entered the Church, they were not re-baptized. []
  231. St. Augustine, Against the Letter of Parmenian, 2.14.28, quoted in William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. III, [1617], p. 64. []
  232. See Augsburg Confession, 8; WCF, 27.3. []
  233. J. Gaudemet, “Holy Orders in Early Conciliar Legislation (IVth and Vth centuries),” in Holy Orders, p. 185-186 (1955). []
  234. cf. the dispute between Origen and his rightful bishop, Demetrius, over his ordination in Palestine by other bishops []
  235. Grueber, p. 51-53. []
  236. J. Gaudemet, “Holy Orders in Early Conciliar Legislation (IVth and Vth centuries),” in Holy Orders, p. 190 (1955). []
  237. Ibid., p. 185-186. A brief defense: first, Paul’s prohibition of women speaking in Church must be understood liturgically rather than exhaustively. (1 Timothy 2:12. The argument that this prohibition was against a certain group of women who were causing a stir is entirely ad hoc. ) Secondly, the argument that Jesus’s choice of a male-only priesthood was a concession to social convention is untenable given that the Judeo-Christian priesthood was an anomaly among antiquity and not a submission to its norms. The pagan religions routinely, and sometimes exclusively, employed priestesses in service of the altars. In this respect, Judeo-Christianity was unique in contradistinction from the pagan cults. In Judeo-Christianity, God is represented as male, as someone other than the universe, as one who creates, bestows, and gives, rather than as one who receives. Now a sacrament is a sign, and a sign is not a sign at all if it does not signify. Jesus chose water for baptism because it represents cleansing. He did not choose mud because mud would not signify cleansing and would be ineffectual as a sign; thus it wouldn’t be a sign at all. Likewise, the priest is a sign of Christ, and in the Ignatian epistles, a sign of God the Father. A woman would be an ineffectual sign of either of these. Thus a priestess would not be a sign, and thus not a sacrament. ( For further reading, I recommend this article, an excerpt from Dr. Peter Kreeft’s “Women and the Priesthood” on “Sexual Symbolism,” available at: http://catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0206.htm. ) There is no evidence that the Church ever ordained women. Deaconesses will be treated below. The patristic evidence against ordination of priestesses, on the other hand, is strong. (Cf. Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heresies, 41; On Veiling Virgins 9.1; Origen, in a Fragment of his commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:34, says “it is shameful for a woman to speak in Church”; St. Epiphanius, Against Heresies, 49. 2-3, 79. 304; St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, 2.2, 3.9; St. Augustine, On Heresies, 27. ) []
  238. Tixeront, p. 332-333. Giesler finds the same, “Celibacy in the First Two Centuries,” in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, p. 42 (Jan. 2009), citing Stefan Heid, Celibacy in the Early Church (2000). See also Christian Cochini, Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy (1990). []
  239. Cf. Council of Trullo (692), canon 48. The Council of Elvira (early fourth century) permitted clergy to put away their wives (canon 33); this canon was rejected by the Second Council of Nicaea. []
  240. Tixeront, p. 337-338. Grueber confirms this view. Grueber, p. 33-34. The Council of Ancyra in AD 314 permitted deacons who could not live in celibacy to remarry after ordination with permission from their bishop. The Fathers have consistently read St. Paul’s restrictions on clerics having multiple wives (1 Timothy 3:2, 3:12; Titus 1:6) as the apostolic prohibition against remarriage for clerics. See also Christian Cochini, Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy (1990). []
  241. Tixeront, p. 338. []
  242. Grueber places the origin of the rule of celibacy in the West at the decretal of Siricius in AD 385 (confirmed by Pope St. Leo I in AD 405 ), Grueber, p. 32. []
  243. Tixeront, p. 341. []
  244. 1 Timothy 3:2, 3:12; Titus 1:6. []
  245. Matthew 19:10-12; 1 Corinthians 7. []
  246. Grueber, p. 197-201. For the Old Testament types, see Exodus 29; Leviticus 8; Numbers 27; and Deuteronomy 39. []
  247. Grueber, p. 201-202. []
  248. The people were consulted, but strictly speaking election and certainly ordination belonged exclusively to the bishops. See Tixeront, p. 310. St. Cyprian always consulted the people and the clergy before ordaining. Ibid., p. 304-305. Grueber, p. 3-5, discusses the same, namely that election preceded ordination in accordance with the biblical model of Acts 6:1-6. He also notes that the word originally used for ‘ordination’ or imposition of hands was the Greek ‘keirotonia,’ which also meant “election.” []
  249. The three-bishop rule is of apostolic origin. See Tixeront, p. 207; Council of Nicaea, canon 4. The Council of Carthage in 398 (canon 22) prohibited the election of a bishop without the consent of the provincial bishops, the metropolitan, the clergy, and the laity. This rule remains in effect for the Catholic Church today excepting special dispensation from the Pope (Canon Law: 1014), available at: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3O.HTM. []
  250. The prayer is from The Apostolic Tradition by St. Hippolytus, which was reconstructed by Bernard Botte and Gregory Dix. This text is taken from an English translation by Kevin Edgecomb and can be found online at: http://www.bombaxo.com/hippolytus.html. Botte summarizes the prayer as follows: “God is asked to shed upon the elect the sovereign Spirit, spiritum principalem, which he gave, through Christ, to his Apostles who established the Church in the place of the temple to the honour of his name. The prayer goes on to indicate what the bishop must do: feed the holy flock (a biblical image recalling John 21, 15-17 and I Peter 3, 2); exercise the sovereign priesthood by serving God night and day; make propitious, and offer the gifts of holy Church; remit sins, dispense the portions, and loose all bonds by virtue of the power given to the Apostles.” ( Dom Botte, “Holy Orders in the Ordination Prayers,” in Holy Orders, p. 6 (1955). ) []
  251. Ibid., p. 10. []
  252. See the Gregorian Sacramentary. []
  253. Grueber, p. 183. []
  254. A ‘paten’ is a plate used in the liturgy on which the bread to be consecrated is placed. The ‘chalice’ is the cup which holds the wine for consecration. []
  255. Grueber, p. 69. Zizioulas maintains that initially they were all bishops. Zizioulas, Eucharist Bishop Church, p. 159-160 (2001). []
  256. Synod of Antioch (AD 341), canon 10. []
  257. See Tixeront, p. 106. []
  258. Some scholars, following the Council of Trullo in 691, canon 16, deny that the passage in Acts is referring to deacons. A discussion and rebuttal of this opinion can be found in Tixeront, p. 106-107. []
  259. The diaconate was especially powerful at Rome. []
  260. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 65. He makes no mention of bishops or presbyters distributing communion. See also St. Ignatius, Letter to the Trallians, 2. []
  261. Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, p. 135-13 (1945); J. Gaudemet, “Holy Orders in Early Conciliar Legislation,” in Holy Orders, p. 194 (1955). The Council of Arles (AD 314) forbade deacons to distribute holy communion when priests were present. Canon 15. []
  262. Grueber gives reasons why the minor orders are not among the sacraments. Grueber, p. 146-148. The prominent reasons he lists are the disagreement on the number of minor orders between East and West, the fact that they are not mentioned in Scripture, and the fact that imposition of hands is not used in the West. []
  263. Eusebius, Church History, 6.43. []
  264. Grueber, p. 149-150. []
  265. Recall that the term ‘deacon’ is not actually used in Acts 6:1-6 where the seven are ordained in Jerusalem. St. Paul’s reference to deacons in Philippians 1:1 could easily be read as a generic, non-technical term. But his references in 1 Timothy are technical in nature. 1 Timothy 3:8, 10, 12. []
  266. See Felix Cirlot, Apostolic Succession — Is It True? (1948); Grueber, p. 53. This practice is universal from the apostolic age and in Scripture. For a patristic example, see St. Athanasius, Apology Against the Arians, 76. The term ‘maiores natu‘ found in the letter of Firmilian of Caesarea to St. Cyprian of Carthage is [misleadingly] translated as ‘presbyters.’ Jurgens argues that the term should be understood as bishops. The Faith of the Early Fathers vol. I, pp. 245-246. []
  267. Grueber, p. 61-64. []
  268. In the modern Latin rite, all presbyters present lay hands on the ordinand after the bishop has ordained him. Paul could be referring to such a laying on of hands by the presbytery. As mentioned, presbyters who were present would lay hands on the ordinand during ordination in the cases of other presbyters, but not with bishops or deacons. We have no evidence whatsoever that presbyters (that is, simple priests) were involved in Timothy’s ordination. []
  269. For a more complete rebuttal, see here: http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/apostolic-succession-2-presbyterian-ordination/. []
  270. St. Jerome, Letter to Evangelus. []
  271. Felix Cirlot, Apostolic Succession – Is It True?, p. 373-374 (1948). See also “Jerome on the Tri-fold Ministry,” http://wellofquestions.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/jerome-on-the-tri-fold-ministry/ for a helpful summary (look towards the end). []
  272. It is worth mentioning here that the authority of the bishops authority received from the Apostles, handed on to them through Holy Orders, and not delegated from the pope. However, the teaching authority of any bishop is by virtue of his participation in the keys held by the episcopal successor of St. Peter. Also, when it is stated that there is no “fourth level of hierarchy,” that is to be understood structurally. There are certain bishops that have authority over other bishops and this dates back to the early Church. This can be shown in the case of metropolitans, for example, without even addressing the question of the papacy. []
  273. An explanation of discipline can be found here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05030a.htm. An explanation on dogma can be found here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05089a.htm. []
  274. St. Augustine, City of God, 19.13. []
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  1. Bummer,

    Here you go throwing more wrenches into my mind gears.

    I honestly wrote a post a month or two back titled “Salus est Sacramentum” critiquing the very idea you wrote about, almost verbatum, the idea that in Protestantism “faith is an intellectual assent moved by the will” and therfore “it relegates the sacraments to a second tier of importance in Protestant theology.”

    I didn’t realize I was advocating a Catholic idea, that faith and salvation are intrinsically sacramental realities.

  2. Caleb,

    We all need some wrenches in our gears from time to time right?

    The definition of faith as an intellectual assent moved by the will is the Augustinian/Thomist definition (St. Aug. De Praedest. Sanct. ii/ St. Thom. Summa 3.2.1) and some Protestants object to it. Calvin for one is reluctant to allow the will any part in faith saying:

    We shall now have a full definition of faith, if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit. (Institutes 3.2.7)

    But Calvin’s definition, contrary to his opinion (I think) and some who follow him, is compatible with faith as an act moved by the will. Just because it is moved by the human will does not mean that it is not a gift from God. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God moves our will, not violently but in accord with our nature, and the movement in question is a result of grace. St. Augustine also talks about this in the work cited above.

    I think the division of theology occurs at the point where justification is said to be a result of such intellectual assent (faith alone) as considered apart from the charity that (Catholics believe) must form it. At that point, it seems, the mission of the Church is apprehended fundamentally as a delivery of the means to acquire faith (which is the sure knowledge of God granted by grace per Calvin). The means to acquire knowledge of God is the preaching of His Word. (Faith comes by hearing…) Such a view does not exclude sacraments as ordinary, but it seems to relegate them to a second tier of importance.

  3. Tim,

    Great article! I’ve enjoyed reading what has been posted so far and am looking forward to reading the remaining parts. I have several thoughts, but I may wait a few days for further developments in the article before posting them. There is one think you said that I wanted to comment on:

    St. Ignatius does not mention the bishop of Rome when he writes to the Romans. And Pope St. Clement does not write to the Corinthians in his own name, but in the name of the Church of Rome. It is largely on these two pieces of evidence, and a few other things like them, that some scholars conclude that the Roman episcopacy was a development proceeding from a body of presbyters.

    To your reply to this argument, I would add that there is an often overlooked (but when it is pointed out, fairly obvious) piece of evidence found in the epistles of St. Ignatius himself which provide further support for the existence of a monoepiscopate in Rome that was the same as the monoepiscopate in the other churches St. Ignatius was writing to. In his epistle to the Trallians, St. Ignatius wrote:

    Equally, it is for the rest of you to hold the deacons in as great respect as Jesus Christ; just as you should also look on the bishop as a type of the Father, and the clergy as the Apostolic circle forming His council; for without these three orders no church has any right to the name.

    (Emphasis mine, of course)

    That St. Ignatius did not think a church had a right to the name if it did not have the three-order hierarchy is pretty obvious from reading his epistles, and seeing how often he stresses the necessity of agreeing with the bishop. But here, as if for further emphasis, he states explicitly that no church is even a church which doesn’t have this hierarchy. Yet he wrote an epistle to the church at Rome, and while he did say to them, “I am not issuing orders to you, as though I am a Peter or a Paul,” you would expect that if Rome did not have this three-order hierarchy, and St. Ignatius believed that all churches must have it, he would have at least issued a gentle rebuke–if not a stern reprimand. But while there is no mention of the bishop of Rome, there is also no criticism for Rome not having a bishop, and that would seem to make a persuasive case for viewing him as an early witness to that hierarchy in Rome.

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  4. Spencer – thanks, and that’s an excellent point on St. Ignatius.

    The tendency in historical critical scholarship to read every instance of silence as a definitive proof for some modern ideology almost outweighs any progress made through that discipline. They get themselves into all kinds of historical trouble when they try to force their doctrines into an early Church where they don’t belong.

    I was also struck recently when reading a book by Ehrhardt, and this vice is not exclusive to him, that any time some early text attested to something he didn’t believe, it was evidence only of a narrow, localized, and novel opinion. But whenever some early text mentioned something he did believe, it was evidence that the entire universal Church accepted it and had probably done so for generations.

    In the case in question, skeptical scholars view the Ignatian epistles with as limited significance as possible. According to the skeptics, the epistles only represent a very recent development confined to some parts of Asia Minor (maybe all of Asia Minor if they’re generous). Chiefly the epistles represent only St. Ignatius’ private opinion. You see that? Now when St. Cyprian of Carthage challenges the universal jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff in the following century, notice how those same skeptical scholars hold that this is evidence that the entire universal Church rejected universal jurisdiction and that they always had. Hold on just a second there! :-)

    Thanks again for the point. I wish I had thought of that before writing the article.

  5. Excellent article Tim. Another example of this type of tampering with the Fathers in general and Ignatius and Clement’s writings in particular, is the oft repeated claim (mostly fom Protestant apologists) that these bishops did not write from a stance of authority, (Roman juridical primacy) but rather from a mere concern of one congregation for another, (e.g., Rome for Corinth).

    Such claims however are guided by prior theological commitments than a clear reading of the Fathers. When they are read in their entirety the commitments become clear.

    R.E. Aguirre

  6. Tim,

    Thanks for including footnote 73. The information there adequately exposes the fallacy of citing biblical and patristic texts, which indicate the plurality of bishops in some locales, as a basis for denying hierarchical, Apostolic Succession in the episcopacy.

    Oswald Sobrino, in the document to which you link in footnote 64, rightly criticizes Francis Sullivan, and higher-critical scholars generally, for questioning both the episcopal nature of the office of Apostle, and the hierarchical nature of Holy Orders, on the basis of non-residency (of some Apostles) and plurality of bishops (in some locations):

    To Sullivan s credit, he explicitly defines, unlike some others, his narrow description of a bishop: “A ‘bishop’ is a residential pastor who presides in a stable manner over the church in a city and its environs” (Sullivan, p. 14). What Sullivan left out, but assumes throughout his book, is that the title bishop can apply to only one such residential pastor per city. What this arbitrary definition, promulgated without discussion, does is to automatically exclude any apostle as a bishop because the apostles, especially Peter and Paul, were primarily missionaries moving from place to place founding new churches. Thus, by means of a rigid and arbitrary definition, the debate about first century bishops is fatally skewed from the beginning toward upholding the established critical view. (Sobrino, “Was Peter the First Bishop of Rome?”)

    Sobrino notes that one explanation of this basic, but fairly common, blunder is the prevailing commitment within academia, Western society in general, and many Western Catholic academics, to ideological egalitarianism, with its corresponding suspicion/hostility towards hierarchically-structured authority. Amazing how the 60’s turn out to be so 1960’s, man.

  7. Keep it coming Tim! Holy Orders in general are probably the primary reason I joined the Catholic Church a little over a month ago. I find the issue so compelling that I’d venture to say it is reason enough to leave Protestantism altogether, but I’m Catholic now, so I would say that. : )

    My wife really grasped onto it too, but she got hung up on something, essentially what I’ll call the nuts & bolts of succession. I think she imagined one pope appointing the next and so on, which of course is not the case, at least in our day. Trying to understand the process better, I came across the evidence of lists of early Popes, and how they did not always match up 100% in order, etc. This got me thinking – is it possible that St. Peter (and perhaps other apostles), when considering the reality of contention for the office, the present and coming persecutions, and other factors, appointed a sort of “chain of successors” of four or five (or maybe more) men so that the Church of Rome would be guaranteed clear leadership in the years following his death? It seems like it would have been a prudent decision to do so.

    I can’t remember where I read this theory, but I’ve always found it an interesting one and wonder if it has been developed in depth anywhere you are aware of.

    Thanks!

  8. Thanks CrazyIvan. In footnote 96, I talked a little about the question of whether St. Peter ordained his successors as bishops or presbyters. According to Tertullian, St. Clement was ordained by St. Peter himself and some read this as Tertullian claiming that St. Clement was the second, not the fourth pope. St. Jerome agrees with St. Irenaeus/St. Hegesippus that St. Clement was the fourth, but he [Jerome] claimed that most of the Latins thought St. Clement was the second. So there is some historical discrepancy there.

    Personally, I believe that St. Clement was ordained as a presbyter and later elevated to the episcopal office after short terms for both St. Linus and St. Anacletus. However, it is entirely possible, as stated in the article, that all three were ordained with the full episcopal authority by St. Peter. Yet Sts. Linus and Anacletus held the head pastorship of Rome before St. Clement did. This is fully compatible with monepiscopacy and with the tradition of Tertullian and Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus.

    Anyway, we can’t go too far down this road without side-tracking into a discussion on the papacy which is emphatically not what this article is about. ( I say this only to ward off debate on the papacy – that would only distract from the topic. ) The next scheduled article will be on Apostolic Succession and we will discuss more questions like these (but still not the papacy per se).

    Thanks again for the comments and welcome home.

  9. Tim:

    In my experience, discussion with non-Catholic Christians about the nature of authority in the Church always tends to gravitate toward the question of the papacy, as distinct from that of the clerical hierarchy as a whole. It’s almost as if nothing else matters—which is understandable, since the papacy is what is distinctive about Catholic ecclesiology as distinct from Orthodox. But of course a lot else matters, as the proper theological context for understanding the papacy. Without that context, the discussion develops tunnel vision. You’re doing a good job of providing the context.

    Best,
    Mike

  10. Dr. L,

    Thanks. That’s been my experience as well.

    What point is there in debating whether Christ intended one bishop to have primacy when we don’t yet agree that Christ intended that there should be bishops at all? :-) A debate on papal primacy is something that could be had with an Eastern Orthodox or an Anglican… maybe even a Lutheran. But it seems doomed from the outset with non-episcopal Protestants.

  11. It is not really the papacy but the larger question of church authority. The details about how the Catholic church arrived at it’s doctrines is secondary. The question is are those doctrines to be considered true because the Catholic church teaches them?

    I do have one question. What difference do you think it would have made if Luther had beena ble to convince one or more bishops to join his movement? I know much of his teaching is quite convenient because he didn’s have a bishop. That problem went away when his theology happened to eliminate the need for a bishop. If he had one he could have ordained leaders and kept the traditional top-down leadership? Certainly Luther didn’t seem to mind top-down leadership when he was on top.

  12. Randy, good question.

    As I understand it, Luther eventually did convince a bishop or two to join his movement but I’m not sure about the details. Some modern Lutherans claim that they are heirs to a valid line of apostolic succession. That’s a question to address later in our next article on A.S. But at least in his early years, Luther held to a bottom-up model of authority. Seeing the chaos this caused over the years, his ecclesiology developed so as to require bishops for ordination (I think – someone correct me if I’m wrong). I haven’t studied the development of his theory because however it developed, it was built on the false foundation of bottom-up ecclesiology. No matter how well the walls are constructed, if they are built on a weak foundation, they will fall.

    But my answer would be that if Luther (or Calvin for that matter) had preserved the apostolic hierarchy of the Church, they would (at best) be in the situation that the Anglicans are now (with invalid orders). Even though they would remain in schism, I do think that the hierarchical structure would have prevented Protestantism from diverging so far from the apostolic faith in many respects (compare traditional Anglicanism to evangelicalism).

    Arius was also a bishop and convinced many bishops to join him. So he was able to preserve a top down hierarchy, but he was both a heretic and a schismatic. Interestingly, Arius himself denied the distinction between presbyter and bishop. But because of the preservation of the hierarchy and of the sacraments, bringing Arian hierarchs back into the Catholic Church was a matter of doctrine. In the case of Lutherans, since that hierarchy was cut off from the beginning, that sort of a reunification is not possible.

  13. Tim,

    Excellent article so far. I have greatly enjoyed the rigor of the research. However, I am especially struck by statements like the following which, given the theoretical plausibility of alternative explanations of the data, seem to stamp the historical Catholic explanation with the note of authenticity:

    We know that the monepiscopacy was universally accepted no later than the end of the second century by all Christians everywhere. It is implausible to believe that the entire Church universally accepted such an erroneous innovation in such a short timespan without any protest or objection on the part of the faithful.

    and

    The Church Fathers always believed that the Eucharist was a true sacrifice, and for that reason they referred to the ministers who offered it as ‘priests.’ But if the book of Hebrews logically excluded priests under the New Covenant, then the Church universally misunderstood the book of Hebrews until the first Protestants.

    and

    If the Church fell into error regarding the sacrificial priesthood, as Protestants claim, it would be an enormous error. The immediate and universal acceptance of the sacrificial priesthood without contention or debate is solid evidence that it is not an error but belongs to the Apostolic Tradition.

    Pax et Bonum,

    -Ray

  14. Correction – Arius was presbyter *not* bishop. (Makes a little more sense of him denying the difference!)

  15. Randy,

    The details about how the Catholic church arrived at it’s doctrines is secondary. The question is are those doctrines to be considered true because the Catholic church teaches them?

    I may be confused as to your point with regard to the above statement. It seems to me that the truth value of doctrines rests fundamentally upon whether or not such doctrines have been revealed by God as their first cause. The human agency by which such doctrines are communicated is a secondary, although necessary, element in the transmission of divine revelation. Thus, whether or not the doctrines which the Catholic Church teaches are true is predicated upon the answer to the question: “is the Catholic Church the divinely instituted human means through which God transmits revelation (propositionally expressible as doctrines)”? When the doctrines in question are fundamentally ecclesiological, as is the case with Tim’s article, one faces a theological impass. There is no question as to “how the Catholic Church arrived at its doctrines”; for the question is whether any such thing as the Catholic Church constitues part of the deposit oif faith in the first place.

    From an epistemological point of view, the ecclesiological question is absolutely foundational. If Christ gave His authority to the apostles, and if that authority was intended to be, and was in fact, passed on to apostolic successors historically and organically in what we now recognize as the Catholic Church, then there is no point asking: “are those doctrines to be considered true because the Catholic church teaches them” – of course they would be true in this event, since the Catholic Church would be teaching with the very authority of Christ. One simply cannot coherently speak of what is heterodox or orthodox from a doctrinal point of view without addresing the ecclsiological issue one way or the other – for how one comes down on that question determines the methodology by which one goes about distinguishing orthodoxy from heterodoxy in the first place. Thus, when it comes to the watershed issue of ecclesiology, “The details about how the Catholic church arrived at it’s doctrines” are not secondary; rather they are primary, since the details have to do with whether or not the Catholic Church herself has an origin that is merely human or also divine. The very notion of doctrinal orthodoxy will depend upon how one sees this orgin. Hence the importance of the current topic.

    Pax et Bounm,

    -Ray

  16. Ray,

    I was responding to Mike’s comments about the protestant interest in the papacy and Tim’s comment that they seem to approach the questions out of order. I was trying to explain why I and many other protestants do ask them out of order. The starting point is truth claims. Yes, you pull on that string and you get the whole sweater. But you don’t always get it in the same order that the sweater was knitted.

    I do think that is why fewer protestants have jumped into this paper. The canon and Sola Scriptura are questions that protestants struggling with truth claims have done a lot of thinking about. The priesthood is quite a bit less so.

  17. Randy,
    You said:

    The canon and Sola Scriptura are questions that protestants struggling with truth claims have done a lot of thinking about. The priesthood is quite a bit less so.

    I am one of those Protestants that is doing a lot of thinking about these authority questions. I have been corresponding with Keith Mathison and after a lot of back and forth about whether there is a principled difference between “solo” and sola Scriptura, it became clear to me (it already was clear for him) that our conception of the nature of the church (branch theory vs. succession/holy orders)
    will decide the question for us. So although it seemed to me that the questions about scriptural authority could be answered independently, I found myself nailing jello to a tree because the definition of sola Scriptura has the concept of church embedded in it (Scriture is interpreted in and by the church). I think we Protestants need to think more about the priesthood specifically (Papacy is a tertiary issue) as it relates to the authority question and that will answer the question of what kind of church authority Christ instituted. Once we determine what church authority structure to look for we can see clearly to stick with Sola S. or to go to Rome/Orthodoxy. So that is where I am at now, looking at the early church and getting a feel for what was up.

    Peace,

    -David

  18. David,

    I am a bit confused about Keith Mathison’s position. My understanding of trying to make a distinction between sola and solo was to argue that true Sola Scriptura does not produce so many branches. He fails to show that but I thought that was his goal. Now you are saying he is assuming a branch theory of the nature of the church. So does he think this constant splitting of protestant churches is God’s will? Does he think the church before the reformation sinned because it didn’t branch?

  19. Randy,
    I don’t want to hijack this thread, and Keith will be responding on the solo/sola article soon and can speak for himself, but there is something you said that I don’t understand. You seem to imply that branch theory is not what we protestants subscribe to. On pg. 319 of his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura, Dr. Mathison says:

    The first observation we must make is that if sola scriptura is true then some form of a “branch theory” of the visible church is a necessary corollary- not as an expression of the ideal, but as a description of the reality.”

    This statement is simply a fact. If you see it as a problem (like I am coming to see it!) then we should find a new “reality” without branches.

    So does he think this constant splitting of protestant churches is God’s will?

    I’m not sure how “God’s will” comes into it from our perspective. If two sola Scriptura believers honestly disagree, how is “God’s will” determined? If they are both part of the visible church, then that church must have branches. I know, it sounds ludicrous. But that is our theology brother. And if this branch theory is true, then Keith’s definition of sola Scriptura is something that can *prune* some of the branches.

    Peace,

    -David

  20. David/Randy – to relate the issue of “branch theory” back to the topic of Holy Orders – the concept of ‘visible church’ without a ‘visible hierarchy’ results, as David quoted Mathison as saying, in “a necessary corollary.” If you do not have an objectively identifiable visible hierarchy, then you cannot have an objectively identifiable visible Church.

    The early Protestant congregational ordination has only the collective interpretation of Scripture by the laity as a means to identify the true leaders. (Then what value is it that we say we submit to those leaders?) Take a group of men who decide to start their own church. They take a vote and the majority of them come to the conclusion that the bible is compatible with homosexuality, for example. Then they elect (and ordain) a few of their own as presbyters and some as deacons.

    On what grounds can Mathison, Luther, or any Protestant say that those men are not validly ordained? On what ground can Protestants say that this is the false church? It is only on the grounds of one’s private interpretation of Scripture. It becomes a subjective question of doctrine rather than an objective question of authority.

    Perhaps Mathison would believe that they are validly ordained. Certainly some Protestants would believe that. These Protestants [who would accept the leaders as valid ministers] would also, per the ‘branch theory,’ hold that they are part of the true Church so long as they hold to the ‘fundamentals of the faith.’ But this criterion of ‘fundamentals of the faith’ is also arbitrary.

    Group A holds the fundamentals to be salvation by grace alone through faith as taught by the Bible nothing more nothing less. Group B holds that the particular Protestant nuanced interpretation of the gospel is fundamental (such that Catholics are not part of the true Church because they don’t submit to the interpretation of the Protestants.) The utter subjectivity is already apparent, but what is worse is that Group A says that they believe in the visible Church and that Group B is part of it! Group B has excommunicated Group C (Catholics) but remains in communion with Group A. This is not tenable.

    The moment we say that Protestants believe in a visible Church, we strip the word ‘visible’ of all meaning. What would be different if it were invisible?

    For Protestants, the objective visibility of the Church is considered identifiable by subjective and invisible principles. (Namely one’s private interpretation of Scripture or a congregation’s collective interpretation). But if the congregation’s collective opinion of Scripture were a reliable way to attain certainty of the faith, then Jesus wasted His time ordaining leaders. If there were ever any question of interpretation that caused a problem, the laity themselves could simply vote on the correct interpretation. But this is not reliable which is why they elect leaders. But if the leaders are elected and ordained on no greater authority than the vote of the people, then the existence of leaders does not improve objective identifiability of the visible Church or the true faith. Neither does it amount to a true submission to ecclesial authority as explained in the sola/solo article.

  21. David / Randy,

    First, what Tim said.

    Second, a few thoughts if I may about David’s comment:

    Once we determine what church authority structure to look for we can see clearly to stick with Sola S. or to go to Rome/Orthodoxy. So that is where I am at now, looking at the early church and getting a feel for what was up.

    I think this is an excellent, and necessary approach, since clearly to posit a “branch theory” without any indication that the notion of such a theory was evident in the first 1000 years of Christian history would look VERY MUCH like an effort to simply justify an individual’s (or congregation’s) intention to be the judge of doctrinal orthodoxy or heterodoxy at any cost. Likewise, a branch theory, lacking any historical evidential reference point for a 1000 years, would be forced to locate its historical justification in the mere fact of schism: in particular, the Great Schism of 1054, the Protestant Reformation, and Henry VIII’s English schism. But does this not sound suspiciously like the claim: “splits have happened, therefore, a branch theory of the visible church is true”? It makes no room for the possibility of culpable schism – in fact, as both of your recent comments indicate, such a theory makes the very meaning of schism vacuous. It makes perfect sense, that if Christ established a visible church on the “branch” paradigm, we should find amply evidence for such a notion within the first millennium of the Christian era (I want to quote Newman again, but I won’t -the record speaks for itself on this issue).

    But there is a MUCH BIGGER problem with the branch theory to which some of your comments have alluded. Even IF one were to discover historical data in the first 10 centuries of Christian history that made plausible the claim that Christians had always held a “branch theory” of the visible church (which I happily invite any and all to seek out); this in no way solves the sola/solo problem or worse yet, the orthodoxy/heterodoxy problem. It would mean that Christ simply did not establish ANY means by which to authoritatively or meaningfully differentiate between the de fide content of revelation and mere human opinion. It would mean, in fact, that Christ foresaw – and was content with – doctrinal anarchy. A book requires interpretation – it is as simple as that. When different folks, or even different “branches” – all claiming to be endowed with the insight of the Holy Spirit – reach diametrically opposed conclusions with regard to FOUNDATIONAL doctrines (see the famous “Lordship Debate” as a good example of this) – there simply is no authority to arbitrate. Which “branch” has the audacity to stand up and act like a referee. The other branches can say “who do you think you are?”

    Clearly, someone like Mathison will not maintain the “branch theory” with ABSOLUTELY NO DOCTRINAL QUALIFICATIONS will he? This would make the branch theory pragmatically meaningless for it would mean that doctrinally, ANYTHING goes. But the moment Mathison (or anyone else, or any other congregation, or branch, or . . .) introduces ANY doctrinal qualification at all (doubtless couched in terms like “the Great Tradition” or “historic” Christianity, or “creedal” Christianity, etc), the question arises: “who made you the judge of exactly what constitutes the Great Tradition?” Which creed(s) count, which don’t, and why? I submit that you can run this argument up and down and all around a thousand times, but when the dust settles it will still turn out that the branch theory simply provides zero means of differentiating the orthodox content of the deposit of faith from mere human opinion – it is an insoluble epistemological dilemma. One can hold a “branch theory” of the visible church, but one cannot provide a coherent explanation as to which doctrinal positions are true vs. false, or peripheral vs. fundamental while so doing.

    If a person is willing to live with that tension – what can I say. I am not. Such considerations provide a VERY strong antecedent philosophical reason for taking the historical claims of the Catholic (or Orthodox) position most seriously. For me, that antecedent realization conjoined with the witness of Christian history that Christ did foresee and provide a solution to this dilemma -yields a powerful argument for the claims of the Catholic Church.

    Pax et Bonum,

    -Ray

  22. Very well written. Couldn’t go through the whole article though – a tad too heavy for my mood today :). Keep them coming!

    Jeevan

  23. Ray,

    Your comment 21 was very helpful. The point about the “tension” at the end was spot on. The branches are so quick to assume that their differences are “peripheral”, but the point at which that peripheral becomes central is what truth is all about. It is also at just that point that they will be most unlikely to view it as central in order to maintain a feeling of unity. “After all, it’s only baptism right? What does it matter if we completely disagree on the when/why/what/how/if?”
    Should Protestants view the Trinity as a peripheral doctrine? You can still believe in a forensic justification by faith alone and deny the Trinity, so it’s just another branch *right?* Well, of course not, but when all one can do is point at ones Bible and say “trust me on this; Scripture says the Trinity is real.” And then the ‘Baptist air conditioning’ starts as the Scripture verses get looked up, and the obvious question for the Trinity denier becomes “why is your interpretation correct and mine isn’t?” If one could do the “air conditioning” AND point to the hierarchy resulting from Holy Orders as a Spirit guided referee, the whole game is changed. The mouths are stopped, and the “branches” are exposed in a glaring way.

    Peace

    -David M.

  24. I have not read this article, but let me say this:

    I am currently a Protestant and mulling over RCC/Protestant issues. But there is something going on here at C2C that is very frustrating. It is this:

    There are these men running C2C who obviously are very intelligent and seem to argue for the RCC very effectively. But I have to ask: Against whom do you argue? Me? I have to go searching for answers in order to try to respond. And my guess is is that the vast majority of other Protestants who comment here are neither experts nor nearly as well learned as those who run C2C.

    So, what is my suggestion to C2C? (As if you asked for my suggestion, right? Yet, I think my preceding words call for it.) My suggestion is that you find Protestant men who are well versed in their faith and debate in written form. You’ve already took the time to write lengthy articles. Now invite an expert to counter. Or will you be content to win an argument with people such as me? My guess is is that any well learned Protestants who run a good website could win a debate with the guy or girl who is my RCC equivalent. And maybe websites like Alpha and Omega Ministries does this. But at least they have debates posted. (Of course, I’m biased…)

    If you aren’t willing to debate in written form for all to see, then I ask: Are you really wanting us to find the truth? Or just to find what you consider to be the truth?

  25. Brad – First, thanks for the honesty and for sharing those thoughts.

    Let me say that some of the contributors here [five to be exact] either have a PhD or are working on their doctorate, but not all of us are. Speaking for myself, I have no formal education in theology or philosophy (or much of anything for that matter) so I write as an average Joe. As for whether this article, or others are well written, would your comment be any different if the points we were making were dumb or the articles poorly written? (I’m just asking – trying to get to the bottom of what you’re saying. I’m not trying to attack your point.)

    Here’s our purpose: to mutually pursue truth with Protestants (of all academic backgrounds) in charity and humility towards full Christian unity. Now, maybe much of what we’re writing comes off stuffy and maybe even smug. That’s not our intention per se but its a consequence of the level of arguments we’re making. There are many apologetic forums for more basic level debates, but our target audience is a small group of Reformed Protestants who are generally well educated doctrinally. Consequently, our writing tends to be a little more academic than you might find elsewhere. We want to show those who are seeking the true Church that there are sound arguments for the Catholic position and that there are serious defects in the Protestant position. This calls for making the best arguments we are able and that’s what we’re doing.

    We certainly invite Protestant academics to join in the discussion and we’ve had some. Dr. R.F. White, for example, interacted with us several times. We always look forward to him. We’ve let him know privately how much we appreciate his interaction. We’ve had several Protestant clergy interact as well. We are still waiting Keith Mathison’s response to the critique of his book and hope to see it soon. In summary, we hope that will continue and that more will join in the discussion but that’s something we can’t control.

    As for debate, we didn’t envision CTC as a place to hold debates. A debate, by definition, is the sort of thing where two opposing sides dig in and defend their position. This can have value of course, but it can also tend to obscure the truth because men become more focused on winning the debate than on discovering truth. Our vision is more of a mutual pursuit of truth via charitable dialogue.

    That said, many of our contributors spend a lot of time on leading Protestant blogs, interacting in their comboxes and defending the Catholic position. Bryan Cross was recently interviewed by Michael Horton and he also debated someone (on the topic of Sola Scriptura). (Not yet published but it will be). I accepted an invitation to be interviewed on a Reformed podcast some time ago but that never came to fruition. So anyway, we are interacting with (leading) Reformed Protestants as much as possible.

    Alpha and Omega Ministries, since you mentioned it, has criticized some of the things we’ve written here, and so has TurretinFan and a few others. We typically avoid responding directly to their posts (by counter posts) because, as you have probably seen on other Catholic and Protestant apologetic sites, it can end up messy. Post titles end up like this: “Joe Schmoe’s Inane Defense of Apostolic Succession” – “Jack Schmack’s Circular Reasoning and Repeated Ad Hominems” – “John Doe Accuses me of Cherry Picking,” etc. See what I mean? We’re trying to avoid that sort of thing.

    Brad, I’ll tell you the same thing I told Andrew MacCallum (a PCA Elder) on another thread: I don’t want to defeat you in a debate; I want to be in full communion with you.

  26. Hey Brad,

    [I just saw that this comment has posted here, so I am going to repeat, for the sake of all our readers, what I said in my email.]

    I am sure that Tim, who wrote the article on which you commented, will want to address your concern. (Other contributors might also respond.) But I wanted to say, real quick like, that I hear you. It can be frustrating reading stuff from a different and unfamiliar perspective, sensing that, hey, there seems to be something to this, but there are also loads of questions to be asked and discussed and so forth. Absolutely.

    You will, no doubt, be glad to here that some luminaries from Protestant and Reformed academia have interacted with us on the website, including seminary professors Robert Fowler White and John Frame, and authors Keith Mathison and Jason Stellman (who is also pastor of a Reformed church). Mathison, White and Stellman all write for Tabletalk magazine and Ligonier Ministries’ website.

    You will also be glad to hear that we have written several blog posts interacting directly with arguments being made by Reformed academics and / or pastors, including Doug Wilson, who has been invited to respond. Finally, Bryan Cross, our main contributor at CTC, has recently participated in a written exchange with Micheal Horton of Westminster Seminary, California. That exchange is supposed to be published (online) by the folks at Modern Reformation.

    All that said, we are not looking to go around on debating tours. Debates tend to be about scoring points and maintaining reputations and so forth. We want genuine discussions, leading to unity in truth. Where disagreements persist (as they have for nearly half a millennium now), we have to slow down, and take matters one at a time, which requires care, and patience. So, please be patient with us!

    Thanks,

    Andrew Preslar

  27. Andrew –

    Thank you for your gracious response. Indeed, that is one thing that C2C seems to maintain pretty well. And I appreciate it.

    I will look forward to the Modern Reformation posting.

    And thank you for letting me know of others “higher up” who have participated here. I noticed some/all of when John Frame jumped in. I might have noticed Jason Stellman commenting at points (although I was unaware of his position), but I’m not sure that I noticed Keith Mathison. Anyways…I just wish it would be more of an extended discussion.

    But again, thank you for responding. I will try to be patient.

    Brad

  28. Hi Brad,

    I just wanted to add a short bit on James White/Alpha and Omega Ministries: I sent both a direct and then open letter to James White cordially inviting him to refute the article that Tom Brown wrote on the canon of Scripture. He never responded nor has he shown up to rebut the article’s arguments.

    TurretinFan made a comment on my blog a month or two back saying he was working on a response in his spare time, but so far he hasn’t responded either that I am aware of. When I was a Protestant, this was the same thing I ran into: when the really tough arguments got brought up by Catholics, even when I went to the best Protestant sources, I didn’t find rebuttals. This happened enough times that I knew “there must be something to the Catholic Church that I have to explore more.”

    God bless!

  29. Brad,

    I was in on some of the early discussion in the comments related to Bryan’s critique of the solo/sola argument in my book. That was, I think, back in November. Then I was sidelined for about two and a half months due to some emergency home repairs and then about three more months due to an urgent writing project that fell in my lap in late January and consumed every spare moment until late April. I’m trying to jump back into this issue and prepare the response to Bryan’s paper that I wanted to complete months ago. I’m doing a little bit each day, but I imagine that at the rate I am able to proceed, it may not be of any interest to anyone by the time I finish it in early 2036.

    Keith Mathison

  30. Keith –

    Thank you. I will look forward to reading your response! Albeit, by then, possible through bifocals. (No offense to an bifocal wearers). :)

  31. Brad,

    Being in a semi-similar position as yourself, I understand your wish for access to the best arguments from all sides. This desire, in fact, pushed me to prioritize history very highly, especially the early centuries of the church. Unfortunately, some of these arguments have persisted for centuries, and like you, I don’t feel educated enough to figure out whose side makes the best argument. My great comfort has been to read the Apostolic Fathers and the earliest confessors, martyrs, and defenders of Christianity. If they got it wrong, how could I ever hope to get it right?

    I find it far easier to articulate what I don’t believe. I don’t believe I can define the church and then based on that definition join the “true church.” That wasn’t true in the second or third centuries, and I don’t think it’s true today. I don’t believe the “true church” can be anything other than a historical, objective reality, or that she should claim any less for herself. I disbelieve all manner of restorationist claims. I don’t believe the problem of authority can be easily answered, much less that it can be answered without being entirely Christocentric. I don’t believe I can improve upon the Nicene Creed. I don’t believe the “best argument” is equivalent to Truth, much less that debates prove a whole lot of anything.

    Sometimes the journey is as important as the destination. I know that’s not the answer or argument you’re looking for. But if the truth is as big, beautiful, and mysterious as I’m inclined to think, it will always elude thorough argumentation. Truth must be experienced as much as understood (I’m back to history again!). Good luck in your search.

  32. Nathan,

    You said:

    I don’t believe I can define the church and then based on that definition join the “true church.” That wasn’t true in the second or third centuries, and I don’t think it’s true today.

    Let’s say you were, by chance, a follower of Marcion in the second century. Would you say the same thing? “Well I don’t believe I can define the ‘Catholic Church’ as the true Church – therefore I’ll just stay where I am in Marcion’s congregation” ? I don’t see how your position is plausible. It’s far from being neutral. By refusing to identify the true Church and join it, you are espousing an ecclesial agnosticism.

    It is the same sort of thing as if a follower of Marcion refused to join the Catholic Church on account of his own ignorance. It would also be the same if a first century Jew saw and heard of Jesus and His claims, but refused to take any action because he didn’t feel competent to define who was and who wasn’t the Messiah.

    Maybe I’m misreading what you’re saying. If so, can you clarify?

  33. I would like to respond to 24 above.

    When I was a Pentecostal, it was obvious to me from scripture that Jesus was the Way, the Truth and the Life; therefore Jesus was the Truth. It occurred to me that as a disciple, I had an obligation to seek the truth and then to hold on to it and even present it, in season and out.

    There were a great many ex-Catholics in Pentecostalism, and in the other evangelical denominations. They could be generally be counted on to trash the Catholic Church, winning approval by their new peers, often for conflicting reasons. It occurred to me that truth was at stake here, as was charity.

    So my own search began. I was already reading the scriptures, trying to find myself approved. I added the history of the early Church, the various heretical movments, then the Fathers. I saw who was recognized as the authority by the early Church, starting in Acts, and whose successors carried the mantle, or more properly, the keys. Those men were singled out repeatedly in the face of crisis and heresy. They were always the bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter the apostle. Not surprisingly, like the announcement that God could evidently save the Gentiles, the successors to Peter defined what was and what was not orthodox. Sometimes they did it in union with other orthodox bishops, sometimes they ratified the position of a particular bishop (Athanasius is a good example), and sometimes they made the call on their own, ala Peter and Cornelius. Great saints such as Augustine deferred to them, asking them for clarity and direction. Given my religious persuasion I did not want this to be true, but it was.

    Finally I found I was reading Aquinas, then Luther, Calvin and others, including the history of that time and the biographies of those people. I addressed every issue I could recognize, and I prayed a lot. I was hungry for the truth, because it was to the Truth that I had an obligation.

    After a while I recognized several things:
    1.The Truth and the truth had to be available to people like me, people of average intelligence.
    2.It was becoming ever less likely that I could be the authority to determine what was and what was not truth. The history of Israel and of the Church was the barometer for that recognition.
    3.The history of Protestantism, including the attempts to find the “fundamentals necessary for salvation” as an agreement among the early reformers, found Protestantism antagonistic to such an agreement; while it was continuing to fracture for even the slightest of reasons. Anyone with an idea could present it and if the person or the idea found a following, a new religion or sect was born.

    (Nothing happening at this time in the home church movement, the mega-church movement, the difficulties in evangelicalism, the Toronto experience, the continuing push to generate the Second Coming (making a lot of these groups look like the Jehovah’s Witnesses), or of the mainline Protestant churches caught in the conflict between scripture and morality gainsay what I just wrote. Protestantism continues to fracture.)

    At the end of this effort, thinking that maybe the problem was me, I took it to my friends and told them what I was seeing. Three times we went through the arguments and each time the Roman positions came out deeper, stronger, clearer and more desirable, and the Protestant positions came out as hollowed out dismal failures. They could not argue from scripture well enough to counter the positions I had arrived at. They denied history and often enough they denied even the clear intent of scripture.

    I finally figured out the problem. Their real weakness was one of trust in Jesus. He noted that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. The Protestant (and the LDS) position is that the gates of hell did prevail against the Church. Having done so, the Church needed to be reformed (or re-instituted) with less books in the Bible (or the additional canon in the LDS). If Jesus could not be trusted to maintain the Church in the face of His enemy, you actually have to wonder if He is God or if God can do what is needed to maintain His Church. If Jesus cannot be trusted or is too weak to do the job, then who is responsible? Any big city yellow pages, under Church, will give you the historical overview without the background of who should be trusted. In short, you or whoever you trust is responsible, but Jesus’ trustworthiness was limited at best.

    Luther wrote that any Christian man inhabited by the Holy Spirit was capable of understanding and expounding the scriptures. Luther then found that those individuals were understanding and expounding the scriptures differently than he himself understood and expounded them. He could not condemn them quickly enough. He discovered the result of his position and found it unpalatable.

    Calvin, a more pragmatic and systematic theologian, knew he could not give people that wiggle room. Calvin demanded conformity.

    What I was seeing was that where Protestantism agreed with Catholicism, Protestantism was right. Where Protestantism disagreed with Catholicism, it was wrong. Since the pivot point of Protestantism is the individual and his/her will, I found that where I agreed with the Church I was right and where I disagreed with the Church I was wrong. The Church was right even when everyone else was wrong. It is a profound awaking to arrive at that location.

    In the end, I was convinced by an overwhelming number of things. The scripture convinced me that I was required to follow the Truth. The scripture often indicated what was to be believed, and all along the way God had appointed those persons who were responsible for administering the truth. Sometimes they were worthy of that trust and other times not so much, but they had the responsibility anyway. History indicated what had happened and who was responsible for making decisions. The understanding of the apostles blossomed, often in the effort to arrive at the orthodox position. Jesus’ promise to guide us into all truth through the Holy Spirit was met in the Church by Peter’s successors leading the way.

    I saw it as a continuous line, unbroken. I noted both the highlights and the low lights, the successes and the failures, and saw a continuous pointing to the fact that making good on everything would be God, the merits of His people not withstanding. He honored His covenant with us through Peter and the Church Peter was to lead.

    He took the bread and wine of Melchisidec, a priest of the Most High God, combined it with the miraculous manna in the desert and with the Passover sacrifice, and fulfilled all of these things in Himself, making Himself not only the Passover victim purchasing our salvation, but the sacrificial Meal for the journey through this life to a supernatural location. As a Pentecostal, I saw myself as one of those who, being told by Jesus that they must eat His Body and drink His Blood, walked away wondering who could believe such a saying. John 6 is the reference both for those who walk away and those who stay.

    In short, the closer I got to the Catholic Church, the more the scripture made sense. Thou art Peter made sense. This is My Body made sense. Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them made sense. All the big important items made sense. That Jesus did not fail to maintain the Church made sense. That I could trust Him made sense.

    I let go. I poped. I have ridden Peter’s barque through the manifold difficulties of the past nearly 40 years.

    Early in this missive I noted that a lot of ex-Catholics trashed the Church. I honestly do not trust Protestantism, however the Church told me that those baptized with water and the Trinitarian formula are brothers and sisters of mine and deserving of the dignity of those called by the Messiah to join Him. It is counter-intuitive and is exactly like what Jesus would say and do. It is just one more example of the Church being right where I was wrong.

    I would note that I owe a debt to the Scott Hahns, the Jeff Cavins, the Thomas Howards, the Karl Keatings, the Chestertons, the John Henry Newmans and a host of others who are experts. They opened me up. They reminded of things I once knew but had forgot. They made scripture open up even more fully than it already was. They offered themselves as examples.

    However, in many instances, it is the layman (such as the people responsible for C2C) who reach out others and offer them the intellectual support, but even more the grace of being there at a time of questioning.

    Best of all are the locals who may have gone through what you are going through. It is good to see a face, to measure the expression and the body language as well as the words and the deeds. As Paul noted, imitate me as I imitate Jesus.

    I hope the questioner finds those people and that they bear the witness strikingly well.

  34. Tim,

    Clarifications are definitely in order. I wasn’t talking about identifying the church, but defining it, which I hope is a fairly sensible distinction. Defining the church entails formulating a judgment as to what I think the church should look like and then locating a body that matches my judgment. As an individual I don’t think I’m capable of formulating a definition that could possibly be that comprehensive. I can’t come up with “marks of the Church” that are correct, if nothing else for the fact that I am not the church and have no reason to believe that I would be authorized by either God or the church to come up with such marks.

    Identifying the church works a bit differently, and is really beyond the scope of what I can fit into a comment. Briefly, what I can do is examine the definitions provided by various groups who each claim to be “the Church,” (safely ignoring those who do not), and see if their claims withstand scrutiny. Now there are a whole host of assumptions I have to gloss to get to that position, not to mention the assumptions needed to undertake said scrutiny, e.g. history, epistemology. But it makes sense that if “the true church” is not a fictional or abstract entity then one of these groups will make claims about itself that can be supported (not that I’m proposing empiricism) and the other groups will make erroneous claims about themselves (no lie is of the truth).

    Now to 2nd century Marcionism, I would apply my test: how do they define themselves as the true church? Unfortunately, I’m not versed in Marcionite ecclesiology, so I’m not exactly how they would answer. One question I would ask them is, “who did Marcion learn his doctrine from?” It sounds like he’s wading into restorationist waters, which are epistemically very unsafe, to say the least. Also pertinent is the apparent prioritizing of Paul over and above the rest of the apostles, particularly given Paul’s own statement in 1 Corinthians 1:12. If all these churches scattered all over the world are wrong, I have to be skeptical of all the apostles except Paul: in that case, why not be skeptical of Paul as well? What kind of Christ sends out thoroughly incompetent apostles? There seem to be enough internal inconsistencies to call the whole thing into question.

    I hope I’ve clarified things a bit. I can’t define the church, because I expect the church to have a self-understanding (as the assembly and body of Christ) and be self-defining, and that this has been so from the apostolic age. It doesn’t mean I’m unconcerned with ignorance or that I can be content with ecclesial agnosticism, far from it. Indeed, I wouldn’t have mentioned the Nicene Creed at all if that were my position. I actually think it is a critical component of the task of identification, given its ubiquity, but that would call for at least one essay all its own.

  35. Nathan,

    Thanks that helps. I think Marcion’s ecclesiological arguments would have been nearly identical to modern Protestant arguments. (He would say, his was the true Church because he retained the true faith – even if he didn’t have material succession.) If you asked him who taught him, he’d say something similar to what a Protesant would say – “the bible.” If you told him that he removed certain books from the bible then he would probably reply with something very similar to what Protestants reply when we tell them that they removed the Deuterocanonical books – “I didn’t take away those books, you added them.”

    The problem with Marcion’s argument would be the same as the problem with the modern Protestant argument. He doesn’t have the authority to declare who took away what – he is outside of the visible Church. (You know you’re a heretic when your own father excommunicates you!) BTW – all that is (educated) speculation about what Marcion would say – we don’t really know. We don’t exactly have a survival of Marcion’s systematic theology. Basically what we know about him, we know from his enemies.

  36. Ray (#21) wrote: “If a person is willing to live with that tension – what can I say.”

    Speaking for myself, and I think some of you know this, the tension alluded to here is my life. But I don’t think this tension would go away if hopped to one of the only two alternative traditions. All I’d ever be able to say is, along with Bishop Kallistos Ware, that “we can say where the church is, but cannot say where the church is not. I would say, however, that it is in [FILL IN THE BLANK] that I perceive the fullness of the faith.” He of course filled in the blank with Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Sounds like a Branch to me, even more so if the claim (by Lutheran-Anglican Prots) to apostolic succession is shown to be valid. To be sure, simply claiming that all these branches must exist because of the reality of schism in the church doesn’t really solve anything. But from where I’m standing, relegating “schism” to mean solely “schism from the Roman Catholic Church” betrays special pleading, if not a rather pristine view of church history (laden as it is with the messiness of factions and schism from the church’s very beginning).

    Sorry for being off topic. I’ve yet to slog through this paper, though I suspect I wouldn’t be in disagreement with much of it—(1) in the church, there is indeed a hierarchical distinction between the clergy and the laity (by the way, the notion of the priesthood of all believers doesn’t deny this); (2) the distinction between presbyters and bishops does indeed exist from at least the latter third of the first century (and is depicted well enough in 1 John); (3) Agreed. Ordination involves the particular setting apart of the individual to service of the Word and sacrament from the other believers; and (4) You’ll find that the classic, Reformed (and Anglican) and Lutheran documents regarding ordination are sacramental in tone, even if they deny the use of the word sacrament in relation to ordination. In other words, in certain places, it’s almost a distinction without a difference.

  37. Chris,

    It sounds like we might agree on a lot of points raised in this article. On number (1) – I agree that the priesthood of all believers does not deny a distinction between the clergy and laity. Catholics also believe in the priesthood of all believers by baptism. But a large part of the ‘non-distinction’ I argued against in the article was Martin Luther’s early doctrine on the subject. Namely that the clergy’s authority was essential derived from the congregation and that the only difference between the clergy and laity was in the task they were given to do. Catholic doctrine on the distinction holds that there is an essential distinction such that a cleric is inherently able to do things (in virtue of having received the sacrament) that a lay person simply cannot do.

    This was evidenced well at a certain German concentration camp in WW2 where both Lutherans and Catholics were held and neither had any previously ordained clergy. The Lutherans celebrated mass anyway (and used tea instead of wine) but the Catholics did not because they believed essentially that they could not. If you had been in that concentration camp, and you opted to join the Catholics in not celebrating mass rather than the Lutherans, then you and I agree on the subject. Otherwise, I don’t think we do.

    (2) – The important point on distinction between the bishop and presbyter is A) that it was intended by Christ, and B) that if the distinction did not exist from the beginning, it was the presbyterate that arose from the episcopacy – not the other way around.

    On (3) – sounds like we agree but I’m not sure. In the article, I quote John Calvin saying:

    Christ ordered dispensers of his gospel and his sacred mysteries to be ordained, not sacrificers to be inaugurated, and his command was to preach the gospel and feed the flock, not to immolate victims.

    That’s the type of point I was arguing against. If you disagree with Calvin there, then sounds like me and you are on the same page again.

    On (4) it wouldn’t surprise me if either of the early Protestants said H.O. was ‘sacramentalish’ or something although I haven’t found anything like that in my reading. But I believe there’s an essential difference in something that is sacramental (like the Lord’s Prayer) and a sacrament (like Baptism). Calvin and Luther both explicitly denied that Holy Orders was to be numbered among the sacraments and Calvin has some pretty harsh things to say about the sacramental minor-orders. But not all Protestants denied Holy Orders as a sacrament. Melancthon and Richard Baxter are two who continued to accept it as a sacrament.

    If Holy Orders is a sacrament, then per the Augustinian-medieval definition of a sacrament, it confers grace, and as St. Cyprian said, its minister is Jesus Christ. That is why I think this distinction between ‘sacramental’ and ‘sacrament’ is extremely important.

  38. Chris
    The difference between protestant branches and the branches you find in Catholic ecclesiology is the pope. Protestant branching has no way to tell a branch from a schism. There is no central branch that defines orthodoxy. Catholicism has that. The pope defines what is orthodox. There can be branches that have not strayed as much as others. We know that because we know where the trunk is. The point is once you accept the pope’s branch as the trunk then why would you not go there?

  39. The word ‘tension’ is a metaphor when used in theology and philosophy. But theology and philosophy are not poetry, because precision and clarity are required. (This is why I don’t use the term in the context of theology or philosophy.) Error and heresy thrive in ambiguity, which is why the Arians worked for over half a century to get rid of the term homoouious; it was so unambiguous that it distinguished them from the Catholics. Without it, they could hide their heresy. And the same is true of the term ‘Theotokos.’ The Nestorians hated the term, because it excluded their heresy, whereas the term ‘Christotokos’ allowed them to hide it.

    The truth behind the ‘tension’ metaphor in Ray’s comment (#21) is that positing a branch theory of the visible Church while rejecting the notion of a divinely establish magisterium [i.e. by Holy Orders], entails the following dilemma: If there are no objective doctrinal qualifications for being in the visible Church, then the very notion of being in (or out of) the visible Church is lost, which means that the very notion of there being a visible Church is lost. But without a divinely established magisterium there cannot be objective doctrinal qualifications for being within the visible Church, because no one has the authority to determine or establish them. So the position includes the claim that there is a visible Church but it also denies that by which there can be such a thing as a visible Church. This is not just a tension; this is an incoherency.

    On pages 319-321 of The Shape of Sola Scriptura, Keith attempts to provide a basis for objective doctrinal qualifications for being within the visible Church. But his way of doing so is problematic for the reasons I explained in this comment.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  40. Bryan wrote: “The word ‘tension’ is a metaphor when used in theology and philosophy. But theology and philosophy are not poetry, because precision and clarity are required.”

    Oh, you poor, enlightened modernist, you. Tsk. Poetry can be the very end of theology. It’s no mistake that the most deeply theological (and thus doxological) portions of sacred Scripture are often the most brief and poetic.

  41. Tim,

    You may be familiar with this material already, but I thought you’d find this piece (written by a good friend) interesting. He argues that Calvin did in fact believe that HO was a sacrament of sorts.

    http://uppercrusttheologicalsociety.blogspot.com/2008/11/john-calvin-on-ordination-churchs-third.html

  42. Bryan / Chris,

    Just to clarify, I did not intend the use of the term “tension” in relation to either theology or philosophy per se. I can see how my post might have left that impression and I now wish I had chosen a better word. Rather, my use of the term “tension” was intended to describe the existential state of the person willing to practice their Christianity on a daily basis while knowingly maintaining an incoherent theological psoition (i.e. the affirmation that one is a Christian among those with whom one lives, while simultaneously affirming the theological assertion that there is no principaled way to distinguish orthodoxy from heterodoxy – hence, what Christianity IS ). In short, my use of the word tension was meant to describe a sort of lived cognitive dissonance on the part of the individual Christian.

    I strongly support Bryan’s assertion that theological and philosophical propositions are either coherent or incoherent. There is no such thing as a theological or philosophical “tension” bubble in which one can take refuge so as to avoid doing hard philsophical/theological work or making hard theological/philosophical choices. One can, however, choose to live their life in such a way that their daily behavior and self portrayal is inconsistent with their theological or philosophical principals. That creates a lived existential “tension” which is harmful in the long run, and is the sort of situation I am unwilling to embrace. Perhaps I will find a better word to describe this unhappy state of affairs.

    Pax et Bonum,

    -Ray

  43. Jason – thanks for sharing that. I didn’t pick up on that while reading the Institutes but I did notice that Grueber agrees with your friend. I had included that in a footnote originally but later tossed it out because I simply didn’t know what to make of it.

  44. Chris, (re: #40)

    Of course there are many parts of Scripture that are both poetical and theological in the sense of helping us to know and understand God. And I agree that the study of theology leads some people to compose poetry in praise of God. But in saying that precision and clarity are required in theology I am speaking of theology as a science, i.e. the scientific knowledge of God and Divine things. When I say “theology as a science” I am using the term ‘science’ as St. Thomas does (see Summa Theologia I Q.1 a.2), and he in turn is drawing from Aristotle. No such science would be possible if it were restricted to the language of poetry and metaphor. There would be no articles of faith, no Nicene Creed, and hence no distinction between orthodoxy and heresy. The notion that science requires prose (instead of poetry) is not modernism; even the ancients understood it. So in a way, this demonstrates my point, by showing why clarity regarding the meaning of words (in this case the word ‘theology’) is essential in order to participate in and contribute to theology as a science.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  45. I agree completely, Bryan. Theology would be incomplete if all that filled it were Alighieries with no Aquinases.

  46. Hi Nathan,

    “I can’t come up with “marks of the Church” that are correct, if nothing else for the fact that I am not the church and have no reason to believe that I would be authorized by either God or the church to come up with such marks.”

    You could start by reviewing the Nicene Creed, specifically the section: “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”. Then you can read the works of those council Fathers who responsible for recording and ratifying the Creed to find out exactly what they intended those four marks to mean. Take the guesswork out of it.

  47. http://prussic.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/response-to-holy-orders-part-1/

  48. Hi, Tim

    As noted above, Calvin did allow that ordination to the sacred ministry was a sacrament (although a sacrament which was not for all). Perhaps we might say Calvin believed that in the post-apostolic Church there were two primary sacraments (i.e. baptism and eucharist) and at least one other, non-essential ( soteriologically speaking) sacrament, holy orders. Because the latter did not confer remission of sins, it lacked the inherent necessity of the two primary sacraments ( sort of like the Anglican definition of Dominical or “Gospel” sacraments and minor sacraments).

    It is interesting to note how Calvin conceded that unction, as described in James V, was a sacrament, and not merely a medicinal anointing. However, due to the fact that he believed the promised healing which accompanied the “prayer of faith” had been rescinded when the apostolate died out, he felt it was no longer applicable in the life of the Church.

    Anyhow both are intriguing points, because they don’t easily square with the more rigid Protestant criteria for genuine sacraments: an outward sign, instituted by Christ himself plus the promise of remission of sins.

    Another fine article. Thanks, Tim

  49. […] 2010 by Tim Prussic This is a continuation of my response to Mr. Tim A. Troutman’s article on Holy Orders over at Called to Communion, as Catholic site which dialogues with cheerful Reformed folks like me. […]

  50. My comments on Tim’s second part:

    http://wp.me/pVf8p-4x

  51. Tim P said,

    Historic Protestant (certainly Reformed) polity is not egalitarian, nor does it place no “real distinction” between officers and saints.

    The way you’re using the phrase ‘historic Protestantism,’ it becomes an invisible phantom that’s unfalsifiable because no one can point to what it actually is. I quoted what the Reformers said on it and linked to a pro-Luther scholar saying the same things. e.g. Luther claimed that the distinction was only in “the work that God has given them to do.”

    Furthermore, according to Luther, the authority of the clergy was derived from the laity. This is spiritual egalitarianism. If I’ve misrepresented or misquoted them, then please show where. You can’t simply point to and hide behind “historic Protestantism” when I am the one actually quoting the founders of the movement.

    I’ll be very brief here, but it’s worth running through this, as it seems a good deal of Tim’s critiques are unfounded, at least when applied to the Reformed / Presbyterian conception of church government.

    If they’re unfounded, then you need to show how, not simply state that. Presbyterians do make the claims that you make “supernatural calling” etc. and all kinds of other claims but Presbyterianism (and all Calvinism) is steeped in a nominalism that makes it difficult for those under its sway to understand that while they affirm truth in words, they often don’t beleive the truth of the matter.

    But as for hierarchical difference, the original Calvinist ministers were not rightly ordained by bishops but by laymen. So if they later accepted a hierarchical difference (which I agree with you- they did) then it means nothing. So you can’t get a group of laymen together who have no ecclesial authority and then ordain several among you and then say “these are the only people who truly have the power to administer the sacraments and to ordain.” In fact, according to your own principles, the laity still have that power – how was it ever taken away?

    Well, so much for the notion that Protestants are egalitarian and have no distinction between office bearers and laity.

    You haven’t refuted or addressed a single argument I made on the subject in the article. You made some assertions and then quoted some Scripture. But I already knew Protestants believed Scripture just as Martin Luther did when he advanced his theory of spiritual egalitarianism (see Mackenzie, pro-Luther scholar cited in the article). Calvin also believed those same bible verses when he denied true hierarchical distinction between the clergy and laity by saying that ministers were “not in any respect our superior.” (Institutes 4.3.1) Again, Calvin would say that there was a difference in duties just as Luther did. But the basis for his distinction is a ground-up model of authority which is inherently egalitarian.

    The Reformed say, “we believe only God can authorize” but this is an empty statement for it was not God who authorized them as ministers begin with. They “authorized” themselves. The Apostles, on the other hand, were authorized directly by God and they authorized successors. We’ll discuss this more in the next article on apostolic succession.

    You then said,

    Passing by Tim’s lack of definition of the phrase “Holy Orders,” and consequential lack of clarity as to the consistency of it with the biblical evidence, the statement itself is telling.

    This is false. I think you should be more careful in reading this article if you’re going to try and interact with it. I did define “Holy Orders;” see section I.b.

    Tim spends some time on the text of Scripture, but it appears that his interests really lay elsewhere. Mere consistency is his aim.

    Arguing that the Catholic doctrine of Holy Orders is consistent with Scriptur does not (at all) show that my interests lie somewhere else than Scripture.

    Discovering and obeying what God’s Word teaches and requires regarding the government of Christ’s church is not Tim’s aim.

    The article demonstrates the very opposite. I have extensively argued my case from Scripture. If I’ve gotten it wrong, then you can attempt to show that. But this statement is manifestly false.

    Now, Tim is correct to point us to Acts 15, but upon inspection we see that Tim offers a distorted reading of the text. First, Tim says that “the Apostles convened to make a binding decision….” The text, however, says, “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter [of Mosaic Law and the Gentile converts]” (vs. 6). Again, the letter generated by the Council was address from “the brothers, both the apostles and the elders” (vs. 23). Further, it was decided not just by the Apostles and the Elders, but also by “the whole church” that is was good “to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.” Finally, taking the chapter as a whole, we see that Paul and Barnabas were appointed (vs. 2) and sent (vs. 3) by the gathered (14:27) church of Antioch to Jerusalem to meet and consider this matter (vs. 6). Later, the whole church (vs. 22) at Jerusalem send Paul and Barnabas and others back to Antioch, from which the others were sent in peace back to Jerusalem (vs. 33). All this is a far cry from “the Apostles convening together to make a binding decision on the entire universal Church.” What’s more, we find much inimical to Tim’s supposition in this text, including support for congregational and presbyterial authority.

    Nothing that you argued showed or implies in any way that the council’s decision was not binding. It certainly does not hint at presbyterial authority. It is a model of conciliar authority. If you think the council wasn’t binding, then you need to show why you think it was a mere opinion that any Christian could disregard if their private interpretation of Scripture differed from that of the council (which at that time would have been an easy thing to do since there was no Scripture in existence which supported the decision of the council. No where in Scripture could it be found, at that time, that Christians were free to disregard the kosher laws (for example). You’re not making an argument; you’re making assertions without supporting them.

    Our affirmation is quite different from the proposal of Tim: “That the Apostles believed themselves to possess the power to delegate their authority by establishing Church leaders is shown by the replacement of Judas.” First, notice that the text of Acts 1:12-26 that there is no indication whatever of the Apostles “delegating their authority.”

    The Apostles were the ones to whom Jesus granted authority, not the laity. You said earlier that you agreed with this. Yet here you deny that the Apostles ever delegated that authority. If the Apostles did not delegate their authority, then where did those with authority get it from? Acts 1 does not show that the Apostles believed they could delegate their authority, but it does show that they believed they had the authority to appoint someone to the very same authority that they had by replacing Judas. This is manifest from the text. The subsequent passages show without any question that they did believe that they could delegate their authority because, well, they did it (they established leaders). So if my argument was wrong, and they didn’t believe that they had power to delegate their authority, then why did they establish men with authority?

    There are three things in particular stand out in the text that are troublesome, if not detrimental to Episcopal-style church government. First, the Holy Spirit speaking in the text of Scripture (vs. 20) led the Apostles to fill the empty apostolic position.

    The Holy Spirit guiding the Church is not detrimental to episcopal-style Church government. It is actually presupposed.

    Second, the whole assembly of one hundred twenty disciples of Christ (whom Peter was addressing – vv. 15-16) put forward or nominated the two men, Justus and Matthias (vs. 23), prayed for them and cast lots to determine which one would be included among the eleven Apostles (vs. 26). Even with the Apostles still operating, they did not simply impose their will upon the people, but included them in the decision-making/nominating process.

    You are demonstrating that you do not understand epicopal orders. The Church has always, following the biblical model elected candidates for episcopal ministry. This is not incompatible; it’s the way we’ve always done it. The election by the people, however, is not ordination. That must take place at the hand of someone with episcopal authority. We see that here, in Acts 6, and in every case of ordination in the Church (except for Protestants who ordained themselves).

    Not only has Tim not proved that the Apostles had the power to confer their same authority upon other, but it would appear he didn’t even try to prove it.

    This borders on a lie. I did attempt to prove it and you didn’t interact with any of the strongest passages that showed it. You (erroneously as showed above) argued against the significance of Acts 1 but didnt mention the other four passages that show the Apostles installing authoritative leaders. The act of installing an authoritative leader is an act of delegating one’s authority just as Moses did in Exodus 18.

    When it comes to handling the biblical data, Tim’s article (thus far) is full of “proof texts,” but does not interact with the text or even really seek to understand it.

    On the contrary, I’ve spent quite a large portion of the article interacting with the Scripture. Also the false claim that I don’t seek to understand the text is uncharitable. If you think I’ve misunderstood the text, then show me how. But to claim that I am not trying to understand it is false. Nothing so far has shown that I have misunderstood any text.

    It appears that he’s far more eager to move onto what the church has to say.

    Catholics read the Scriptures through the Church not apart from her. I do appreciate you taking the time to interact with the article but I hope your responses in the future will be a little more charitable, and perhaps more careful. e.g. The claims that I am not trying to prove my case or to understand Scripture is not becoming to a charitable discussion in mutual pursuit of the truth.

  52. Tim P – another thought. It occurred to me that the usage of the word “presbyters” (as apparently convening alongside the Apostles) in Acts 15 is what is causing you to consider it evidence for Presbyterianism. First, it is not certain that there were (what we would now call) presbyters present. The word meant ‘elder’ which, in a non-technical sense, is compatible with the office of bishop and presbyter (and deacon for that matter). The term ‘presbyter’ is known to have lacked technicality at that point; I argue for this extensively throughout the article and quote several of the top scholars of antiquity (including Protestants) in support of this fact.

    Even if there were (actual) presbyters (that is priests not possessing the fullness of the episcopal authority) present, that doesn’t prove or argue for presbyterianism. We don’t see the presbyters voting or voicing their opinion in the text. The only ones who voice an opinion, and the only ones who definitively pronounce the (binding) conclusions are Apostles whom we known have the fullness of episcopal authority. So why its very possible, even likely, that those “presbyters” are actually what we would now call “bishops,” even if not – it still does not imply presbyterianism.

    Another incongruity of this (as a supposed model for presbyterianism) is that this council binds the conscience of the entire Church, not just a small homogenous splinter group. i.e. When was the last time your presbytery pronounced something that was binding on all Christians everywhere? The answer: never. It does not have the authority to do that. It can only make rules for who can belong to its jurisdiction. If it pronounces something that you don’t like – you’ll leave and join another ecclesial community. But that wasn’t an option for anyone who disagreed with the Jerusalem council (which again, there would have been ample opportunity based on lack of Scriptural support for the council’s doctrine.)

  53. Thanks for the super prompt response, Tim. I’ve replied to it back on my site. I’m sure my place will slow, but I do appreciate the interaction.

    http://wp.me/pVf8p-4x

  54. Tim, we’ll get to the “non-technical” language of the NT when I get to your next section (section III). A question: where in the text do you find a universal pronouncement that binds the entire church?

  55. Tim P,

    It’s the sort of thing I’ve always taken for granted from the text. (Obviously its not stated explicitly) So are you saying that you think that it was ok to persist in the belief that men had to be circumcised and eat kosher, etc. after the Jerusalem council? That’s what I mean by a binding statement. I mean that the question was no longer something up for debate.

  56. Tim, I think that, in the situation to which the council was speaking (which is limited and not universal), that the small handful of “requirements” or “necessities” were applicable. The thing is that council was simply ministering what the God’s Word already said, but with bit of applicational wisdom. The application, insofar as it was in keeping with wisdom was binding, but not as legislation – as application of prior legislation. Take a look at what the counsel of the council it falls into two categories: against idolatry and for the healing of Christian fellowship. Eating food sacrificed to idols was clearly linked with idol worship and sexual immorality (Rev. 2:14 & 20). Can you think of any OT laws against idolatry? The second category is that of healing a breach in Christian fellowship. What’s best for the relations between Gentile and Jewish believers? You can throw a rock and hit two and a half dozen commandments in the OT on that score. Basically, the council was applying the two great commandments: Love God & love neighbor. It was not legislating universal commandments for the whole church. Those divine commandments are absolutely binding, but are the applications of the council? No. We know this because Paul later deals similar issues in a different time, he takes the same biblical principle and applies them differently (1 Cor 8; 10:14-22). Applications are not universally binding, but divine injunctions can be. Men don’t make divine injunctions, only God does that. Men minister God’s word.

  57. On the Jerusalem Council, Mark Shea argues the simple reading of God’s word would have given the opposite conclusion:

    A good example of the Church’s authority, and of Tradition in action helping to develop a doctrine not formally presented in the Scriptures of the time, is the Council of Jerusalem, and the debate over whether believers needed to be circumcised. Acts 15 describes how the leadership of the Church, the apostles and elders, met in Jerusalem to discuss whether the flood of gentile converts to the Church needed to be circumcised. If the decision was to be based on the plain text of Scripture, they would have unrolled their Scriptures and seen that God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision as an “everlasting covenant” (Gen 17:7, 10). They would have seen that circumcision, the sign of the covenant, applied not just to Abraham’s descendants but to those who were “not of your offspring” (Gen 17:12), those who wished to join the covenant by conversion (Ex 12:48). They would have seen that all the Patriarchs were circumcised, that Moses was circumcised and the covenant renewed and reinforced in the Law (Lev 12:3), and that all the prophets, all the apostles, and Jesus himself were circumcised (Luke 2:21). They would also have recalled that Jesus said not one jot or tittle of the Law would pass away (Matt 5:18).

    In spite of all this, the Council declares that Gentile converts did not have to be circumcised. The unwritten apostolic Tradition (paradosis, in Greek) plays a big part in determining how the Scriptural information is interpreted. There was the paradosis of Jesus’ command to preach the Gospel to all nations (Matt 28:19), the paradosis of Peter’s revelation from the Holy Spirit not to call unclean what God has made clean (Acts 10:15), the experience of Paul and Barnabas in their work with the Gentiles (Acts 15:12), and of Philip with the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-6) and with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:28-38). Peter stands up at the Council and appeals to the apostolic authority delegated to him by Christ and tells how God showed his acceptance of the Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit and purifying their hearts by faith. It’s not until the end of the Council that James quotes from Scripture (Acts 15:16-18, cf Amos 9:11-12). Scripture is seen to agree with the Church’s authoritative judgement (“with this the words of the prophets agree”, Acts 15:15), but is not necessarily used to determine the Church’s judgement.

    The point of all this is that the Council of Jerusalem, just like the Catholic Church, views Scripture in the context of the Church’s Tradition and magisterial, apostolic authority. All of the Church’s doctrinal developments proceed in a similar fashion. Each development has a basis in Scripture, either explicit, or in implicit, “mustard seed” form, and the connection of the text to the doctrine is most clearly seen when the Bible is read in the light of the apostolic Tradition.

    http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mischedj/ct_tradition.html

  58. Thanks Randy. Shea is spot on.

    Tim P – You attempted to show that the council was just repeating Scripture or clear Scriptural principles. This is an entirely unsupportable claim. But I’ll give you the opportunity to support it (instead of merely stating it as you did). In order to support your claim, you need to show us where in the Old Testament Scriptures it says:

    1. Gentiles do not need to be circumcised to follow the Jewish Messiah (You’ll also need to show why Shea’s quotes to the contrary are wrong)
    2. Gentiles do not need to follow the Mosaic Law (except as noted)
    3. No meat sacrificed to idols no sexual immorality (Ok, you’ve already covered that I agree)
    4. They must eat according to kosher laws regarding blood and strangled animals

    If you can do that, then you will support your assertion that the Jerusalem council was just announcing what was obvious from Scriptures.

    The claim that it was somehow categorically conspicuous from a principle of “healing of Christian fellowship” was, again, asserted but not supported. You claimed that the OT Scriptures had numerous commandments about the (future) “healing of Christian fellowship,” but you did not provide any of those commandments. If they are numerous, as you say, then it will be easy to provide them. Please do so.

    Then you should support your claim that it was only limited and not universal. So according to your assertion, Christians in, say, Asia Minor still had to be circumcised until the New Testament was written and distributed because the Scriptures available to them commanded that God’s people be circumcised (see Shea’s quote above).

    In every response I’ve seen from you so far, you’ve made a lot of assertions but have not attempted to back those up (except the ones which are obviously true and agreed upon by both of us like the above ref. to OT Laws on idolatry – but even then you used references that weren’t available at that time). That sort of argument is not conducive to arriving at truth – but to scoring points in a debate. And it will only score you points if your interlocutor doesn’t realize what you’re doing or if the audience/judges do not know any better. So now that I’ve pointed it out, please try to avoid it so we can mutually pursue the truth instead of trying to ‘score points’ by assertions without support.

  59. Randy:

    Thanks for that. This topic is a very good case study in development of doctrine. I shall post something about it at my own blog.

    Best,
    Mike

  60. Tim, there was nothing *new* at the Jerusalem council, except the application of long-standing divine injunctions (love God and neighbor). There was no revelation, but some specific application of what what already revealed. The Gentiles coming in as Gentiles was *already* revealed in the Apostles’ ministries prior to the council. Paul had been preaching it for years and it was revealed to Peter on Simon the Tanner’s roof. The council was convened to solidify and propagate the prior Apostolic teaching and to figure out how to deal with the effects of the false teachers, that is, how to heal the growing breech between Gentile and Jewish Christians. So, #1 and #2 don’t count and #3 and #4 I dealt with above.

    I’ve contemplated this response for two days, Tim. trying to figure how best to respond to your criticism. Honestly, I think your tone is condescending and unhelpful. You ask me to substantiate my claims, but your claims look like this: “The New Testament data culminates with the Jerusalem Council where the Apostles convened to make a binding decision on the entire universal Church. (Acts 15.)” It’s hard to imagine a more outlandish claim with less substantiation. Now, I look forward to interacting with you in the future, but please leave off instructing me how to make and support claims. There’s just too much of the pot calling the kettle black.

  61. Tim – I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to come off condescending. Just please know that I’m not intending to do it. What I want to do is arrive at truth – and if what you’re saying is true – then that’s exactly what I want to believe. But I believe what I am saying is true, and that’s why I’ve made these arguments. In order for me to believe what you’re saying, then you need to refute my arguments.

    If you don’t want to answer #1 & 2, that’s fine. But you have not refuted them, you’ve only dismissed them. Let’s review what happened (Paraphrased):

    You: (#56) – The findings of the Jerusalem Council (JC) were existing teachings.

    Me: (#58) The JC includes 1.2.3. & 4. You need to show these in OT Scripture to substantiate your claim.

    You: (#60) 1 & 2 were existing teachings so they don’t count.

    You attempted to substantiate your claim by repeating it. I knew that you believed that 1 & 2 were existing teachings; that’s why I asked you to show me where those teachings were in Scripture. But you didn’t do that. Instead you said that 1 & 2 were existing teachings so you didn’t need to show that they existed. But that doesn’t make sense. It’s just making an assertion and when asked to substantiate it, repeating that same assertion.

    I have no contention with #3 because what you said is probably correct. But you have not dealt with #4. You have not shown how it was obviously known, from pre-JC Scripture, that Kosher laws would be discarded after the Messiah came (except for eating blood and strangled animals). See 2 Mac. 7 and the story of seven Jewish martyrs who died horrible deaths with their mother rather than violate Kosher dietary laws. It is inconceivable that so many Jewish Christians who had learned these stories of the heroes of their faith from childhood, and had eaten this way religiously (literally) all their lives, would have thought it was obvious that most of these laws were no longer necessary (but some were). Further, why would it be obvious that fat was ok to eat now but blood wasn’t? Both of these were prohibited at the same time and in the same way. These kind of facts, which I’m not sure if you’re aware of or not, are the reasons why I know that your claims are unsupportable. I want you to try and support them with the hope that you’ll realize that it can’t be done. But if you can support them, then I will be proven wrong.

    your claims look like this: “The New Testament data culminates with the Jerusalem Council where the Apostles convened to make a binding decision on the entire universal Church. (Acts 15.)” It’s hard to imagine a more outlandish claim with less substantiation.

    I will grant you that I didn’t go to sufficient lengths to support this claim to someone who disagreed with it. But the reason I didn’t do that is because I considered it something obviously true. I did not anticipate objections to that claim. Many Protestants would agree with the claim. I certainly agreed to it as a Protestant (long before I considered the Catholic Church to be even a Christian entity.) But the accusation of it being “outlandish” is not true. The more outlandish a claim is, the easier it is to refute. But you have not refuted it yet.

    Joe: Gorillas have three eyes.
    Bob: I can’t imagine a more outlandish claim than that.
    Joe: If it’s so outlandish you can disprove it easily.
    Bob: [Shows picture of a real gorilla]
    Joe: Doh!

    If you’re right, and my claim is really one of the most outlandish claims imaginable — something on par with the claim that a gorilla has three eyes — then I think you will be able to disprove it without much effort and I don’t think it’s the sort of thing you will need to contemplate for two days. It should be as easy as showing me a picture of a gorilla. You just need to provide the verses that support your claim. I outlined the things that need to be shown (1,2, and 4 remain to be shown) above to make it categorically easy and to avoid confusion.

    Now, I look forward to interacting with you in the future, but please leave off instructing me how to make and support claims.

    I’m taking this dialogue seriously and that’s why I want to make sure it is done properly. If we each just make assertions back and forth without supporting them, then it won’t help either of us or anyone else reading it. Now if there’s something wrong with my list (1-4) then explain what it is. But I am perfectly within my rights to explain what it would require to substantiate your assertions. It’s not condescension – it’s a rigorous attempt at arriving at the truth. Let’s drop egos, emotions, and all other peripherals and examine the propositions.

    Is proposition A true? Well so far, we’ve just stated it to be true. What would it take to substantiate it? It would take 1.2.3. & 4. to substantiate it. That is, if proposition A is true, then 1.2.3. & 4. could be shown, and if 1-4 can be shown, proposition A is true. If 1.2.3.& 4. cannot be shown, then it does not appear that proposition A is true and we must abandon it.

    I know it seems impersonal. If we were hanging out at a pub, I wouldn’t talk like this. But in this case, all I’m trying to do is arrive at the truth. May the Holy Spirit lead us there.

  62. Tim, the one making the assertion needs to furnish the proof. No one needs to go about proving that there aren’t chartreuse aliens on the other side of the moon simply because someone asserts that there are. You assert a couple biggies out of Acts 15, but all you’ve come up with for support is that you’ve always assumed those things were in the text. From there you turn on me and tell me that I’ve not proven my assertions. It took me two days to make sure I was nice.

    Again, your props:
    1. Gentiles do not need to be circumcised to follow the Jewish Messiah
    2. Gentiles do not need to follow the Mosaic Law
    3. No meat sacrificed to idols no sexual immorality
    4. They must eat according to kosher laws regarding blood and strangled animals

    #1 and #2 were *already* revealed in the NT in both the ministries of Paul and Peter. Neither are new to the JC. Is that still in question?
    #3 is easy respecting idolatry, but a little more sticky on the eating/buying food offered to idols. Paul discusses this extensively in 1 Cor 8-10.
    #4 is evidently still not clear. I contend that this was an application of the OT law (love neighbor) to the Gentiles to help the breach opening in the church between Gentile and Jewish Christians. This is *clearly* the context in which the whole matter is set. Are you thinking that #4 is new legislation – something altogether unrevealed before the JC? The blood thing was never a dietary law (clean/unclean), but was consistently set apart as “the life is in the blood.” The strangling I’m not sure about, but the manner of death is quite distinct from the clean/unclean distinctions. As to the clean/unclean distinction and it’s meaning, the Apostle Peter (before the JC) had revealed to him that the dietary laws were about the inclusion of the Gentiles (Acts 10). So, that wasn’t new at the JC.

    At the end of the day, the newness of the JC is found not in legislation or revelation, but in application of two old-timey laws: love God, love neighbor. Hopefully more tomorrow.

  63. You said,

    Tim, the one making the assertion needs to furnish the proof.

    I already explained why I didn’t provide more evidence originally. (See #61) In the article, I also asserted without any support: “The foundation for any theological study must be the Rock of Christ,” If someone wanted to challenge me on that, I think they would need to provide support for their challenge rather than me trying to defend the obvious.

    If someone thinks that theology can have another foundation than Christ, then we have starting points that are too different for this article to be of much use. Likewise, if someone thinks that [1-4] were widely known and accepted before the JC, then I’m not sure this article will be of much use to them.

    But you are claiming that my claim is ‘outlandish’, yet you have not been able to show why anyone should agree with you. This is additional substantiation for my claim (that you have tried several times and have not shown it to be false). And Shea’s quotation above was even stronger substantiation for my claim. Now that we have those two pieces of substantiation, you should drop your claim that I haven’t substantiated my claim unless you want to show why these two things don’t, in fact, support my position. Notice, I haven’t merely been asserting that you aren’t substantiating your claim, I’ve been showing why your attempts are false. I think you should return the favor or drop the claim.

    Let’s narrow it down to make it simpler. We’ll deal with 1 first and if we can get past that, we’ll move on to 2 and 4.

    In response to #1 you said that it was “*already* revealed in the NT.” But that doesn’t show that it was known at the time of the JC. The NT passages you are referring to were written after the JC. So it cannot be used to show that something was “*already*” known or revealed. You need to show something written before the JC that was widely known and accepted across Christianity that shows, “Gentiles do not need to be circumcised to follow the Jewish Messiah.” That is why originally I said, “you need to show us where in the Old Testament Scriptures it says:” (and then I listed 1-4).

  64. As for #1 and #2, they were in dispute. What the Shea quote shows is that the other side of the dispute had some pretty obvious scripture they could argue. The fact that Luke does not mention these arguments does not mean nobody made them.

    Peter and Paul already had this revealed to them. So what? A council is never about new revelation. It is about definitively interpreting the exisitng revelation. It is like the Arians and the trinitarians at Nicea. It is not like the the trinity was not revealed before. So you have:

    1. The New Testament data culminates with the Jerusalem Council where the Apostles convened to make a binding decision on the entire universal Church. (Acts 15.)

    2. The Early Church data culminates with the Council of Nicea where the Bishops convened to make a binding decision on the entire universal Church.

    Would you accept #2 and reject #1? If so, then saying something was “already revealed ” does not support your position because the trinity was already revealed before Nicea. The key difference was the controversy was resolved. Those who were challenging it from scripture were now heretics.

    Look at what they said about the resolution in Acts 15:28, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you …” So they believed the decision of the council was from the Holy Spirit. Again in Acts 16:4 we have, “As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.” So it was not a suggestion. It was to be obeyed.

    To say there was nothing new misunderstands the point. For Peter and Paul there was nothing new. What they already believed was confirmed. For the Judiazers this was new. The Holy Spirit had spoken throught he apostles and they needed to bring their thinking into line with it. Their arguments from scripture were now heresy.

  65. Good point Randy. Tim P – maybe we’re not seeing eye to eye because you think I’m claiming that the truth decided at JC originated at the JC. That is not what I’m claiming. It was always true – but it was not always known by all Christians that it was true. (Hence the need for the council. ) It did not become true at the JC.

  66. […] is the first section of my review of the third part of Tim Troutman’s article on Holy Orders over at Called to Communion. I would encourage my readers to read Tim’s article, especially this […]

  67. Tim, the first part of my response to the third part of Holy Orders:

    http://wp.me/pVf8p-6q

  68. Tim,

    Thanks for the thought out response.

    The synagogue is the most immediate Jewish background of local Christian churches.

    There is no indication of this anywhere in the NT or in the Fathers of this idea – in fact the Fathers only had negative things to say about the synagogues. Liturgically speaking, the synagogue is the most immediate Jewish background for the Christian Synaxis liturgy which became the Liturgy of the Word (or first part of the mass).

    As representative, the elders appointed an archisynagogos (a synagogue chief), a hazzan (minister – among other things, the hazzan ran the synagogue services), and an almoner (one who received and distributed alms). These are the three offices of the synagogue and they correspond very nicely to the three offices of the Reformed/Presbyterian polity: Ruling elder (archisynagogos), minister/teaching elder (hazzan), and deacon (almoner) – (cf. J. Julius Scott, Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament, 142-3).

    Even if the synagogue was the primary model for the Church this 3 tiered structure of the synagogue would be no more representative of the Presbyterian system than of the episcopal system. In fact, as far as we know each city only had one synagogue and therefore only one “archisynagogos” and this matches the one bishop per city rule better the unlimited number of presbyterian pastors per city. So his point does not prove anything.

    In addition to the local rule of elders, the synagogue also became the model for the local Christian church in matters of worship and liturgy.

    Again, only for the Liturgy of the Word. It is not representative at all of the Eucharistic liturgy. This corresponds to the temple cult. So it is irrelevant that there are no sacrifices in the synagogues. There are no sacrifices in the Liturgy of the Word.

    In reference to the Church’s ability to “bind and loose” you said:

    certainly indicating the local church, for how else could this process work?

    It is not certainly indicating the local church. This is an assertion which has been denied by almost all of Christianity. See canon law (either now or in the earliest records of it) for examples of how it can and has worked outside of the local Church only.

    I have just skimmed the surface of the meaningful connections between early Christianity and the synagogue system. Tim did not bother to mention them at all. Why do you suppose that is?

    I didn’t mention those connections because they don’t exist. If I had been talking about liturgy, I would have certainly shown how the Synaxis and subsequently the Liturgy of the Word corresponded with synagogue worship. But no Church father ever made a connection between synagogue government and Church government. However they did make the sorts of connections I mentioned regarding the high priest and the bishop, and there is language used in the New Testament that indicates some influence of the Sanhedrin organization on the Church. Also with the Essene movement which you didn’t address – especially the office of ‘mebaqqer.’

    The point in all of these connections is not that the Church explicitly adopted any exact system already in place but that she drew typologically from all of them, understanding herself to be the fulfillment of not only the Sanhedrin but also of the temple cult. For there was no forgiveness of sin at the synagogue – but only at the temple. But there *is* forgiveness of sin at every Church via the Blood of Christ.

    The Church participated in the true High Priesthood of Christ, who was the fulfillment of all the archetypes – Melchizedek, the Levitical priesthood, the filial priesthood, the patriarchal priesthood and the royal priesthood. The liturgy of the Church was everything that all of the Jewish liturgies and hierarchies foreshadowed: the Synagogue, the Temple, the priesthood, the judges, the Sanhedrin, the prophets, the patriarchs, the kingdom of Israel and the tabernacle. That’s the point. Nothing you said shows that I’ve ignored any particular aspect to a fault in my argument. This nullifies most of the rest of what you say about the imperfections of the Jewish leadership at the first century. Of course the leadership was bad at the time – that’s why Jesus came to establish the Church! And the New Covenant is enacted on better promises than the Old Covenant according the book of Hebrews.

    In any event, the office of the high priest in NT times, contrary to Tim’s assertion, was not a clear picture of a bishop surrounded by a presbyteriate. His analysis is superficial and based upon a simple observation of mere form.

    I think the refutation of this is already clear but to reiterate, my point is not the least bit dependent on a perfect ( or even a decent) hierarchical structure in the temple, the Sanhedrin, or anywhere. It is simply irrelevant. My point is that the Church drew on a vast number of current Jewish themes including reformist themes from movements like the Essenes. These themes and structures were patterns that foreshadowed and were superseded by the Church Christ founded. In no way was the Church limited to the imperfections of the current Jewish government. If she fulfilled anything at all she fulfilled the (correct) idea of the Jewish government and priesthood not the reality of the current Sanhedrin, just as Jesus fulfilled the (correct) idea of the Law; He was not the fulfillment of the misuse of the Law by the Pharisees!

    Taken as a whole, the polity of Israel moving into the NT looks a great deal like a Presbyterian system.

    No, it doesn’t look like that. Every bit of evidence you’ve given to show that it does points at least as much to episcopal hierarchy as to a Presbyterian. If the evidence points so strongly there, then why did the entire Church miss it by the second century? Why are you in such a better place to judge the NT data than those whose grandfathers walked with the Apostles and by men like St. Ignatius of Antioch who sat at the feet of the Apostles and learned directly from them? You know Calvin rejected St. Ignatius of Antioch as a “nauseating absurdity.” Do you agree with Calvin or do you think that St. Ignatius, disciple of St. John and friend of St. Polycarp, was badly mistaken?

  69. My recent post and recorded lecture on “Christian worship in the First Century” will help shed some light on that fact that the “Liturgy of the Word” considered in isolation was a fairly direct continuation of the Synagogue liturgy. This liturgy existed as a separate liturgy called the “Synaxis” for centuries. This liturgy was gradually merged with the Eucharistic liturgy starting from the fourth century and became what we know as the mass. The two appear to be con-celebrated as early as the second century (cf. St. Justin Martyr) on special occasions (such as the baptism rite he describes).

    The scholar cited by Tim Prussic appears to think that the Synaxis was the central aspect of Christian liturgy. But this is not a defensible claim. The Church fathers repeatedly identify the Eucharistic liturgy as the central act of Christian worship.

  70. Tim, thanks for the quick response. I’m slow moving as I’ve got myself wrapped around too many axles. I’m sure you understand, but you appear not to let that slow you down! Well done.

    You wrote: “In fact, as far as we know each city only had one synagogue and therefore only one “archisynagogos” and this matches the one bishop per city rule better the unlimited number of presbyterian pastors per city. So his point does not prove anything.”

    Well, there were hundreds of synagogues in Jerusalem (see the Anchor Bible Dictionary entry on “Synagogue”; some scholars estimate up to 360 in that one city alone. Further, as I wrote, the archisynagogos was appointed by the elders. This is hardly a view of the Bishop in the prelatic sense. Also, I’ve openly confessed that this history doesn’t “prove” anything, but it does guide our reading of the NT.

    “My point is that the Church drew on a vast number of current Jewish themes including reformist themes from movements like the Essenes.”

    That may be your point now – in the rebuttal to my critique – but it was not the point in the article. The object in the article appears to have been hand picking a few examples that give the appearance of supporting the prelacy of the early church. Since I pressed you on this issue, you’ve opened up to affirm that there is far more involved, even at a local level, than the mere forms you mentioned in your article. I assume we’ll discuss the sacrificial aspect or the eucharistic liturgy down the road, so I won’t broach that yet.

    Your final series of questions is telling but not helpful. I disagree with some of the fathers on some issues because I judge the data differently. Just like you. Or will you deny private judgment? In any event, how long does it take to fall into error, Tim? In my studies of church history, I’ve noticed that things can fall apart pretty rapidly. The only unchanging standard, however, is the Word of God. It’s the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture that must be the final word on this and all issues for Christians.

  71. Tim,

    You said:

    Well, there were hundreds of synagogues in Jerusalem (see the Anchor Bible Dictionary entry on “Synagogue”; some scholars estimate up to 360 in that one city alone.

    You’re right I was wrong.

    Further, as I wrote, the archisynagogos was appointed by the elders. This is hardly a view of the Bishop in the prelatic sense.

    Again – you’re right on this point (as far as I know). And if the synagogue was the model for the Church then you would be right that the Jewish model for authority would lean towards Presbyterian polity. But several points work against that theory:

    1. The Synagogue is *not* the biblical model of authority. How do we know? It’s not even biblical. It was not the religious authority established by God. It was established by the custom of the Jews after the Babylonian exile. i.e. it was not established on divine authority. ( In contradistinction to all the types that I said the hierarchy fulfilled).
    2. The Church fathers never compared Church leadership to the synagogues
    3. The New Testament never compares the Church leadership to the synagogues

    It is pretty safe to conclude that the synagogue route is a misguided one although I concede the points above. That’s what I get for opening my mouth about stuff I don’t actually know. :-)

    “My point is that the Church drew on a vast number of current Jewish themes including reformist themes from movements like the Essenes.”

    That may be your point now – in the rebuttal to my critique – but it was not the point in the article.

    On the contrary, in section (IV.a) I explained that the NT hierarchical structure was the fulfillment of the following:

    1. Jewish Covenantal Structures
    2. Jewish Familial Structures
    3. The Levitical Priesthood
    4. The Temple Cult
    5. The Essene movement – especially ‘mebaqqer’ (This is repeated in section IV.b)
    6. A merging of convert priests from Reformist movements with traditional Jewish priesthood (footnote 116)

    In Section (IV.c) I argued that the clerical priesthood was solely by participation in Christ’s true priesthood and that Christ’s priesthood was a fulfillment of:

    7. The Jewish High Priesthood (also showed the priestly overtones in the word ‘episkopos’ )
    8. The priesthood of Melchizedek
    9. The royal priesthood
    10. The patriarchal priesthood
    11. The filial priesthood

    I conclude with, “The priesthood of Christ is a fulfillment and a perfection of all of these priestly types, but most directly, that of Melchizedek.”

    In Section (IV.d) I argue that:

    12. Jesus’ establishment of the Apostles was a deliberate parallel of the establishment of the establishment of the high priesthood along with the Levites in Exodus 24.
    13. The term “binding and loosing” as confered upon the Apostles was a technical term associated specifically with the power of the Sanhedrin.
    14. That the Apostles were entrusted with ruling authority regarding the new law in a way that fulfilled the OT type of Moses and Mount Sinai. (In support I quoted Chrysostom and Isho’dad of Merv)

    Again I argued that the Christian priesthood was foreshadowed by both:

    15. The Teachers of the Law
    16. The royal priesthood

    And again I said,”Thus, we see the need for a convergence of all aspects of the priestly vocation.”

    In Section (IV.f) I quoted Origen and Chrysotom showing that the New sacrifice of the Christian priesthood was a fulfillment of the OT sacrifices.

    At the beginning of section (V.a) I said, “We have provided evidence that Holy Orders is consistent with natural hierarchy, is a true fulfillment of the Old Testament priestly types through participation in Christ”

    In section (VI.C) I argued that the NT ordination rituals were fulfillments of their OT types.

    In section (II.b) I argued that the NT model of Church authority was consistent with the top-down OT model of hierarchy.

    In section (III.a) I argued that:

    17. “The first century Jewish hierarchy, which had at its head the Sanhedrin, a council of elders, was one obvious and immediate contextual reference for the Christian clergy.” (The bishop surrounded by presbyters was a reflection of the high priest surrounded by elders)
    18. The Christian hierarchy was a deliberate replication of the Moses, Aaron, and the seventy elders in Exodus 24.
    19. That the seventy were “called bishops, as of old elders were called bishops.” (quote from Isho’dad of Merv)
    20. That the usage of the term ‘presbyter’ by the early Church indicates an association with the Sanhedrin. (footnote 60)

    So no, in fact, those points were not in reaction to your point about the synagogue. This is exactly what I argued in the paper.

    Since I pressed you on this issue, you’ve opened up to affirm that there is far more involved, even at a local level, than the mere forms you mentioned in your article.

    Well, no not really. I gave at least 20 examples of fulfillments and foreshadowings above which are well founded and testified by Scripture, early Church fathers, history, and reason. You gave a single example of a fulfillment that is not supported by any of them. So I’m not opening up to that for the reasons I gave above.

    Your final series of questions is telling but not helpful.

    What does it mean to be telling but not helpful? Helpful towards what end?

    I disagree with some of the fathers on some issues because I judge the data differently. Just like you. Or will you deny private judgment?

    I don’t deny private judgment but the difference between how we approach the faith is that I judge my interpretation of Scripture by the fathers and you judge the fathers by your interpretation of Scripture. This is the main difference between the Catholic hermeneutic paradigm and the Protestant HP.

    In my studies of church history, I’ve noticed that things can fall apart pretty rapidly.

    You mean, in your study of early Church history. But in your study of Reformation history you dont believe that it falls apart so rapidly. You think it’s still together after 500 years — that the Reformers recovered the gospel and have preserved it to you 500 years later. Yet you think the successors of the Apostles lost much of it within a generation. Because we know that in the second century, the whole Church (every single Christian everywhere) was organized under a single bishop just like the Catholic structure today. We also know (as you will see later in the article) that the Church understood liturgy to be a sacrifice. How did that happen? How did the whole Church get it so wrong so quickly? I think you need to answer this question even if its “telling” and you think its “unhelpful.”

  72. I disagree with some of the fathers on some issues because I judge the data differently. Just like you. Or will you deny private judgment?

    Lecturer: “Apples come from apple trees. They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Some are sweet, some are tart, and some are both sweet and tart. They ways in which apples can be prepared for consumption or for everyday use outnumber, almost exponentially, the varieties of apples themselves. Apples are good for the teeth and gums. Apples… And this concludes my lecture on apples.”

    Student 1 [asking another student at a later date]: “I missed the lecture what was it about?”

    Student 2 [attended the lecture]: “I’m pretty confident it was about apples.”

    Student 3 [also attended the lecture]: “It was about golf cleats.”

    No one is opposed to private judgment, but there needs to be intellectual honesty applied in rational discourse. If you are intellectually honest, you will not even pretend to appeal to the Early Fathers to justify your position, because they are mutually exclusive.

  73. Joe, actually I would say he is being intellectually honest in saying that he disagrees with some of what the fathers say. It’s really frustrating to try and dialogue with Protestants who pretend that they agree with everything that (e.g) St. Irenaeus said. It’s much easier to cover some ground where Protestants have the honesty to say that they believe that ‘wherever the saints disagree with my personal interpretation of the bible they are wrong and I am right.’

  74. Yeah, I got that after I submitted it… but it was too late. Kudos to you, Tim P., for being intellectually honest. I incorrectly applied “Student 3’s” statement to you. Student 3’s statement should instead be, “It was about apples, but I disagree with the lecturer on most of what he said about the ancient history of apples because that isn’t the way I see it.”.

    But even so, the more I think about it, the more irrelevant my analogy is to this situation. I don’t know why I pegged you, Tim P., to be playing a game of Early Fathers Red Rover. You aren’t, you’re being intellectually honest. I’ll save my analogy for the appropriate time.

  75. Right and Tim P. is also correct that you and I disagree with some stuff that the fathers said. But there are two big differences. 1. We disagree with far less and 2. Our principled reason for disagreeing with the fathers is the voice of the Church rather than our personal interpretation of Scripture.

    One thing I disagree with St. Irenaeus on is the doctrine of Millenarianism. But this isn’t because of my personal interpretation of Scripture led me to believe that such a belief was false. Several other early fathers also held this belief. It is because the Church denies this belief.

    On the other hand, one example of St. Irenaeus’ belief that Tim P would disagree with (correct me if I’m wrong) was that the Blessed Virgin Mary became “the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race.” I am assuming that Tim P would think St. Irenaeus was wrong there and that Mary did not become the cause of salvation for the whole human race. He rejects it, not because the Church rejects it, but because he did not arrive at that conclusion by his reading of Scripture.

    I’ll be honest, I didn’t arrive at that conclusion either. In fact, this line was repulsive to me when I first read it (in the Catholic Catechism!) But when I found out that it was from St. Irenaeus, disciple of St. Polycarp.. I said a four letter word (and it wasn’t ‘amen’!!!!). I remember that moment pretty well, I sat in my car outside my office, reading that little catechism my co-worker gave me. How on earth did such a power-house as St. Irenaeus screw up the faith so bad? Hmm.. Maybe it was me who had the faith screwed up… (Another four letter word)…

  76. […] is a continuation of the third part of my review of Tim Troutman’s article on Holy Orders over at Called to […]

  77. Gents, here’s the next installment. Thanks for the dialogue.

    http://wp.me/pVf8p-6S

  78. Tim, I appreciate the attempt at interaction. But I’m going to level with you: it’s hard for me to keep taking this rebuttal seriously when you keep making claims like “Tim’s authority really is not the sacred Word” and “Tim brings up only four texts of the NT. This is quite astounding to me.” I stopped reading it at that last claim. I’m more than willing to dialogue of course but I’m not going to go through the rest of your response especially when I’ve shown every claim you’ve made (with the exception of the two I conceded above) to be false and you just keep right on making more false statements without refuting my rebuttals or retracting your mistakes. That’s not dialogue. That’s monologue.

  79. Some juicy bits:

    Tim is a serious man and his writings should be respected.

    Followed by:

    His reader will soon find that Tim’s authority really is not the sacred Word. In fact, Tim spends most of his energy explaining away the text to make room for later developments.… Let our readers judge [hasn’t the jugement already been made???]… He posits verbal confusion in the NT… note this particular defensive tactic… [and] he generates historical confusion… Tim offers a good deal of historical conjecture in his article…I understand that his purpose is merely to show that the episcopacy of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is not at odds with the NT, but I wonder who his intended audience is [motive? well…]… he’s published “Holy Orders” in part as a proselytizing apologetic against Reformed theology and those who hold to it [ah, I see].

    [Tim P.] will make manifest the way a very serious Roman Catholic handles Scripture… I am very interested in knowing how a serious Roman Catholic thinker […] reads Scripture… I think that my reader will learn a great deal simply by seeing for himself how Tim handles the text of Scripture…

    So, how does a serious Catholic handle Scripture? Apparently, he deliberately distorts because his motives are merely to proselytize Protestants (evil Catholics) and offer up flimsy defenses for his own doctrines.

    Tim’s authority really is not the sacred Word.
    Tim spends most of his energy explaining away the text to make room for later developments.
    Tim makes use of two defensive tactics in his handling of the text of Scripture. 1) He posits verbal confusion in the NT, and 2) he generates historical confusion.
    Tim offers a good deal of historical conjecture [which is] inappropriate if used as a basis on which to interpret the text of the Bible [and that’s what he’s using it for].
    Tim [astoundingly] brings up only four texts of the NT.
    [Tim’s] purpose is merely to show that the episcopacy of the Roman Catholic Church is not at odds with the NT, but I wonder who his intended audience is.
    [Tim] needs to spend far more time and energy in the Scripture.
    …etc…etc…

    Applying false motives… such respect of Tim’s writings…

    Ok. I got the part where Tim P. doesn’t like Tim T.’s position, his writing style, his motives, or his perception that Tim T. just really doesn’t handle Scripture very well (just as well as any serious Catholic)… but I didn’t see any solid refutation of Tim’s argument. Lots of assertions, but nothing but Tim P.’s personal opinion to back them up.

  80. Tim T., and *everyone* in this discussion,

    Tim, this section, in particular, of your #75 comment, is very familiar to me, from my own journey:

    “In fact, this line was repulsive to me when I first read it (in the Catholic Catechism!) But when I found out that it was from St. Irenaeus, disciple of St. Polycarp.. I said a four letter word (and it wasn’t ‘amen’!!!!). I remember that moment pretty well, I sat in my car outside my office, reading that little catechism my co-worker gave me. How on earth did such a power-house as St. Irenaeus screw up the faith so bad? Hmm.. Maybe it was me who had the faith screwed up…”

    Very, very familiar to me, as a former Protestant. I’ll be brutally honest here, in regard to my own long-time Reformed Baptist (and larger Protestant) interpretative paradigm. For those years, I reached all of my conclusions, and judged others’ conclusions, about the Bible and the Fathers (to the very small extent that I even *knew* about the Fathers and what they taught), quite simply, by my personal reading and understanding of the Bible.

    To be fair, strictly speaking, I was not intentionally practicing the “solo Scriptura” that is so rampant in evangelicalism today. However, in the final analysis, creeds, confessions, early Church Fathers and what they wrote, and the beliefs of my other professing Christian peers, were all “evaluated” by my personal interpretation of Scripture.

    To be sure, I took all of the aforementioned data into *account* in my interpretation of Scripture, but the tipping point would always be, “What do I believe that the Bible teaches, as my understanding is illuminated by the Holy Spirit?” Once I reached a definite Scriptural conclusion/interpretation, I used *my personal conclusion/interpretation* to make a judgment that, for example, one creed or confession is “Biblical” than another, or this or that teaching of the Church Fathers is more “Biblical” than another teaching. The subjectivity of my paradigm never even surfaced in my mind. It wasn’t on my “radar screen,” so to speak. I didn’t even think about how incredibly arrogant it was to dismiss much of pre-Reformation Christian teaching, from the Fathers, because it didn’t fit *my personal understanding* of the Bible’s teaching.

    However, at a certain point, earlier this year, I decided that to be fair, I had to stop reading the Bible, the Fathers, and all of Church history through the “Protestant glasses” (glasses of personal interpretive autonomy, to be very honest) that I had worn for so many years. Once I made that decision, I had to stop ruling out the Catholic paradigm as a legitimate way of understanding Scripture, tradition, and Church history. Once I stopped *reflexively ruling out* the Catholic paradigm, I started seeing Catholic teaching EVERYWHERE– in Scripture, the Fathers, and in the outworking of Church history itself. The ubiquity of Catholicism became harder and harder to deny.

    The discipline of priestly celibacy is a great example of a practice that became eminently reasonable to me *when I stopped ruling out* the Catholic paradigm of understanding. If Paul teaches, in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, that celibacy affords more undivided devotion to the Lord than the married life, then who was I to say the Catholic Church is wrong to require celibacy of priests in the Roman rite of the Church? Priesthood is a very high calling, and it makes perfect sense that the Church would want many, perhaps most, of its priest to be undivided in attention to the Lord, in the exact way that Paul describes in the above verses.

    For another example, if fourth-century Christians were already affirming the Immaculate Conception, could I so easily deny it as a Christian truth, simply because I didn’t see it explicitly taught in the Scriptures? Even if I believed that the Immaculate Conception *contradicted* other things in the Scriptures, how was I so fit to be a “judge” of these things, when the Fathers, from even earlier than the fourth century, expressed very high thoughts of Mary, while I, as a Protestant, 1, 800 years later, barely thought of her at all? Had I, as a Christian layman, somehow developed the enlightenment and discernment that the early Church Fathers *lacked*?

    Finally, I could not countenance such an arrogant conclusion on my part. Objective study of these and many other issues (brought about my willingness to take off my Protestant glasses, willingness for which I thank GOD) brought me back to the Catholic Church. I humbly but earnestly plead with my Protestant brothers and sisters to take off their (possible) Protestant glasses and objectively consider the evidence of Scripture, the Fathers, and Church history. You may just be led home to the Church, as I was.

  81. Tim, I’m perfectly willing to say that the church is subordinate to the Scriptures. Are you willing to say that the Scriptures are subordinate to the church?

    As to my critiques, take ‘em or leave ‘em. You did only interact with four texts of Scripture and your interactions were largely explaining the text away. It is clear that you’re making room for your view. Anyone reading your essay can plainly see that. Our major disagreement is one of authority. If you think this has been a monologue, I don’t know what to tell you. I guess I’ll see you around in cyberspace.

  82. Tim P,

    Are you willing to say that the Scriptures are subordinate to the church?

    That’s not what Catholic believe. Please read Vatican II’s Dei Verbum (or you can check out what the Reformed blogs have to say about the Catholic Church .. whichever one you think is a more accurate representation).

    You did only interact with four texts of Scripture and your interactions were largely explaining the text away.

    In fact I interacted with more than four passages of Scriptures so your statement is demonstrably wrong as it stands. I did spend some time refuting your previous claim about the NC Church fulfilling OT types by showing more than 20 examples of the contrary to your claim. You just ignored it and moved on to this claim so I wont go up and count the passages I interacted with but its probably in the neighborhood of 20. It’s at least five and thats all I need to refute your claim. Anyone who wants verification can just hit page up a few times.

    I suppose what you were trying to say was that I only interacted with four passages concerning the ordination of the Apostles. That’s also false since in addition to the four NT passages I also quoted Exodus 24 and dealt with the interaction and fulfillment of the OT type.

    Our major disagreement is one of authority.

    Ultimately yes but we haven’t gotten that far yet. Right now we’re just dealing with basic perception of reality. You keep making indefensible claims that are easily falsifiable, and when called to defend them you just drop them and make further indefensible claims.

    You’re digging into your presbyterian position and ignoring facts and reason. Believe it or not – I’m on *your* side. I don’t want you to lose this discussion – I want you to win it. But you can’t win by ignoring facts and stating false things.

  83. Christopher – thanks for sharing that. I know exactly how you feel! BTW, I added you on Facebook.

  84. Tim P,

    Tim, I’m perfectly willing to say that the church is subordinate to the Scriptures

    But you attend a church that tries to be biblical, do you not? So you are saying the church’s interpretation of scripture is subordinate to your interpretation of scripture. Is that a fair way of rephrasing your position. Why not?

  85. Randy, my private interpretation of Scripture has no public authority, but the church’s interpretation does have public authority – a ministerial authority. The written Word is the constitution – it has supreme authority, ruling both the ministerial and private interpretations. Privately, I can think the church’s (my local church or whatever) interp is wrong, but the church is not subordinate to me. Rather, I am to it. As far as the public ministry of the Word, I submit myself to the church’s (i.e., my local edlers’) interp. Privately, I may disagree, which is permissible as the church itself is under the final authority of the Word itself. Thus, I say the church is subordinate to the Scripture. Will you say that the Scripture is subordinate to the church?

  86. Tim T.:

    “That’s not what Catholic believe. Please read Vatican II’s Dei Verbum (or you can check out what the Reformed blogs have to say about the Catholic Church .. whichever one you think is a more accurate representation)”

    I have not read that, but I hope to. Right now, I’m reading you. I’m looking at YOUR handling of the text of Scripture. I’m trying to call a spade a spade. I don’t read Reformed blogs for info on the Catholic Church. I’m reading you for that.

    Tim, in the section that I was reviewing, where you try to establish the distinction of orders from the NT, you examine exactly four texts. No more, no less. Go count ‘em. Page up or whatever. You deal with other texts of Scripture elsewhere, but in the section where you set out to make your case from the NT, *the specific one I was reviewing*, you mention only four texts. What’s more, if you think I’m not being fair, please remember that I almost beg my readers to come read you. I tell them to come read you first then come back to read me. You don’t do that. All your responses are here on your blog. You pick statements out of my writing, pass over various arguments, and present your response here. (This is blogging, after all.) So, I think I’ve gone out of my way to represent you fairly and to make sure my readers read you. I don’t shrink back from writing what I think, but I do value fair debate, which should be obvious to you.

    “Believe it or not – I’m on *your* side. I don’t want you to lose this discussion – I want you to win it. But you can’t win by ignoring facts and stating false things.”

    I can’t believe that, as I have no idea what it means. If, by it, you mean that you want the truth to prevail, that’s an exceedingly odd way of saying it.

    Joe: good cherry picking, homey. For what it’s worth, I think Tim is very serious and to be taken seriously. I think he’s smart and articulate. I think he’s dedicated. But with all that, I think his exegesis is very weak. You evidently think that combination of thoughts to be comical, but it’s really very simple. Tim’s set out to show that his position is not at odds with the NT data. I think he’s done (in specific places, not everywhere) a bad job of that. I’ve shown why I think that and actually analyzed his exegesis. I’ve not JUST made accusations, but I have summarized my thoughts about Tim’s authority. You can pick statements from the last section and ignore everything else if you want, but hopefully readers of this will also go to read me, as your representation of my writing leaves a good deal to be desired.

  87. Tim P-

    Sorry for the frustration in my previous response.

    Right now, I’m reading you. I’m looking at YOUR handling of the text of Scripture.

    Now that you’ve read me saying that Scripture is not subordinate to the Church, why did you ask Randy if he believed it when I’ve already told you that Catholics don’t believe that?

    Tim, in the section that I was reviewing, where you try to establish the distinction of orders from the NT, you examine exactly four texts. No more, no less. Go count ‘em. Page up or whatever. You deal with other texts of Scripture elsewhere, but in the section where you set out to make your case from the NT, *the specific one I was reviewing*, you mention only four texts.

    Alright. So the section in question is III.a in case anyone wants to scroll up and check this count.

    1. Acts 1:20
    2. 1 Peter 5:1
    3. Philippians 1:1
    4. Titus 1:5-9
    5. Exodus 24:1
    6. Luke 10:1
    7. Acts 12:17
    8. Acts 15
    9. Acts 21:17-19
    10. Galatians 1:19
    11. Galatians 2:12
    12. Acts 15:12-14 (repeat)
    13. Acts 21:18 (repeat)

    That’s more than four.

    I tell them to come read you first then come back to read me. You don’t do that. All your responses are here on your blog.

    I appreciate that. The reason I haven’t gone out of my way to tell visitors to read your response is because you’ve already put the link to your articles. I don’t mind you responding on your blog instead of this com-box, but I haven’t taken anything you said out of context (or if I have – please show me where and how). I want this thread to show some examples of what types of rebuttals might come up to this article and how I would respond in case anyone wants to read it. I hope they do read your articles for the record and I appreciate your irenic tone in the responses. (Let’s try to avoid words like “homey” though. I know its probably meant in a harmless way but words like that can easily be mistaken on the internet.)

    And yes, I want truth to prevail even if I have a really weird way of saying it. Everyone wins when we arrive at the truth. That’s why statements like the four passages claim above and that the typology argument was absent in my paper needed to be shown to be false so we can get one step closer to the truth.

  88. Ok some responses to your rebuttal.

    I think we will end up getting to this down the road, but we don’t see the Apostles setting up prelatic bishopricks, but presbyteries (pluralities of elders in every town/church).

    Which city do you know of did not have a bishop in the early Church? If the Apostles universally established churches governed by presbyteries, then we should know of at least one. Which one is it? Also, if you can only show such a city by NT references, this presupposes the anti-thesis of my repeated argument regarding the technicalization of terminology. I’ve seen you dismiss that argument, but I haven’t seen you show why it’s false. So if you think the argument is false, then please show why. Then if you can establish that the terms were technical at that time, then that will open the NT up for usage as proof that certain churches were established with presbyterial government. (It would still take some work to show that.) Then I would be interested to see your theory on how the Church universally rejected that system within a couple generations.

    We see the Apostles linking themselves with the local elders, not to a level of officers above the elders that rule them.

    Where do we see this?

    If Tim would just affirm that the monepiscopacy was a later development, there would be no argument.

    Some of this is getting ahead of the article. I make further arguments in the next sections that make it clear that even if there were multiple bishops and only bishops and deacons in that city, it does not refute monepiscopacy.

    I first want to show that it is evident that the terms “bishop” and “elder” in the NT refer to the same office. In Acts 20:17-18, Paul summons the “elders” of the Ephesian church to him at Miletus and mentions to them to care for the flock over whom the Holy Spirit has made them bishops (vs. 28) and to feed them.

    This presupposes that the terms were already technical in the NT. I have argued that they weren’t and you haven’t addressed that argument yet; you’ve only asserted that it’s false.

    Paul says there should be elders in every town (which was also Paul’s practice – Acts 14:23), and then moves on to describe the qualifications of an elder, which he calls a bishop in vs. 7.

    This passes over my argument that if he were referring to the same office, it would be redundant. I see that you mention it later, but you make a single comparison to Acts 20 and then go on to assert “there simply is no redundancy.” But in Acts 20, he is not giving two lists for (supposedly) one distinct office under two names. He is referring to the same group in two places under two names. It is not the reference to a singular group by two names that causes redundancy. That is not redundant.

    Not redundant:

    1. Parents help children learn. Mothers and fathers are natural teachers.

    Redundant:

    2. The qualities of a good dad are kindness, gentleness and love. The qualities of a good father are kindness, love, and mercy.

    The passage in question is far more like 2 and the passage you cite in defense is much more like 1. Your argument does not show a lack of redundancy.

    Tim’s assertion that Paul has a distinction between elders and bishops is not only unusual but also lacks scholarly credibility: “It is thus natural to suppose that the offices [of elder and bishop -TP] are one and the same in the Pastorals.

    Depending on what you mean here, this is fully compatible with the main theory of monepiscopacy that I’ve advanced in the paper. You haven’t arrived there yet so I guess you haven’t read it. But most everything you’ve said so far is irrelevant because it’s all compatible with the theory that I posit as possible and maybe probable. It is conceivable that there were only two distinct offices (deacons and the other guys) in the NT era. This is compatible with monepiscopacy so long as those (other guys) have the full authority of the Church. My point throughout this section is that there are other possible readings because of the lack of technical development at the time the NT was written when those words had only been Christianized for a few decades.

    Tim’s second argument makes use of the second tactic mentioned above, which is to assert that there might have been roving prelatic bishops for a time, and that Paul would thus have been addressing them. Assuming for the sake of argument that the NT did distinguish bishops from elders, small towns certainly would not have had a bishop. The problem is that Philippi was not one of those small towns. Paul addressed the “bishops and deacons” of the church of Philippi.

    My argument doesn’t depend on the size of Philippi. I gave the testimony of Sts. Jerome and Chrysostom as well as Petavius. All towering Church fathers who agree with me and you passed over such weighty arguments from the Church fathers to bring up the size of the city of Philippi which is entirely secondary. There are multiple explanations of the phrase used here that do not involve modern liberal scholarship getting it right where the Church fathers and martyrs got it wrong. The point is that the reference to “bishops” could be one of three things:

    1. All bishops
    2. All presbyters
    3. Presbyters and bishops

    All three of these options are fully compatible with the monepiscopacy as I’ve shown in the article.

    Tim’s reading of Titus 1 is manifestly unnatural and highly unusual.

    It’s definitely not manifest – I’m not even following what you’re saying there.

    This exhausts Tim’s exegetical work.

    Which statement I’ve shown to be false above.

    What’s more important for our readers, again, is to understand Tim’s agenda as he comes to the text of holy Scripture. Do you think he approaches God’s inerrant, infallible Word to understand it and have it guide him? Do you think that he seeks the mind of God in the text of Scripture? Will God’s Word rule Tim and the church, or will the church rule the Word of God?

    This is slanderous. You’re calling into question my fidelity to the Word and thats an ad hominem attack, not an argument. Furthermore you’re asking questions and making assertions to insinuate that I have some sort of underhanded agenda. None of these questions are arguments, they don’t show anything. The Church is the Servant of the Word as the Catholic Church herself teaches, and I aim to be a servant of the Church.

  89. Randy, my private interpretation of Scripture has no public authority, but the church’s interpretation does have public authority – a ministerial authority. The written Word is the constitution – it has supreme authority, ruling both the ministerial and private interpretations.

    I am having trouble figuring out what this looks like in practice. The written Word has supreme authority. How is that supreme authority exercised? Is it ever? Is that just words to cover up the central role human judgement is playing?

    Privately, I can think the church’s (my local church or whatever) interp is wrong, but the church is not subordinate to me. Rather, I am to it. As far as the public ministry of the Word, I submit myself to the church’s (i.e., my local edlers’) interp. Privately, I may disagree, which is permissible as the church itself is under the final authority of the Word itself. Thus, I say the church is subordinate to the Scripture.

    So you can be thinking you local elders are wrong about a few things. You submit as far as preaching goes. But you still think they are wrong. I suppose if it is a minor matter one might humor the elders. There must be a point at which the matter would be too serious to handle this way. Then one would have to simply refuse to submit to the elders and look for a new church.

    The fact that scripture never addresses where this breaking point is makes me think this kind of submission is not what scripture is referring to. It seems like a critical thing to get right. When to break up a church. The only answer I can find biblical support for is Never.

    The alternative is actual submission. That is assuming the error is with you and not with the church. Don’t think the church is wrong but I will play nice because I am such a great Christian. Ask God to give you the grace to submit fully and unreservedly.

    Will you say that the Scripture is subordinate to the church?

    I would never say that. I would say any conflict between scripture and the church is a result of me misunderstanding one or the other. It is like me asking you whether the letter of Paul are subordinate to the gospels. The question presupposes a conflict that I deny exists.

  90. Thanks for the add, Tim T. :-)

    Tim P., you write that you submit to your elders’ interpretation of Scripture, even when you disagree with it. How far are you willing to go in your submission though? If your elders eventually come to interpretations on, say, baptismal regeneration, which disagree with “historic Reformed theology,” would you still submit to these elders? If they adopted the Federal Vision understanding, would you stay and submit, or would you find another Reformed church that matched your interpretation of Scripture?

  91. Christopher et al,

    “How far are you willing to go in your submission though?”

    A fair question…and certainly one I don’t have a good answer to. This seems, if I may be so bold to say so though, an area where RC’s & Protestants are equally in the same tough boat. I’ve been ruminating on this recently, and I would appreciate any/all input. :)

    Let’s say my Pastor (God forbid!) announces tomorrow that it is perfectly acceptable for practicing homosexuals to be pastors in our denomination. (If that rankles, pick any sin – it doesn’t really matter). That would give me pretty darned good reason to think that something was amiss, and I could say (in full coherence with good Protestant traditions) that our Pastor/our denomination had wandered away from Christianity.

    But the same question seems to potentially arise for our RC brethren. Say the Pope tomorrow (God forbid!) announces (Ex Cathedra) that practicing homosexuals can be priests – what does one do then? I suppose Catholics would regard this as a logical impossibility (since a Pope’s doing such would conflict with previous church teachings, and the church as the body of Christ cannot come into conflict with itself in such a way). Fair enough – let’s pick another example: Tomorrow the Pope announces that, once again, indulgences are for sale again (ie, along with the requirements to take confession, to sincerely repent, etc, he also announces that almsgiving will once again be allowed…or even required to receive plenary or partial indulgences).

    This isn’t some whiz-bang argument or anything like that – it just seems to me that both Protestants and RCs can wind up in situations where it’s hard to know how far one should be willing to go as regards submission. Does this seem to others like a situation where both RC’s & Protestants are going to face some troubling decisions, or do some of the actual Catholics here have another take on it? Hopefully I ask an edifying question, and if so I look forward to any replies. :-)

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin :)

    PS: Depending on how much we want to get hung up on the example, Catholic Encyclopedia informs me that 1567 Pope Pius V “canceled all grants of indulgences involving any fees or other financial transactions.” This does not suggest that such a move was made infallibly and thus could, in principle, be changed (alternately, while all current grants of indulgences for fees were canceled, perhaps more could in principle be issued). Moreover, the fact that the sale of indulgences continued after Trent’s forbiddence of “criminal gains” from their sale also suggests that, in principle, indulgences could be sold again. Regardless, though, the point isn’t to debate the RC church’s hypothetical future ability to sell indulgences – the point is to question whether in fact both RC’s & Protestants might have to face troubling choices about when to submit to a church and, having offered submission, how far it goes…

  92. Benjamin Kiel

    Actually if you want to approach it that way then from the Protestant perspective of the world Catholics are in a far worse position!

    Because we do believe in the One, True, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as a visible reality we have a bigger problem. If I were to conclude that the Magisterium had failed and contradicted the Deposit of Faith I wouldn’t have anywhere at all to go. My only two choices are to go down with the ship on the Barque of Peter or drown at sea because I wouldn’t have the option of jumping confessions. You Protestants seem, in the end, to be able to make peace with picking a new church/ confession / denomination / pastor but that just isn’t an option for Catholics.

    An example of what drowning on my own might look like can be seen in the Sedevacantist sects. There are some ‘Catholics’ in various sects out with varying degrees of craziness that attempt to have it both ways. Some of these groups have some history behind them, but most are from the post Vatican II era. The common theme among them is the idea that “The Chair of Peter is Vacant” and the basic reasoning is that Pope John XXIII (or Pope Paul VI) was an anti-pope and three is no valid Pope now. Yet they still claim to be Catholic and literally more Catholic than the Pope. Their position really is illogical. The Society Saint Pius the Tenth (the SSPX or Lefeverites) is not quite in this category as a whole, in that they do not deny the Pope’s validity or the truth of the Church but seem to be bent on making the Pope revise Vatican II to their standards. Two things are very clear in all my encounters with these groups: Many of the adherents are extremely devout and love God and the Church greatly; and there is a fundamental lack of humility combined with conceptual inflexibility that make resolving differences very difficult.

    Say the Pope tomorrow (God forbid!) announces (Ex Cathedra) that practicing homosexuals can be priests – what does one do then? I suppose Catholics would regard this as a logical impossibility (since a Pope’s doing such would conflict with previous church teachings, and the church as the body of Christ cannot come into conflict with itself in such a way). Fair enough – let’s pick another example: Tomorrow the Pope announces that, once again, indulgences are for sale again.

    There is some truth here. I have to acknowledge that the Church may say or do something that doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, there are many things within the Church I’d like to fix. I like and love and agree with Benedict XVI, but I can easily imagine a Pope that I was ‘simpatico’ with. I’ve flirted with Sedevacantism myself and still find myself attracted to their Churches, but… I have no real choice but to trust fully in the Church.

    I won’t go into all the reasons I do trust in the Church, but the Number One is Grace. By the Grace of Lord Jesus Christ I have Faith in Him and in His Church and in His promise that the Gates of hell will never prevail against it. When I rest in that Faith, the worries you mention above become irrelevant. When I rest in Faith the need to worry myself about the real problems in the Church today or the ones I imagine for tomorrow evaporates. That doesn’t mean I ignore or paper over today’s problems, just that in my heart and my relationship with Jesus and His Church they aren’t a problem. And because of that I have total Faith they won’t be a problem for me tomorrow.

    And honestly if what I think diverges from the Church today or tomorrow, I hope to lay aside my opinion and pray for understanding. In fact I have done this as a young adult. Abortion, celibacy, male clergy, homosexuality, and especially contraception were all doctrines that I thought I knew better than the Church and I had to learn humility. Eventually I came to accept the Church’s teaching FIRST and then debate my own understanding.

  93. Benjamin (#91):

    The two examples you give of how Catholics’ “submission” to the Church might be tested are not doctrinal pronouncements at all, and thus are not covered by the doctrine of infallibility. Both are cases in which the pope would be making disciplinary decisions that do not comport with her developed moral understanding. Catholics would not be bound to agree with such decisions. In fact, I would argue that they would be duty-bound to reject them.

    The sort of submission made by Catholics as such is absolute when it’s a question of a doctrine taught with the Church’s full authority. But not all doctrines are so taught; in that case, the submission required to the Magisterium is “religious assent,” which is provisional rather than absolute. As for administrative or pastoral decisions by bishops or the pope, the presumption is that obedience is required. But that presumption is defeasible in the case of decisions that arguably involve ordering or sanctioning actions that would be immoral according to Church teaching itself.

    Best,
    Mike

  94. Tim T, #88:

    Sorry it’s been so long. I’ve been traveling. I do appreciate you response. Here’s something to work with:

    You: “Which city do you know of did not have a bishop in the early Church?”

    This is a switch of topic. I’m talking about the Bible. You’re talking about the early church.

    “If the Apostles universally established churches governed by presbyteries, then we should know of at least one. Which one is it?”

    This is what my last two posts have been about. The congregations in the synagogue system were each led by a plurality of elders. The apostolic practice in the NT picks this up directly. I’ve already shown that Paul sets up a plurality of elders in every town (Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5). When Paul wants to speak to the established leadership of, say, Ephesus, he has the elders assemble (Acts 20). When he wants to address the officers of another large city like Philippi, he writes to the bishops and deacons of that city. The apostles, after setting up elders, join themselves to that permanent leadership structure (Acts 15, 1 Pet 5, 2 Jn 1, 3, Jn 1). All these things were already brought up prior.

    “I’ve seen you dismiss that [technicalization – TP] argument, but I haven’t seen you show why it’s false. So if you think the argument is false, then please show why.”

    Tim, my argument is that the terms (e.g., “bishop”) came not only to be used differently than in the NT, but that their meaning is actually at odds with the NT. I’ve already argued that “elder,” by the time of the Pastorals (also by the time of Acts 20), was a technical term. “Bishop” was not quite so, but was sometimes a descriptive term for the duties of the presbyter, and was used interchangeably with the word “elder.” Developments in the early church (in a highly hostile environment, which accounts for the fairly rapid move away from NT polity) took a different path, to be sure. But that “technicalization” is incompatible with the NT data, and is therefore to be rejected. Once again, if you’d simply say that the early church innovated and developed the prelacy, we’d not be having *this* conversation.

    You admit as much, however, is affirming the technicalization argument, which ends up rendering the NT terminology (as regards church polity) meaningless and certainly without value. Here’s how it works: I say, E = B because both are used interchangeably with reference to the same group. You say, I cannot argue that because the NT language is not technical. I can pull up scores of Scripture, but you can dismiss every text based upon this technicalization argument. You, thus, manifestly render the terminology of the NT meaningless. Further, your argument assumes the insufficiency of Scripture and renders the words of Scripture inadequate to the task of revealing God’s intention for the government of his church. In place of the Scripture, you set the church. It’s her job to make the terminology technical and, thus, organize herself in accordance with her own terminology. Thus, the technicalization argument is merely a begging the question.

    As to redundancy, you didn’t grapple at all with my argument, Tim. You wrote: “2. The qualities of a good dad are kindness, gentleness and love. The qualities of a good father are kindness, love, and mercy. ” Working with the analogy, the text would say: “Hey, Titus, you’re looking to build a group of fathers (the fatherate, if you will) that is kind, gentle, and loving. For a father must be kind, gentle, and loving because….” There’s a statement about the whole body and then an explanation of how those attributes are important to a specific member. Thus, there is no redundancy. In any event, it’s all non-technical, right? So, why bother arguing the point with me? That’s a serious question. The technicalization argument destroys the NT data, so why waste time with it? Go to the technical data of the early church, where the inspired and inerrant truth of God is.

    Finally: “You’re calling into question my fidelity to the Word and thats an ad hominem attack, not an argument.” The passage you cite is not argument, but analysis. I am trying to reveal to our readers that your authority, at the end of the day, is not the Scripture. You reveal as much with your technicalization argument. The reverse charge from you might be: “We see that Tim Prussic approaches the teachings of the early church not as authoritative. He will not have the testimonies of the church rule over him, but instead appeals to his real authority, the Bible. Tim Prussic’s real authority is the Scripture and he handles the church in light of it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to Tim Prussic what the church says. He’s willing to abandon that testimony because it’s not his real authority.” That’s not slanderous. It’s an honest analysis of where my authority is, and I think that my analysis of you is equally honest.

  95. Tim P,

    You said that “we don’t see the Apostles setting up prelatic bishopricks, but presbyteries (pluralities of elders in every town/church).”

    In reply to which I asked for an example. An example of this would necessarily involve showing a town without a bishop since that is what the prelatical bishoprick entails. Merely showing the existence of multiple elder/bishops does not disprove it. Hence this statement is false:

    This is a switch of topic. I’m talking about the Bible. You’re talking about the early church.

    I’m talking about any city whether mentioned in the bible or not, during apostolic times that didn’t have a bishop. You need to show at least one to begin making a case. Feel free to use the Bible or any historical document.

    “If the Apostles universally established churches governed by presbyteries, then we should know of at least one. Which one is it?”

    This is what my last two posts have been about.

    Yes but you haven’t shown such a thing to exist. (I should have clarified that I’m taking your argument to be that the Apostles universally established churches governed *only* by presbyteries.) Showing such a thing to exist involves showing a town to not be under a bishop. Merely referring to interchangeability of clerical titles does not prove your point as I showed in the article (see below in this response for additional explanation of my argument on technicalization).

    I’ve already shown that Paul sets up a plurality of elders in every town

    Yes, you did show that but it didn’t need to be shown. Everyone already agrees with that. The question is not whether multiple elders existed but whether there was ever a time when bishops didn’t exist. Also, the question remains as to whether references to “elder” is a technical reference in the New Testament. I’ve argued in the paper that it was not (see below for additional analysis of this argument).

    When Paul wants to speak to the established leadership of, say, Ephesus, he has the elders assemble (Acts 20). When he wants to address the officers of another large city like Philippi, he writes to the bishops and deacons of that city. The apostles, after setting up elders, join themselves to that permanent leadership structure (Acts 15, 1 Pet 5, 2 Jn 1, 3, Jn 1). All these things were already brought up prior.

    All those things are compatible with the theory that I’ve advanced in the paper. I think you should finish reading it before criticizing it wholesale. You might even find that you’re not opposed to it.

    Tim, my argument is that the terms (e.g., “bishop”) came not only to be used differently than in the NT, but that their meaning is actually at odds with the NT. I’ve already argued that “elder,” by the time of the Pastorals (also by the time of Acts 20), was a technical term. “Bishop” was not quite so, but was sometimes a descriptive term for the duties of the presbyter, and was used interchangeably with the word “elder.”

    I must have missed that argument. Can you point me to where you made that argument?

    Once again, if you’d simply say that the early church innovated and developed the prelacy, we’d not be having *this* conversation.

    Well if you’d just admit that I’m right that would be another way of avoiding this conversation. :-) (Light hearted here) Anyway, the reason why I’m saying these things is because I believe they are true. If they are false, then I’d like to be shown why. So far, I remain confident in what I said.

    Here’s how it works: I say, E = B because both are used interchangeably with reference to the same group. You say, I cannot argue that because the NT language is not technical.

    That’s not what I said. I said that *I have argued* that they were not technical (and hence interchangeability of terms can’t be used as evidence against monepiscopacy). I did not merely assert it. If you want to refute my argument then you need to show why it’s false. Here’s my argument in syllogism form.

    Premise1: Just because a word is used in the New Testament does not mean that that word means the same thing when it was used as it does now (or even as it came to mean soon thereafter).

    Premise2: Interchangeable usage of non-technical (and potentially overlapping) words alone is not sufficient to show that there is no distinction between the two (or more) things in question.

    Conclusion: Therefore interchangeble usage of the NT terms for Bishop and Presbyter is not sufficient to show that the terms refer to a single office.

    You said:

    While just about everyone grants that a more technical usage of NT words developed in the early church, it does not follow that the NT terminology is not clear, meaningful and, itself, technical.

    But this is not a refutation of the above argument. To refute it, you need to show (not assert) that either the premises are false or that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Here’s what the contrary would look like:

    Premise 1 is false because: All words used in the New Testament meant the same thing then as they do now.

    or

    Premise 2 is false because: Even if words are non-technical or potentially overlap each other in meaning, usage of such words alone sufficiently proves that only one thing is being referenced.

    Or finally you could attempt to show that the conclusion does not follow from the premises if you didn’t want to adopt either of these refutations.

    In place of the Scripture, you set the church. It’s her job to make the terminology technical and, thus, organize herself in accordance with her own terminology.

    That’s not consistent with Catholic doctrines and that is certainly not what I’m doing. I have not appealed to the authority of the Church in my argument on technicalization. It is simply a linguistic argument as you can see from the summarized syllogism above.

    As to redundancy, you didn’t grapple at all with my argument, Tim.

    Well I certainly attempted to. Not only do I think that I grappled with it but I think I’ve shown it to be fallacious. Based on your response I’m not sure that my argument was written clearly enough. I’m not following your rebuttal or how it shows that there is no redundancy or how it interacts with what I said.

    In any event, it’s all non-technical, right? So, why bother arguing the point with me? That’s a serious question. The technicalization argument destroys the NT data, so why waste time with it?

    That is a good question and I can understand why you’d bring it up. Here’s the reason why I bothered arguing the point. I never claimed that all words in the NT were non-technical or that the linguistic phenomenon known as technicalization of terminology renders all NT terms unknowable, unclear, or useless. My linguistic claim is limited to the conclusion presented above. So that’s why it makes sense to show that there would be redundancy in the examples provided (if St. Paul had been referring to the same office).

    The passage you cite is not argument, but analysis

    It’s an ad hominem and it is slanderous. An attack on my character. “Analyses” can be ad hominems and this one was.

    I am trying to reveal to our readers that your authority, at the end of the day, is not the Scripture.

    How would you like it if I tried to “reveal” to CTC readers something known to be false about you? For example, what if I tried to reveal to CTC readers that you secretly rejected infant baptism as a heresy? That would be slanderous and in fact a lie. Because I know that you’re a Presbyterian and Presbyterians do not believe that. I assume on good faith that you at least believe what you say you do. Please extend me the same courtesy. You know, or should know, that the Scriptures are God breathed and inerrant authority for Catholics.

    If I reject the Scriptures – then everyone should be able to see that in the text I wrote. Why do they need you to make such claims to help them see my (supposed) rejection of God’s Word?

    Anyway, it’s your blog so you can do whatever you want of course. I’m just asking for the courtesy of not slandering me.

    That’s not slanderous. It’s an honest analysis of where my authority is, and I think that my analysis of you is equally honest.

    Just because one person thinks his “analysis” is “true” does not mean it is not slanderous. Slander is when something (false) is said (often having an analytic quality) that defames another person. Even if the statement is potentially false, you shouldn’t say it if it would defame a fellow brother in Christ. Now what you said of me, if true, would make me guilty of a heinous sin before God. So it obviously defames me. It is not true per my own beliefs. Therefore it is false – or at least I think it’s false. And the example “analysis” you mentioned that I might say of you *is* slanderous as well and far be it from me to do such a thing to you.

  96. Randy, #89 – thank you very much for the thoughtful response.

    Paul’s canonical writings and the gospels are both *Scripture*. They’re both what’s written. The church is not. So, to pit Scripture against Scripture is to pit one thing against itself. To pit (even for the sake of argument) the Scripture against the church is to pit one thing against another. I am willing to admit that the church, Reformers, Luthers, Calvins, Augustines, Councils, and Popes err. The written word is the deposit of God’s word that, alone, is inerrant. There’s no reason that I can see from Scripture to think that the church will be inerrant.

    Thus, my if I find that the teaching of my local body is in error (or so I think), then I would do two things. I’d address it with the elders. If we end up disagreeing, I’d submit to them and *ask* permission for my family to join another local body. There is no schism there. There’s no breaking up of churches there. A wise presbyteriate would be happy to have my family go down the block to another local congregation of the same body of Christ, especially to keep the peace and unity of the body. I don’t know how that fits you, but there it is. That’s how I’d deal with a local issue. Protestants, I think, has the advantage of being able to disagree with the church, but still maintain an essential unity under Christ’s headship, as our unity is not conceived of in organizational/structural terms. I don’t have to attribute some infallibility to the church, but can be more honest about her faults. After all, I know that even the first Pope erred: Galatians 2:11-21. Granted, he wasn’t speaking ex cathedra, but he was teaching by his actions.

  97. Michael,

    Michael, I am confused about your answer to Benjamin. You wrote that the two examples he used (the Church’s ban on ordination of practicing homosexuals to the priesthood, and the sale of indulgences) are not doctrinal teachings that have been infallibly declared upon by the Pope, and so, theoretically, they could be changed in the future. I’m not completely sure about the sale of indulgences, but how is the ordination of practicing homosexuals to the priesthood *not* a doctrinal matter about which the Pope and the Bishops have clearly and authoritatively spoken to the entire Church?

    The Catechism clearly states that homosexual acts are acts of depravity and *cannot* be seen as morally acceptable for Catholics (or, by extension, any Christians, in an objective sense). In that light, how or why would the Church ever officially teach, or allow as official Church practice, the ordination of unrepentant, practicing homosexuals to the priesthood? Note that I’m not referring to what can sometimes happen *disobediently* in the Church but to what is officially, authoritatively *taught and allowed*.

  98. Christopher:

    Permitting the ordination of practicing homosexuals would not logically entail any statement to the effect that sodomy is morally acceptable. Therefore, it would not contradict that doctrine of the Church.

    The problem with ordaining such men to the priesthood would be that it would give grave scandal. Ruling that unrepentant sinners may still be priests is pastorally incompatible with what priests are supposed to represent. Such a policy, were it ever adopted, should be rejected by all Catholics. Of course it wouldn’t be, but that’s another problem…

    Best,
    Mike

  99. Tim Prussic,

    In your #96 comment, you write that “A wise presbyteriate would be happy to have my family go down the block to another local congregation of the same body of Christ, especially to keep the peace and unity of the body.” By “a wise presbyteriate,” how are you not implicitly saying, “a presbyteriate that agrees with me on what are sufficiently important matters that would cause my family to leave a local parish”?

    Your (seeming) view of church authority, and how it should be exercised, is very, very different from that of Calvin and the other, original Reformers. Dr. David Anders addresses Calvin’s views and practice, regarding church authority, in his post here at C2C, “How John Calvin Made Me a Catholic.” http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/how-john-calvin-made-me-a-catholic/

  100. Michael,

    I can see how practicing homosexuals could be ordained to the priesthood in the Church, in terms of what could be “allowed,” by simple lack of *enforcement* of Church teaching on the depravity of homosexuality. In fact, it is patently obvious that this has happened, at times, in the Church.

    As far as such ordination being *officially taught and allowed* though, how would this teaching not be a blatant contradiction of the Church’s official, doctrinal, theological teaching on human sexuality?

  101. To say that those who commit sin and refuse to repent of it may be ordained to the priesthood is not to assert “The sin is not sin.” It is to act as though the sin didn’t matter. Hence the error would be one of practical reason, not one of formal logic or heresy.

  102. Dr. L & Christopher,

    We’re starting to drift off topic but to add some fuel to the fire of diversion: I take you (Dr. L) to be saying that this might be something like the lack of decision by some bishops to deny communion to politicians who support abortion. Such a lack of action on their part in no way constitutes an acceptance of abortion .

    I also want to say that I think this question of whether its an issue of discipline to accept actively homosexual priests is an unhelpful one. :-) It’s kinda like “hey you have only enough time to save your mom or your dad from drowning but not both. Which one will you save?” I don’t even want to think about it to be honest. What would it accomplish to think about such a question?

    I think this question is set up to be unhelpful to begin with because it gets us thinking about worst case scenarios and how the Church would respond. Just as we have enough trouble handling the problems of our own time ( As our Lord said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own”) and we shouldn’t conjure up extremely difficult circumstances to ponder the right course of action — in the same way I think we have enough problem explaining some of the dumb things our bishops *have* done without thinking about how to defend potential worst case scenarios…

  103. Tim T., #97 – Above the bishop, I posit that there were orange zebra men in NT times. Please use the NT or any historical document to show that unprovable assertion is false. You’ve framed the argument in your favor, indeed! Further, that the cities *ended up* with bishops doesn’t indicate that they *started* with them.

    I’ve argued that in the NT, “elder” is a technical term simply by appealing to the TDNT as an authority. Here it is: “Now, what Tim sees as undeveloped and non-technical language, I see as language that is clear, technical, and binding on the church. (Incidentally, the term “elder” is technical enough in the NT to have the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [something of a gold standard for word studies in the NT, even though it is, in the main, lamentably liberal] call it a technical term [see TDNT, 6:666]. So, even Tim’s supposition that the NT language is undeveloped and non-technical is highly suspect.) The binding and clear language of the NT need not be simply mimicked or parroted by the church. (Verbal correspondence is not important.) Fidelity, however, to the substance and intended meaning of the Word of God should be of the utmost importance to the church.”

    Maybe I’ll be able to pick this back up later (too much to do today and tomorrow), but I still think your handling of Titus 1 misses the point I was making. To bring up qualifications of the presbyteriate and then to show how those qualifications are important for each presbyter is not redundant. Again, maybe more later.

    I don’t mean to misrepresent you, Tim. I don’t mean to spread lies about you. I do mean, however, to call it as clearly and honestly as I can. The Scripture and tradition interact somehow in your mind, as they do in mine. You’ve said that you try to read the Bible through the church. In one way of speaking, there’s no other way to read it. In an other, there’s the issue of final authority. It is the latter issue that I’ve been driving at. I have not asserted that you don’t respect the Scriptures. I have asserted that they are not your final authority. I have also asserted that such is evident by the way that you handle them in your paper. By contrast, if a Baptist disagrees with me on infant baptism and appeals to Scripture as the basis of his disagreement, I’d say he and I have the same authority. I don’t our disagreement is like that. And I think your stated purpose makes that clear. You want to show that the heirarchy of the Roman Catholic church is in keeping (that is, not at odds with) with the NT data. Protestants, insofar as they’re consistent with sola scriptura, affirm that the Bible is sufficient and they want to conform the church’s government to what’s revealed in Scripture. Once again, it’s an issue of final authority.

    In any event, I’ll probably be fairly sparse around here until next week. Lord bless you, Tim. I look forward to talking to you next week. By the way, I like your humor… use more of it! I might agree with you more simply because you’re funny. :)

  104. Michael,

    In the interest of not continuing in an off-topic direction, insofar as the subject of Tim’s post, I’ll let this comment be my last one on practicing homosexuals and the priesthood.

    As I wrote in my last comment, I’m *not* referring to what is sometimes “allowed” in the Church by clearly disobedient members of the hierarchy who ordain practicing homosexuals. I’m referring to what is *officially taught and allowed* by the Church, in her official, authoritative teaching.

    If the Pope began to *publicly teach* that it is *morally allowable* for unrepentant, practicing homosexuals to be ordained to the priesthood, that public teaching would openly contradict the Church’s clear, authoritative teaching on sexuality, found in the Catechism. Such a contradiction, in public teaching by the Pope, would violate his charism of infallibility. At that point, I would have to either return to Protestantism of some sort, or become Eastern Orthodox, or possibly, an agnostic.

  105. Tim – I’m glad we’re back on good terms.

    I posit that there were orange zebra men in NT times. Please use the NT or any historical document to show that unprovable assertion is false.

    You’re right: it is harder to prove that something didn’t (or doesn’t) exist than that it did (or does), but it can be done. This one’s harder for me bc I don’t know what you mean by the term (but you know what I mean by bishop.. actually I don’t think you do and I’ll explain that later). So here’s how I’d handle that claim – I’d make the counter claim that there is not a single reference at all to orange zebra men above the bishops. Then you could refute that claim by showing an example of a ref. to orange zebra men.

    You could do the same thing with my request. After all, if your statement is true then it would be the type of thing you could say the same thing of. e.g. “There is not a single example of a bishop ruling over a local Church.” I know you wouldn’t make such a claim because it’s so easily falsifiable. But you could make a claim such as “there is not a single example of a bishop ruling over a local church until the year X.” And we could go from there… if you want.

    Further, that the cities *ended up* with bishops doesn’t indicate that they *started* with them.

    Well I agree with the logic but not with the statement. Because the Catholic definition of bishop entails that they existed from the beginning. Your logic is right – e.g. “cities ended up with indoor plumbing therefore they had indoor plumbing from the beginning” is a false statement. But not every such statement is false. e.g. “Cities ended up with residents therefore they had residents from the beginning” is true (although its not a good way to say it). Cities have residents by definition, and bishops (according to the Catholic definition) always existed in the Church.

    So what is a bishop? Currently we say a bishop is the singular residential pastor of a definite geographical location carrying with him the full authority of the Church. This is the definition I think you’re using (which is correct in respect to bishops *now* but not to bishops *then* necessarily). I am open to the possibility that, as a rule, bishops like that were always around, but my article does not depend on that being the case. Hence I said,

    The Catholic doctrine of episcopal government simply requires that the Apostles possessed episcopal authority, that every successive generation had men with the fullness of the episcopal authority, and that at some point in the first century some of the men ordained by the Apostles, or their successors, did not receive the fullness of that authority.

    So when you are arguing that there were never bishops, if you are arguing against what I mean when I say that there were always bishops, then you are arguing that there was a time when no one alive possessed the fullness of episcopal authority (e.g. the power to preside at Christian worship and the exclusive power to ordain other men).

    This is why I said that it actually *is* true that since the Church ended up with bishops that she started with them. Thats because according to that definition, if the Church didn’t have bishops to begin with, she could never end up with them. If the Church didn’t have men with the power to ordain to begin with, she couldn’t ever end up with ordained men.

    I’ve argued that in the NT, “elder” is a technical term simply by appealing to the TDNT as an authority.

    Ok you got me again. Touche. You DID argue for the technical development of ‘elder.’ So, what did the word technically mean? It’s used of several different people. We’ve seen that whatever its definition is, it’s not exclusive of an Apostle since St. Peter uses it. If it is not exclusive of an Apostle, surely it cannot be exclusive of a bishop. And since it does not simply mean “Apostle,” it does not (necessarily) simply mean “bishop.”

    I don’t know what they claim the “technical” meaning of presbyteros was at that time, but it must be something to do with a Christian minister if they are claiming it was technical. But that is clearly false since the word is used to refer to people who weren’t Christian ministers. e.g. In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus uses the word presbyter to describe the elder son, clearly in a non-technical sense. (Luke 15:25) Also 1 Timothy 5:1 seems to be a non technical reference due to its juxtaposition with younger men. (i.e. presbyteros is contrasted with “young man” in the sense of its literal meaning rather than its growing technical meaning. “Presbyter” is not contrasted to “young man.”) The (Protestant) NIV concurs with me there translating it as “older man” instead of “elder” as it is translated elsewhere. Likewise the following verse would be an explicit proof for the ordination of women if presbyteros was a technical term in the NT since it is used there of women. There are quite a few additional examples we could produce if needed but I think you get the point that the term was not technical so I’m not sure why they said that.

    Finally, bishop is inclusive of “presbyter” so everything said of a presbyter could also be said of a bishop. Hence I said at the beginning of section III,

    all bishops are presbyters, but not all presbyters are bishops. That is, the office of bishop includes all functions of the presbyterate, but the presbyters cannot perform all functions of the bishops. This fact alone explains much of the apparent interchangeability of terms in the earliest texts.

    Even if we were to accept the erroneous conclusions of the TDNT, (i.e. even if presbyter was a technical term at that time) it would not disprove that those referred to as ‘presbyters’ were not also bishops because the office of bishop includes all aspects of the office of presbyter. Therefore all bishops may rightly be called presbyters (and we occasionally see that they are, not only in the NT but even throughout Church history). So every instance of “presbyter” in the NT may or may not have been a reference to what we now call bishop. That is why the interchangeability of terminology does not disprove the monepiscopacy and no instance of the usage of the word “elder” or “elders” etc could prove the point you are trying to prove.

    In one way of speaking, there’s no other way to read it. In an other, there’s the issue of final authority. It is the latter issue that I’ve been driving at.

    Ok well let’s save that discussion for another time. I think it will be better to focus exclusively on the facts and arguments (or lack thereof) presented in this paper instead of speculating about our differences in authority.

  106. Tim and Tim,

    I am not sure what (in the discussion about ecclesial hierarchy) rides on whether or not “presbyter” was a technical term in the NT. So far as I can see, the truth or falsity of that claim is not determinative of either presbyterian or episcopal church polity. Also, it is possible for “presbyter” to have acquired a technical meaning (denoting an ordained minister in the church) while also being used in its non-technical sense (denoting an older man). I think that we find clear instances of both usages in the NT. Finally, I think that it is a huge overstatement to say that Kittel’s TDNT is a gold standard for NT word studies. What goes for “T” in TDNT (“Theological”) is not something that would pass muster with many biblical theologians today, either liberal or conservative.

  107. Andrew –

    “Also, it is possible for “presbyter” to have acquired a technical meaning (denoting an ordained minister in the church) while also being used in its non-technical sense (denoting an older man).”

    I agree and I do think that it was at least well on its way to acquiring such technicality. I don’t really know what the TDNT says concerning its “technical” usage so I guess my comments may not be applicable.

    And as far as what rides on its technicality, I think nothing or almost nothing because as stated in the article, a bishop is also a presbyter. So even if all references to presbyter in the NT are technical references, any of them could be referring to bishops or presbyters.

  108. Randy, #89 – thank you very much for the thoughtful response.

    Thank you for continuing to interact. Protestants are out-numbered on this board so I always fear people will feel ganged up on. You are very brave.

    Paul’s canonical writings and the gospels are both *Scripture*. They’re both what’s written. The church is not. So, to pit Scripture against Scripture is to pit one thing against itself. To pit (even for the sake of argument) the Scripture against the church is to pit one thing against another. I am willing to admit that the church, Reformers, Luthers, Calvins, Augustines, Councils, and Popes err. The written word is the deposit of God’s word that, alone, is inerrant. There’s no reason that I can see from Scripture to think that the church will be inerrant.

    I said if you asked, ‘Are the gospels subordinate to Paul’s letters or are Paul’s letter subordinate to the gospels?’ then that would presuppose the two contradict. You seem to be agreeing with that. Then you go on to assert that the church errs. But that is precisely where we disagree. The church’s members err but the body of Christ does not err any more than the word of Christ errs. The question is what is the body of Christ and what is the Word of Christ. What is biblical as opposed to what is somebody’s biblical interpretation? What is authentic church teaching as opposed to the the teaching of some church members?

    The church and the bible are so different the question makes no sense on another level. The authority of scripture is of a different kind than the authority of the church. I asked you how scripture’s authority could be exercised. You ignored the question because it simply cannot happen. It is a book. It cannot declare it’s interpreters to be wrong. So the question has a philosophical category error embedded in it.

    Thus, my if I find that the teaching of my local body is in error (or so I think), then I would do two things. I’d address it with the elders. If we end up disagreeing, I’d submit to them and *ask* permission for my family to join another local body. There is no schism there. There’s no breaking up of churches there. A wise presbyteriate would be happy to have my family go down the block to another local congregation of the same body of Christ, especially to keep the peace and unity of the body. I don’t know how that fits you, but there it is. That’s how I’d deal with a local issue. Protestants, I think, has the advantage of being able to disagree with the church, but still maintain an essential unity under Christ’s headship, as our unity is not conceived of in organizational/structural terms. I don’t have to attribute some infallibility to the church, but can be more honest about her faults. After all, I know that even the first Pope erred: Galatians 2:11-21. Granted, he wasn’t speaking ex cathedra, but he was teaching by his actions.

    Your solution does not create a schism but presupposes a plentiful supply of schisms. If they were not there you would have to create them. You say you have “essential unity”. It isn’t true. This isn’t a biblical idea. It is simply a lie protestants tell themselves in a desperate attempt to reconcile the biblical idea with Christian unity with their glaring lack of unity. I went to a reformed church that had another reformed church from a different denomination a few blocks away. It was 5 years before I knew it was there. We were dead to each other. Nobody every talked. Is that essential unity? It is happy talk. It is not reality.

    The other problem with your solution is that nobody arrives at truth. Everybody agrees to disagree and the faithful are basically told their leadership has no clue what the gospel of Christ actually is. They can follow you or they can follow the elders. But what if they want to follow God? Then they are on their own.

  109. I only have but a second… long enough to say, Randy, that it’s not so much that I’m brave, it’s that you guys are all big, fuzzy teddy bears… starting with Tim. Look at that beard of his!

    I’ll try to get back later this afternoon for some more, say, substantive interaction.

  110. Alright, got some time. I was all kinds of excited driving to the coffee shop knowing that an iced coffee and Tim Troutman (not to mention Randy Jackson) awaited me… I’m not joking. :)

    A’ight, Tim, back up in #105, you wrote:

    “So when you are arguing that there were never bishops, if you are arguing against what I mean when I say that there were always bishops, then you are arguing that there was a time when no one alive possessed the fullness of episcopal authority (e.g. the power to preside at Christian worship and the exclusive power to ordain other men).”

    You go on to demonstrate that if bishops are at all (in the RC conception of them), then they must always have been. Your logic is impeccable. It’s my contention that the episcopate developed and usurped the authority of the presbyteriate. It’s seems clear enough from the NT that the elders ordain: 1 Tim 4:14 – “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.” Paul does not say anything about a bishop, but the council of elders.

    Along with that, the RC definition of bishop is certainly not the NT one. Bishop is used synonymously and interchangeably with elder in the NT, as both terms refer to the same office. In the RC hierarchy, this is not the case. As you’ve explained, the bishop is an elder, but the elder not necessarily a bishop. I now see that a great deal rides on this for you. Since the episcopate is central to conception of the church and its propagation, you have to maintain the apostolic origins of the episcopate. The problem is that the NT is not only not helpful, it’s actually incongruous with the notion.

    As to the technical-ness of “elder,” I’m not saying that every time presbyteros is used, it’s used in its technical sense. I am saying that, by the time of the Pastorals, it’s clearly technical. In any event, I don’t see how any of this exegetical stuff matters. The NT text does not speak authoritatively on *this* subject, as it’s not sufficiently developed.

  111. Randy, #108 , thanks again for the interaction.

    I am certain that you missed my point: God’s word, the Bible, is complete and unchanging. It is authoritative, as it is expired by God (2 Tim 3:16). Each part is in agreement, and it is subject to and interpreted by itself. The gospels are subject to Paul’s epistles and Paul’s epistles subject to the gospels. On a subjective level, we must interpret the word, to be sure. The objective authority resides in the standard, the deposit of divine revelation, which (unlike the church) has not changed. You want, it seems, to apply the attribute of the divine word to the church. But God’s written word is one thing and God’s church another. God’s word is infallible and inerrant, but the word NEVER predicates that to the church in the way that you so easily do.

    As to the supposed epistemological issues with sola scriptura, I’m waiting to address that. That is, honestly, what I’m most excited to discuss with you men, but I’m not ready to do that yet. Further, the discussions in these threads tends to broaden out with no end in sight. I’m trying to avoid that infelicity.

    As to avoiding other brother by division, it’s simply not so. I disagree with, say, a charismatic brother and choose not to worship at that local body, but I affirm that we are brothers. I have had scores of conversations, meals, beers, whatnot with my charismatic brethren. Protestantism has a wide variety of diversity in it, to be sure. Catholicism has no less of a variety of diversity in it, though. I think we’re more honest about our differences, as we find our unity in Christ, not in a visible hierarchy. Do you, Randy, work closely with the homosexuals in the Roman communion? I doubt it. How about (less offensively) the charismatics in the Roman communion? With the manifest diversity in your communion, I think this applies equally to the RCC:

    The other problem with your solution is that nobody arrives at truth. Everybody agrees to disagree and the faithful are basically told their leadership has no clue what the gospel of Christ actually is. They can follow you or they can follow the [magisterium -TP]. But what if they want to follow God? Then they are on their own.

  112. Tim P,

    It’s seems clear enough from the NT that the elders ordain: 1 Tim 4:14 – “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.” Paul does not say anything about a bishop, but the council of elders.

    I anticipated and refuted that objection in section VI.g.

    Bishop is used synonymously and interchangeably with elder in the NT, as both terms refer to the same office. In the RC hierarchy, this is not the case.

    They are (apparently) used interchangeably in the NT but they are not the same office for reasons given in the article which you have not yet addressed. If you continue to re-assert your objection without addressing my argument, then it shows others that you do not know how to refute it even though you really want it to be false. Here it is again:

    Premise1: Just because a word is used in the New Testament does not mean that that word means the same thing when it was used as it does now (or even as it came to mean soon thereafter).

    Premise2: Interchangeable usage of non-technical (and potentially overlapping) words alone is not sufficient to show that there is no distinction between the two (or more) things in question.

    Conclusion: Therefore interchangeble usage of the NT terms for Bishop and Presbyter is not sufficient to show that the terms refer to a single office.

    You said:

    As you’ve explained, the bishop is an elder, but the elder not necessarily a bishop.

    Correct – which fact alone refutes almost everything you’ve said about what interchangeability supposedly proves.

    I’m not saying that every time presbyteros is used, it’s used in its technical sense.

    There can be different levels of technicality. The highest level of technicality is when a word would never be used in any other sense. ‘Presbyter’ is an example of this in the Latin or English speaking world. They would never have referred to someone as a ‘presbyter’ if he wasn’t one. But this isn’t the case in the NT as I’ve shown. The word was used for elders (literally) as well. There is a second, lesser degree of technicality where a word, when used in a particular context, always means a certain thing. For example, the word “bug” – this word when used generically refers to an insect. But if you say it in the context of a vehicle, it refers to a Volkswagen Beetle. I guess that’s the level of technicality that you’re arguing that presbyteros had achieved. If so – no problem for me. Like I said, all bishops are presbyters so it doesn’t disprove the monepiscopacy.

    Since the episcopate is central to conception of the church and its propagation, you have to maintain the apostolic origins of the episcopate.

    Yes, and not only for me but also for St. Ignatius of Antioch, the martyr and disciple of St. John (AD 107):

    Equally, it is for the rest of you to hold the deacons in as great respect as Jesus Christ; just as you should also look on the bishop as a type of the Father, and the clergy as the Apostolic circle forming His council; for without these three orders no church has any right to the name. (to the Trallians)

    You have still not answered me as to whether or not you accept his epistles as genuine or reject them as Calvin did. Or if you have answered that, then I missed it. You also haven’t given any reason why or how the early Church fathers and martyrs so universally accepted a wholesale corruption of the apostolic hierarchy in such an unbelievably short amount of time. This is an argument to be reckoned with. So far, you’ve dismissed it. How did they go so wrong so fast (within 70 years) while Protestants have supposedly stayed on the straight and narrow without a single exception (as regards corruption of hierarchy) for 500 years?

    The problem is that the NT is not only not helpful, it’s actually incongruous with the notion.

    If you have an argument for this, let’s see it. Otherwise it’s just an assertion. I’ve shown that the arguments you’ve written so far have been insufficient to prove this point but I don’t feel like you’re taking that seriously.

    In any event, I don’t see how any of this exegetical stuff matters. The NT text does not speak authoritatively on *this* subject, as it’s not sufficiently developed.

    Is this your position? It’s certainly not mine.

  113. Tim P.,

    In any event, I don’t see how any of this exegetical stuff matters. The NT text does not speak authoritatively on *this* subject, as it’s not sufficiently developed.

    Am I missing something or does this statment also work to refute your argument that the RC conception of the episcopacy is not supported by the NT. In order to prove that, then the NT text must speak authoritatively on this subject and should be sufficiently developed, since the basis of your argument is that you are using the Sacred Scripture as your authority whereas Tim is using something outside of Sacred Scripture to override what you’ve found in Scripture.

    In any event, I don’t see how any of this exegetical stuff matters. The NT text does not speak authoritatively on *this* subject, as it’s not sufficiently developed.

    Maybe if I reform your question it’ll make it easier to understand what I’ve said:

    In any event, NT exegesis doesn’t really matter because [I don’t think that] the NT text speaks authoritatively on [the matter of the episcopacy] because it is not sufficiently developed.

    If that is what you believe, then neither can the Presbyterian form of government be proven from the Scriptures. Thus, this is an admission of two things:

    1) The Presbyterian form of government is extra-biblical.
    2) It is not possible to use the Scriptures to refute Tim’s position.

    and from (2)

    3) Therefore, you are not using the Scriptures as your authority to refute Tim’s position.

    and from (3)

    4) Your argument that you were using Scripture as your authority to refute Tim’s position is false.

    Did I get that right, or did I misunderstand you?

  114. I am certain that you missed my point: God’s word, the Bible, is complete and unchanging. It is authoritative, as it is expired by God (2 Tim 3:16). Each part is in agreement, and it is subject to and interpreted by itself. The gospels are subject to Paul’s epistles and Paul’s epistles subject to the gospels. On a subjective level, we must interpret the word, to be sure. The objective authority resides in the standard, the deposit of divine revelation, which (unlike the church) has not changed. You want, it seems, to apply the attribute of the divine word to the church. But God’s written word is one thing and God’s church another. God’s word is infallible and inerrant, but the word NEVER predicates that to the church in the way that you so easily do.

    I don’t doubt I am not understanding you. You say the bible is complete. That is your belief. I think you are missing a few books. Be that as it may, it makes by question about which section is subordinate nonsensical. The same can be said about scripture and the church. If they are 2 parts of the complete word of God the question becomes nonsense. I am not sure if you are aware but Catholics say the Word of God consists of scripture, tradition, and the magisterium. When you say “the church” I assume you mean tradition and the magisterium. So those are part of “the deposit of divine revelation”. Does it change? It does grow. But many elements of tradition, for example the statements of the councils, cannot change.

    Does the bible indicate the church will be in some sense infallible? Mt 18:17 says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Does it sound like Jesus expects the church to get the wrong answer?

    As to avoiding other brother by division, it’s simply not so. I disagree with, say, a charismatic brother and choose not to worship at that local body, but I affirm that we are brothers. I have had scores of conversations, meals, beers, whatnot with my charismatic brethren. Protestantism has a wide variety of diversity in it, to be sure. Catholicism has no less of a variety of diversity in it, though. I think we’re more honest about our differences, as we find our unity in Christ, not in a visible hierarchy. Do you, Randy, work closely with the homosexuals in the Roman communion? I doubt it. How about (less offensively) the charismatics in the Roman communion?

    Having “conversations, meals, beers, whatnot” with a few members of a community is not unity. It is affinity. We can’t have affinity with every believer in Christ. We are commanded to have unity with them. It is not hard to figure out. It means doctrine. It means sacraments. It means governance. Saying you find unity in Christ sounds nice but it means nothing. I can be the biggest schismatic and still say we have unity in Christ. It turns the command into empty words by simply ignoring what the words mean. This is the problem with using scripture as the final authority. It is too easy to make the word of God your plaything.

    Actually I am pretty charismatic. I used to be much more so in my younger years. The charismatic Catholics were the first ones I fellowshipped with long before I dreamed of converting. As far as homosexuals go. I do get those questions in prison ministry. Most homosexual Catholics stay in the closet unless they are planning to leave the church. They just live as singles. We have many of those in my parish. I don’t ask if they experience same-sex attraction. I dealt with it a lot when I was in youth ministry but that was a few years ago.

    With the manifest diversity in your communion, I think this applies equally to the RCC:

    The other problem with your solution is that nobody arrives at truth. Everybody agrees to disagree and the faithful are basically told their leadership has no clue what the gospel of Christ actually is. They can follow you or they can follow the [magisterium -TP]. But what if they want to follow God? Then they are on their own.

    No, the orthodox position is clear even when there is widespread dissent. There is no need to wonder whether contraception is immoral. The number of people committing the sin or condoning the sin does not make it any less a sin. The magisterium makes clear God’s revelation. So if they want to follow God they can. In fact, the solid stand of the bishops and the pope on issues like that is quite remarkable in the face of widespread dissent. So your point about “manifest diversity” is manifestly false.

  115. Tim P. and Randy,

    With all due respect, I think that Tim P.’s final comments (specifically #111 where we start getting into the “bad Catholics prove that Catholicism is just like Protestantism” argument) are drifting off topic. There is an abundance of articles on this site that cover all of those specific items of discussion, but this thread is in regard to the Sacramental Priesthood. It might be more helpful to stay focused on the topic at hand.

  116. Tim T., #112, I think that I have dealt with your argument at one place or another, but these types of discussions get spread out so quickly that bringing it back to a fine point is a good thing to do.

    Premise1: Just because a word is used in the New Testament does not mean that that word means the same thing when it was used as it does now (or even as it came to mean soon thereafter).

    Premise2: Interchangeable usage of non-technical (and potentially overlapping) words alone is not sufficient to show that there is no distinction between the two (or more) things in question.

    Conclusion: Therefore interchangeble usage of the NT terms for Bishop and Presbyter is not sufficient to show that the terms refer to a single office.

    Premise one: I have not argued to the contrary. I have argued that the way the early church developed is not in keeping with the substance behind the words of the NT. If “bishop” and “elder” refer to the same office with no higher permanent office to be seen in the NT, then the early church verbal development reflects a change in substance that’s out of keeping with the substance of the NT. As to Ignatius, he’s of interest, but he’s not Scripture. Best of my (very limited) knowledge is that those letters are authentic, but they’re certainly not binding. The whole time we’ve dialogued, I’ve done nothing but pursue the NT doctrine – the substance of the NT terminology.

    Premise two: this is at least partially false. I’ve shown from an authority (TDNT) that presbyteros is a technical term (and I think that, to some extent, episcopos is too [Phil 1:1 certainly reads that way].) Second, they’re not “potentially overlapping.” You’re downplaying the reality that they ARE overlapping in the NT. The question on the table is not IF they’re overlapping, but if they refer to exactly the same office. Finally, as I’ve already shown, your technicalization argument assumes your answer from the beginning (thus, it simply begs the question) and also assumes that the NT doesn’t express God’s mind relative to church polity, which is false. This second premise is particularly insidious, as it allows you to ignore or brush aside the language of the Bible and replace it with whatever “technicalized” language that the early church developed.

    Conclusion: as I said in my original response, you posit verbal confusion in the NT and throw in a goodly amount of historical conjecture. None of this is impressive or convincing to someone who thinks the Bible is *clear and binding* in all things regarding the faith, including polity.

    You quoted me as saying this: “As you’ve explained, the bishop is an elder, but the elder not necessarily a bishop.” Then you commented: “Correct – which fact alone refutes almost everything you’ve said about what interchangeability supposedly proves.” Tim, I was merely summarizing your view. It should be clear by now that I think the Bible has no distinction of hierarchy whatever between those words.

    Here’s the point: If memory serves, you have offered not a single bit of positive evidence that the bishop in the NT was a higher order of elder. Your original essay offers two positive arguments from the NT, they’re found in the last paragraph of III.a. The first is your reading of Titus 1 and the other is that St. James presided as the bishop of Jerusalem. We’ve dealt with Titus (at least to some extent), but even if we grant that Paul is referring to two specific offices in Titus 1 (“elders” and “the bishop”), as you suppose, it still indicates no hierarchical relationship between the two. The St. James argument, again, simply begs the question. Nothing in the NT indicates that James was higher in office than other elders. Prominence is not the same as a distinction of office, let alone a higher office. R.C. Sproul is not the bishop of Ligonier Valley, even though he’s very highly prominent. If the monepiscopacy is apostolic, you should at least show that it is, not show that it possibly could be. Since your entire church/authority/revelatory structure hangs on this point, I’d think you’d have it pegged. I’ll grant that the early church is vastly in your favor, but the NT is not. And the NT is apostolic text.

  117. Randy, #114, you’ve offered the for a biblical defense of the infallible church (tradition and magisterium):

    Does the bible indicate the church will be in some sense infallible? Mt 18:17 says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Does it sound like Jesus expects the church to get the wrong answer?

    This text, of course, has nothing whatever to do with the development of doctrine, but with the discipline of a brother who’s sinned against another brother and won’t repent. Again, I see nothing in all of Scripture indicating that the people of God (or their leadership) are infallible. Quite the contrary, the people of God are nearly always in error, being called back to the word and to the testimony by the prophets. I see even Peter was quite fallible.

  118. This is how we drift off topic. One throw away comment that I didn’t let slip because I feel it is just a flase assertion. I assume infallibility will be handled at CtC at some point. If not, I can dialogue with you about it on my blog.

    http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.com/2010/06/dialogue-with-tim-prussic.html

  119. Tim P –

    Premise two: this is at least partially false. I’ve shown from an authority (TDNT) that presbyteros is a technical term (and I think that, to some extent, episcopos is too [Phil 1:1 certainly reads that way].)

    1. You call the liberal scholarship (TDNT) an authority, and yet you casually dismiss all the writings of the early saint and martyr Ignatius who learned directly from an Apostle simply because he (and every Christian for 1500 years afterwards) disagrees with your interpretation of Scripture. If you would self evaluate for just a moment I think you would see how irrational this position is.

    2. In #105, I gave several examples of non-technical usage of elder, yet you dismiss them and continue on repeating your assertion. In comment 112 I explained that there are different levels of technicality, beginning with the phrase, “There can be different levels of technicality. ” I also explained that the second tier of technicality, which is the only defensible claim of technicality for the term ‘elder,’ does not prove your case.

    Second, they’re not “potentially overlapping.” You’re downplaying the reality that they ARE overlapping in the NT.

    The fact that they overlap is a fact that supports the Catholic side. I’m not downplaying it at all – I believe they overlap and wanted to point that out – why would I downplay that? Thus I said in the article,

    Another important point to consider is that the literal meanings of these as yet non-technical words (‘presbyteros‘ – elder; ‘episkopos‘ – overseer) were naturally interchangeable in regard to the offices in question. That is, given the original literal meaning of the word, elders, or older men, would naturally have been chosen to hold the role of overseers, and overseers would almost exclusively be chosen from among the elders. Thus, in a practical sense, we would expect that all the early bishops would have been elders, in the sense of being elderly, and that all of the early presbyters would have shared in the oversight of ecclesial affairs. In other words, given that the priesthood was divided into two tiers, and given that ‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter’ were not yet technical terms, it would be natural to expect that even members of the second tier could be described as overseeing by virtue of their assistance with oversight of ecclesial affairs. Saying that the second tier of authority (presbyter) exercises oversight does not necessarily deny its subordination to or its distinction from the first tier (bishop). Therefore, if a member of the second tier of the priesthood was ever referred to as an ‘episkopos,’ it would not disprove the apostolic origin of the monepiscopacy.

    You also said:

    Finally, as I’ve already shown, your technicalization argument assumes your answer from the beginning (thus, it simply begs the question) and also assumes that the NT doesn’t express God’s mind relative to church polity, which is false.

    Let’s slow down just a bit here. I haven’t seen you even assert that my argument begs the question much less show it. You’ve adequately shown exactly two (controversial) things in this discussion and I conceded both of them to you. If you want to show that my argument begs the question, then you need to show that it assumes the very thing it seeks to prove. But you haven’t shown that. Now originally, I didn’t spend a great deal of time arguing for the lack of technicality in the terms because I thought it was pretty obviously true, but in response to your counter-claims I did argue more in depth, particularly in 105 which shows beyond any reasonable doubt that there was room for technicalization in the term elder because it was still used in its non-technical sense.

    This second premise is particularly insidious, as it allows you to ignore or brush aside the language of the Bible and replace it with whatever “technicalized” language that the early church developed.

    I’m not brushing aside language. I’m talking about what the words mean. Instead of brushing them aside, that’s actually focusing more intensely on them. Here you’ve claimed that I’m brushing aside Biblical language and replacing it with technicalized language. If I’m replacing it with technicalized language, then it must be non-technical language which stands in need of being replaced. (Why replace technical language with technical language?) So up until now, you’ve been arguing that the language in the NT was technical. But here you’re claiming that I’ve replaced the NT language with technical language. Which one is it? In fact, it’s the Protestants who are reading non-technical language as technical (that is – replacing biblical language with “technicalized language”). “Hey bishop means X now, therefore any time anyone ever said ‘bishop’ they meant the same thing as I do.” Thats an example of replacing biblical language with technicalized language. I haven’t done that.

    as I said in my original response, you posit verbal confusion in the NT and throw in a goodly amount of historical conjecture.

    That’s false. Nowhere did I claim confusion in the NT. Lack of technicality is not the same as confusion. We use non-technical words constantly and we’re rarely confused about it. No Christian was ever confused about any of this for 1500 years until the Protestant Reformation. Also, re: historical conjecture, if you have a historical dispute with something I’ve said, please state it. Otherwise, this is just a cheap shot. I’ve quoted directly from primary sources, ones that you admittedly know little about (e.g. St. Ignatius), and I’ve frequently cited some of the best historians of the twentieth century, (e.g. Gregory Dix and Dom Botte who reconstructed the earliest ordination prayer in existence from the original language. They are uber-experts on the subjects in question!!) So if my historical work has been conjecture, do you have some better sources I should have used? Were any of my historical claims suspect? Which ones?

    None of this is impressive or convincing to someone who thinks the Bible is *clear and binding* in all things regarding the faith, including polity.

    Whether my arguments are impressive or convincing is irrelevant. The relevant question is whether or not my arguments are true.

    It should be clear by now that I think the Bible has no distinction of hierarchy whatever between those words.

    It was clear to me before I even began writing the article that some people thought that the Bible had no distinction of hierarchy. That’s why I wrote an arguing that there *is* such a distinction (at least in reality even if not explicitly provable by the bible alone). What I said was true because of the arguments I gave that supported it. If you think those arguments are false, then you should attempt to refute them instead of just repeating your original position. Here is the basic argument in question:

    1. All bishops are elders but not all elders are bishops
    2. Per 1, any time anyone says “elder” he could mean “bishop” or “elder”
    3. The Bible says “elder” many times
    4. Per 2, the bible could mean “bishop” or “elder” in any of those cases
    5. Given the above, a reference to “elder” does not prove that “elder” is the same as “bishop”

    All cows are mammals, but not all mammals are cows. Anytime someone says “mammal,” he could be referring to a cow. So if a book referred many times to both cows and mammals, it would not show that there is no distinction between “cow” and “mammal.” Likewise, since all bishops are presbyters; that the bible uses both terms many times does not prove (or even indicate) that there is no distinction between the offices. Note, this is an entirely separate argument from the technicalization argument.

    If memory serves, you have offered not a single bit of positive evidence that the bishop in the NT was a higher order of elder. Your original essay offers two positive arguments from the NT

    These two arguments are contradictory. Have I offered two positive arguments from the NT or “not a single bit”?

    but even if we grant that Paul is referring to two specific offices in Titus 1 (“elders” and “the bishop”), as you suppose, it still indicates no hierarchical relationship between the two.

    Most of your Reformed brothers will claim to read the Scripture through the Church. But not in this case right? Its because history is so strongly against them in this case. There’s no way to contort the fathers on this issue because its so universal across all Christianity until the Protestants rejected it. On this point, even the high-church Presbyterian becomes an absolute biblicist. “If you cant show me in the bible – then I dont believe it!” Well, I can’t show you in the bible where it prescribes the hierarchy of the Church in exact terms because it doesn’t do that. My argument does not presuppose solo-scriptura nor have I ever claimed to be able to show my argument from the bible alone.

    Re: the Titus argument, if you have sufficiently dealt with my argument then it was over my head. Could you re-state your position in simpler terms? I didn’t understand what you were saying earlier so from where I stand, I do not believe that you’ve addressed it.

    The St. James argument, again, simply begs the question. Nothing in the NT indicates that James was higher in office than other elders.

    Insufficiently arguing for something and begging the question are two different things. I did not sufficiently prove that James was the first bishop of Jerusalem because most scholars I know, even skeptics like Sullivan, accept it. I quoted Eusebius in support of my claim. But this claim of yours shows the chaotic and contradictory nature of the Protestant apologetic. You claim the NT doesn’t show that James was higher in office than even the elders. Yet when a Catholic uses Acts 15 in support of Petrine primacy, your Presbyterian brothers routinely claim that Acts 15 shows that James was even higher than Peter!!! It’s like John Calvin who claimed that the Ignatian epistles were “nauseating absurdities” because he couldn’t imagine the early Church being so very un-presbyterian. Now that modern scholarship accepts them, the Protestants don’t adjust their beliefs at all. They say either one of two things – “well show me that in the bible!” (like you did) or “well I don’t really disagree with St. Ignatius” like another Presbyterian did on CTC some time ago.

    If the monepiscopacy is apostolic, you should at least show that it is, not show that it possibly could be. Since your entire church/authority/revelatory structure hangs on this point, I’d think you’d have it pegged. I’ll grant that the early church is vastly in your favor, but the NT is not. And the NT is apostolic text.

    I’m not trying to argue on Protestant terms because Protestant terms are built on the doctrinal error of sola/solo-scriptura. So it appears that you expect me to do it solely on terms of the NT. But you’re asking me to assume the Protestant position. Suppose I asked you to prove to me that monepiscopacy was NOT apostolic and that you first had to assume that the Church was infallible. That would be an impossible task. Likewise, I cannot prove to you on the bible alone that monepiscopacy was apostolic and I never claimed to be able to nor did I attempt to. I showed that every NT based argument against monepiscopacy fails – so best case scenario for Protestants is that we’re at a level playing field when we start factoring in reason and the early Church data. And like you said, for the Protestant position, it’s all down hill from there.

  120. Randy – don’t sweat it. It’s very easy to get off topic. Thanks for understanding and helping us keep it focused. And yes we will definitely be addressing Church infallibility in the future.

  121. In the same post Randy commented about the lack of Protestants he also made the following comment:

    It isn’t true. This isn’t a biblical idea. It is simply a lie protestants tell themselves in a desperate attempt to reconcile the biblical idea with Christian unity with their glaring lack of unity.

    Wow, I had no idea I was lying to myself or that I was that desperate. Thanks for opening my eyes! But can I say that papal infallibility is a lie that Catholics tell themselves in a desperate attempt to avoid having to actually understand the Bible? Probably not, right?

    Seriously, if you want Protestant participation, I suggest you stop attributing motives such as this to us. I believe it’s been stated in this very thread that an attack on motives is ad hominem. That kind of verbal strike is not going to encourage Protestant to participate, and for those that do choose to participate, not lead to any fruitful discussion with you.

  122. Steve, you’re right. I should have caught that in moderation. I didnt read the comment carefully enough.

    Randy et al, its a good idea to drop any emotion driven or emotion driving words. Any words that increase the rhetoric like “lie” and “desperate” etc, even if they don’t constitute a strict ad hominem, should raise a red flag. These words are rarely useful for these types of discussions. They distract from the actual arguments and turn it into more of a fight between persons. So please be extra careful.

  123. Tim, #119, I’ll be brief and keep it to the main point. Discussions like this tend to go 20 different directions and get caught up in a bunch of sub-points. Basically, I want to summarize what’s gone on so far in our interactions.

    You affirm that the monepiscopacy is of apostolic origin, but you cannot prove it. You can show that the basic notions of your system are there early in church history, but you cannot show that from the writings of the apostles themselves, that is, from the NT. (This, incidentally, is quite strange. Since so much hangs on this point, don’t you think the NT would be crystal clear on such a key point of polity?) In other words, you’ve shown no *necessary* connection, but only a historical connect to them. Further, you cannot even show from the NT that the bishop is a distinct office from the elder, let alone showing that it’s a higher office. You can appeal to church history and find support for your suppositions there, but you cannot draw your conclusions from the preserved (unchanged) teachings of the apostles – the teachings they committed to writing, that is, the inspired Word of God.

    Rather than show your doctrine is from the apostolic writings of the NT, you have tried to show that the NT is not at odds with (or, using your terminology, does not contradict) the RC doctrine of monepiscopacy. I have offered counter evidence from the NT. I’ve attempted to show that, since “bishop” and “elder” refer to the same office, the distinction and elevation of the “bishop” in your system is actually at odds with the NT. To defend against my counter-arguments, you’ve consistently appealed to the lack of technicalization in the NT, and thus blurred the NT language to the point where NT language could not possibly contradiction to the RC doctrine.

    So much for my view of the summary. I am excited to read the part of your article on ordination and especially the sacrificial priesthood. So far (even if the feeling’s not entirely shared, Tim), I’ve appreciated our interactions, and I’ve learned a great deal. I’ll cross signals with you next week. Happy Independence Day to you and all the Americans here at CtC. Non-Americans are welcome to have a happy Independence Day, too… I don’t want to limit that. :)

  124. Tim P – I appreciate the brevity and sorry to be so lengthy in response but you keep repeating false claims. I’m not sure if you’re not reading my responses carefully or if you’re not understanding them but you’re definitely not interacting with much of what I’m saying. I’ll re-post things I’ve already said in responses and I’ll expand a little to try and make it clearer.

    You said “You affirm that the monepiscopacy is of apostolic origin, but you cannot prove it.”

    I had already said:

    ” I cannot prove to you on the bible alone that monepiscopacy was apostolic and I never claimed to be able to nor did I attempt to. ”

    You said:

    Since so much hangs on this point, don’t you think the NT would be crystal clear on such a key point of polity?

    What I would think is not relevant. The fact is that the Bible isn’t crystal clear on it. That’s actually a point against Presbyterianism not against monepiscopacy. Presbyterianism is not the default position. That is, if the bible isn’t crystal clear – then the obvious choice is to go with the ancient martyrs and those who learned directly from the Apostles (e.g. St. Ignatius et. al). It makes no sense to adopt novel teachings from the sixteenth century from men who had absolutely no ecclesial authority. Now regarding what we’d expect to be said in the Bible, the Trinity is more foundational than the ecclesial hierarchy. We would expect Trinitarian language to be more explicit in the Bible more than we would expect ecclesial language. But it isn’t. Here’s what I said in the article:

    The universality of terminological agreement was solidified first with the ‘presbyter’/’bishop’ distinction, and next with the sacrificial language. Interestingly, it was only after these two concepts were universally understood that the Church finally solidified her Trinitarian language. That is, the Church spoke consistently of the clergy and of the sacrifice of the mass before she could speak as we do today about the Trinity.

    You said:

    Further, you cannot even show from the NT that the bishop is a distinct office from the elder, let alone showing that it’s a higher office.

    Again, I had already said:

    I’m not trying to argue on Protestant terms because Protestant terms are built on the doctrinal error of sola/solo-scriptura. So it appears that you expect me to do it solely on terms of the NT. But you’re asking me to assume the Protestant position.

    You said:

    I have offered counter evidence from the NT. I’ve attempted to show that, since “bishop” and “elder” refer to the same office, the distinction and elevation of the “bishop” in your system is actually at odds with the NT.

    Your premise: bishop and elder are the same in the NT
    Conclusion: therefore the NT is against monepiscopacy

    The conclusion follows, but your premise is false. You have not shown that ‘bishop’ and ‘elder’ are the same in the NT. You did make some attempt to, but every argument you have made I have refuted and you have not responded to my counter arguments except for the argument about redundancy which I couldn’t understand and you never clarified.

    To defend against my counter-arguments, you’ve consistently appealed to the lack of technicalization in the NT

    That has been one of my arguments. If you think it is false, please show why. You appealed to a bible dictionary which I refuted above and you never responded to that. That has been your single argument against technicalization. You make it sound like my argument depends entirely on lack of technicalization. Even though you’re wrong about that and I’ve shown it, I’ve already explained that it doesn’t matter because there are other arguments. e.g.:

    #88 – ” I make further arguments in the next sections that make it clear that even if there were multiple bishops and only bishops and deacons in that city, it does not refute monepiscopacy.”

    #105 – “Even if we were to accept the erroneous conclusions of the TDNT, (i.e. even if presbyter was a technical term at that time) it would not disprove that those referred to as ‘presbyters’ were not also bishops because the office of bishop includes all aspects of the office of presbyter. Therefore all bishops may rightly be called presbyters (and we occasionally see that they are, not only in the NT but even throughout Church history). So every instance of “presbyter” in the NT may or may not have been a reference to what we now call bishop. That is why the interchangeability of terminology does not disprove the monepiscopacy and no instance of the usage of the word “elder” or “elders” etc could prove the point you are trying to prove.”

    #107 – “So even if all references to presbyter in the NT are technical references, any of them could be referring to bishops or presbyters.”

    #119 – “1. All bishops are elders but not all elders are bishops
    2. Per 1, any time anyone says “elder” he could mean “bishop” or “elder”
    3. The Bible says “elder” many times
    4. Per 2, the bible could mean “bishop” or “elder” in any of those cases
    5. Given the above, a reference to “elder” does not prove that “elder” is the same as “bishop””

    And again, in the article itself,

    all bishops are presbyters, but not all presbyters are bishops. That is, the office of bishop includes all functions of the presbyterate, but the presbyters cannot perform all functions of the bishops. This fact alone explains much of the apparent interchangeability of terms in the earliest texts.

    You haven’t addressed that crucial argument. You said:

    I’ve appreciated our interactions, and I’ve learned a great deal.

    I have appreciated the irenic tone but I haven’t appreciated repeated false assertions that I’ve already argued were false. Now maybe my arguments were wrong. In that case you should show why they are wrong instead of repeating assertions. I also appreciate the short response and I’d love to return the favor but instead of you picking a single point that I’ve made and trying to show concisely why it was false, you simply consolidated and repeated your false assertions into a single space. So that is why I re-refuted them. Sorry again for the length. Perhaps it would be better if you would just pick one argument and try to explain why you believe it’s wrong.

  125. Tim P.,

    This, incidentally, is quite strange. Since so much hangs on this point, don’t you think the NT would be crystal clear on such a key point of polity?

    But consider the following:

    “This, incidentally, is quite strange. Since so much hangs on this point, don’t you think the NT would be crystal clear on such a key point of Trinitarian theology?”

    “This, incidentally, is quite strange. Since so much hangs on this point, don’t you think the NT would be crystal clear on such a key point of Christology?”

    “This, incidentally, is quite strange. Since so much hangs on this point, don’t you think the NT would be crystal clear on such a key point of soteriology?”

    In light of the intense heretical challenges to so many central Christian points of theology upon which “so much hangs: challenges that have given rise to conciliar and creedal statements which (I assume) you adhere to; perhaps it is worth considering whether or not sacred scripture was ever intended by God to yield the sort of “crystal clear” exposition you seem to envision? Remember it was the most common habit of Arius and other heretics to quote sacred scripture in defense of their heterodox positions.

    A simple consideration of the historical development, recognition, compilation and delineation of the letters and texts which currently compose the NT give every indication that it cannot possibly be conceived as some sort of systematic theological or ecclesiological text. It is composed of historical narratives, letters, etc meant to address specific people in specific situations – never do we find an apostle (or apostolic associate) proposing to lay out a comprehensive topical apostolic rendering of a particular theological or ecclesial theme. The closest thing that comes to mind would be St. Paul’s treatment of Justification in Romans. But Romans does not convey ALL that can be said about justification because St. Paul is only saying what he believes NEEDS to be said to address the particular needs of those to whom he is writing his letter.

    It is exactly because the NT is simply not constructed so as to accomplish the sort of theological/ecclesial clarity you imply, that makes the immediate evidence of Church history so relevant. The fact is that the NT data is simply not clear enough for either you or Tim T. to definitively prove your respective notions of polity from the NT text alone. If I am correct in my statement of that fact (which I have no doubt you will deny), then it follows that the immediate witness of early Christianity (Ignatius et al.) will play a significant role in clarifying (given a less than “crystal clear” picture of polity from the NT text) what the actual intention of the apostles was with regard to such polity. In short, the immediate history will serve as a persuasive guide to adjudicating between your vision and Tim T.’s vision of ecclesial polity. But you know that said history is strongly against you, for you said:

    I’ll grant that the early church is vastly in your favor

    but you go on to say:

    but the NT is not. And the NT is apostolic text.

    Your entire argument rests upon the assumption that the NT is some sort of “crystal clear” source for clarifying everything there is to clarify about ecclesial polity. You simply MUST posit a radical discontinuity between the NT text and the historical life of the Church immediately following upon its completed autograph. If Tim T. simply succeeds in showing that the NT data does not yield a conclusive picture of ecclesial polity, then enter early (VERY early) Church history and the Presbyterian position runs aground.

    Although this is probably not the thread for such a task; I actually think that until you can defend your notion of the NT as a “crystal clear” source for ecclesiology (or Trinitarian theology or Christology or Soteriology for that matter), the polity discussion will simply bog down.

    Pax et Bonum,

    -Ray

  126. Tim P.

    Isn’t it entirely possible that the writers of the NT had no need to be “Crystal Clear” on the subject of apostolic succession because either a) it was so glaringly obvious to all alive at the time it would have been redundant or b) although the precise roles and terms hadn’t yet “clearly crystallized” they left their successors with the Authority resolve the issue?

    And would you agree that either of those possibilities is at least as reasonable as the idea that within 40 years of the death of the last apostle the entire Church had gotten ecclesial authority and hierarchy completely wrong? Wouldn’t it at least be reasonable to see some history of an argument or a dispute over the issue if it hadn’t been universally accepted from a very early date?

  127. Tim P –

    I had to run near the end of my previous reply and forgot to wish you a happy 4th as well. In spite of our disagreements, I bet you and I would get along pretty well in real life.

    To follow up on what Ray said, he is right – there is a more fundamental disagreement that is hampering this discussion. Your position appears to be that the NT alone can be used as evidence in this debate and that if the Catholics cannot prove their case from the NT alone, then we fall back on the “default” presbyterian position. It seems to me that your starting point is at a place that makes it impossible for any of my arguments to work. You’re saying “prove it to me in the NT or else I’ll default to presbyterianism.” Well I can’t do that and I think your starting point is wrong. I think it would be really helpful to begin with some earlier articles that we wrote to set up this argument:

    Hermeneutics and Authority (Yonke)

    Sola vs Solo Scriptura (Cross/Judisch)

    The Canon of Scripture (Brown)

  128. Gents,

    How’s it so glaringly obvious, when the NT *doesn’t even make a distinction of office* between elder and bishop? The very basics of the system are not just missing, but run contrary to what the text actually says. By contrast, the biblical data for the unity of the Godhead and the distinction of persons are plenty and clear enough. The christological texts are similar. Not that those doctrines are easy or spelled out, but the data is there. The whole RC hierarchy of polity is altogether missing in the text of the Bible. As I said, since so much rides on, that’s really unfortunate for your position.

  129. Tim T – I’m absolutely sure we’d get along great if we were neighbors! :)

    Also, there’s no “default” position. I think that a Presbyterian system is present in the text of Scripture. I think the RC hierarchy is not (just as I think strict Congregationalism is not, too). I have not really been arguing a positive case for Presby’ism, but I’ve been critiquing your case for monepiscopalism.

  130. […] Catholicism against the Reformation. In addition to seeing how he handles Scripture in his article (part III specifically), I invite you to read through the comments. I think you’ll find them interesting. I hope to […]

  131. Ray Stamper,

    Your comment, #125, is very thoughtful and helpful (as are your comments in general at CTC!). Over the next day or two, I plan to announce my “reversion” to the Church on Facebook, and more than a few Reformed friends of mine on FB, who haven’t yet heard about this change in my life, may be very shocked and in disbelief about it. If I am careful to quote you in context (and I’ll credit you by name, if you wish), could I quote from your comment #125 on my Facebook page, starting with the sentence which begins with “A simple consideration of the historical development…”? My brother, you are able to explain things SO much better than I can, and you might be able to really help me in reaching out to my Protestant friends.

  132. Christopher,

    Feel free to quote me in any way you think will be helpful – no need to credit my name. I am so thankful to God for your reversion! I also know to some degree the difficulties that lie ahead for you. Be assured of my thoughts and prayers! BTW, I will “friend” you on FB so we can stay in touch a little better.

    Pax et Bonum

    -Ray

  133. Tim P – you said: “How’s it so glaringly obvious, when the NT *doesn’t even make a distinction of office* between elder and bishop?” You’ve misunderstood GNW_Paul’s point. He is suggesting that the reason that the clarity you’re looking for is not in the NT is because it was obvious to its intended audience. This is perfectly plausible.

    GNW: It was obvious and thats why its not in the NT
    Tim P: How is it obvious when it is not in the NT?

    Do you see the fallacy there? Thats akin to this:

    Billy: I didn’t tell you because I thought you already knew.
    Mark: How did you think I knew when you didn’t tell me?

    Billy thinks Mark knew from some other source – that’s why he didn’t mention it. Likewise, GNW is arguing that the NT readers knew Church hierarchy because they were presently under said hierarchy and thus didn’t need a clear distinction to be made.

    I really think that this whole interaction is going nowhere because you’re so deeply rooted in the belief of solo scriptura. Almost no conceivable thing we could say would make any sense to you because of this presupposition. I think we need to come to level terms regarding the authority of Scripture and the Church before we can have much progress here. The entire 1,500 years of unequivocal Christian history amounts to zero weight in your opinion because your private interpretation of Scripture trumps all of that. Things become authorities for you (such as TDNT) when and only insofar as they agree with your private opinion. Insofar as they deviate from your personal interpretation (e.g. martyrs and saints like St. Ignatius, St. Cyprian, and St. Augustine) they hold zero authority.

    I hope you’ll consider (prayerfully) reading and interacting with the links I gave above to the mode foundational articles.

  134. Tim T – I’m a Reformed Christian, Tim. I hold to SOLA scriptura (your solo scriptura is unfair). It’s nothing more than me asserting that you subject the Bible to the Church. I really think that you do that, but you do not. Tell you what… *spitting on hand and extending it in a firm but friendly manner* … I’ll stop talking about you subjecting the Bible to the church and you stop talking about solo scriptura (unless we’re arguing the point). Whaddya say?

    In any event, thanks for that last note. It was helpful. I get the idea that something can be true and obviously true without being stated. Arguments from silence, however, are *notoriously* weak. What stands in the way of this argument from silence is the way the words are used in the NT. The use of the words elder and bishop are not in keeping with the RC doctrine. They are in keeping with Presbyterian doctrine, as Presbyterians have self-consciously tried to draw their polity from the text of Scripture (in their historical context).

    BTW, do you remember the little pop singer Timmy T. from back 18 years ago? Did you ever get called that? If you tell me you sang “One More Try” at the junior high talent show, I’ll be an admirer forever! :)

  135. Tim P –

    I hold to SOLA scriptura (your solo scriptura is unfair). It’s nothing more than me asserting that you subject the Bible to the Church.

    No, it’s not the same thing. I’m not sure you caught the drift of what we’re trying to accomplish at CTC. (Admittedly, we probably haven’t done a great job of explaining it.) Our lead articles are sequential – we’ve thought out this order. Each article is semi-independent but we’re not starting from scratch each time – and the things we say are not simply presuppositions. That is, my claim that you believe in solo scriptura is not a presupposition. It’s something that’s been argued for extensively on this site. It is not equivalent to the claim that I subject the Church to Scripture.

    First, you are not basing that on an argument that you made- you’re just stating it. My statement is based on the argument Bryan & Neal made (linked to above). There are nearly 900 comments and no one has made a substantial rebuttal to the argument in that paper. TurretinFan claims to have offered a response on his website. I never read it because I’m confident that if he had a substantial response he would have mentioned it in one of his several dozen comments on the blog. So if you think that argument is wrong, I think you should go to that thread and explain why. Until someone refutes it, we’re going to continue assuming it.

    Secondly, the arguments you are making have been precisely situated in solo scriptura. Not only are you operating within a solo scriptura framework – your argument completely depends on it. If we take that away – and say that perhaps the Tradition is fallible, yet traditional arguments still carry weight, then my position is superior. Because, as I’ve argued (and you’ve not refuted), the Bible is not clear on monepiscopacy due to multiple reasons – given above. Therefore, given only the Bible, neither the Catholic nor Protestant view is any more likely. However, once we factor in the other evidence, it becomes abundantly clear that the Catholic view is much more likely to be true. I know you’ve alluded to an argument that the Bible actually shows presbyterian polity, but until you make that argument I can’t treat it as if it’s been made.

    Ok lastly – deal – I’ll stop using the vowel ‘o’ at the end of solo, but per the argument in the article linked to above, sola reduces to the same thing in principle. So I cannot treat the doctrine of sola scriptura any different than solo scriptura because it is not, in fact, any different.

    Arguments from silence, however, are *notoriously* weak. What stands in the way of this argument from silence is the way the words are used in the NT.

    They can be, yes and usually are. Note, that the arguments that Protestant scholars make against monepiscopacy are generally arguments from silence in the earliest fathers.

    At any rate… GNW_Paul is not making an argument from silence. The argument is that there is a rational explanation for the lack of clarity. The argument you’re making, incidentally, is actually much closer to an argument from silence. Your argument isn’t specifically an argument from silence, but an argument from ‘lack of clarity’ which is something close to that. You said “don’t you think the NT would be crystal clear on such a key point of polity?” which is something like saying “don’t you think they would have mentioned X” i.e. an argument from silence. GNW_Paul was actually refuting the [your] argument from silence.

    The use of the words elder and bishop are not in keeping with the RC doctrine.

    On the contrary, I’ve shown that they are in keeping. e.g.

    The Catholic doctrine of episcopal government simply requires that the Apostles possessed episcopal authority, that every successive generation had men with the fullness of the episcopal authority, and that at some point in the first century some of the men ordained by the Apostles, or their successors, did not receive the fullness of that authority.

    and

    From the beginning, whenever the terms ‘bishop,’ ‘presbyter,’ and ‘deacon’ were used in any authoritative capacity, the usage was consistent with episcopal government. In monepiscopal Church government, all bishops are presbyters, but not all presbyters are bishops. That is, the office of bishop includes all functions of the presbyterate, but the presbyters cannot perform all functions of the bishops. 59 This fact alone explains much of the apparent interchangeability of terms in the earliest texts.

    And after pointing out a number of problems with the modern view:

    The modern theory of episcopal development faces other difficulties. The idea of absolute presbyterial equality runs contrary to Jewish and ancient Mediterranean culture, and against nature, as explained above. That something is contrary to Jewish or Mediterranean culture is not, in itself, evidence that it is false. The idea that slavery should be outlawed or that women could provide reliable testimony was also contrary to that culture, but we affirm both of those principles. The point is that an egalitarian government would have been unnatural for this culture. Furthermore, we have no mandate from Christ that Church government should be egalitarian, nor do we have historical evidence that it ever was. Therefore, merely pointing out a lack of clarity regarding clerical terminology (‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter’) falls far short of showing or even implying that the early Church was governed by presbyterial bodies composed of men all having equal authority.

    So I don’t think it’s helping the conversation to keep repeating what your original position is. I got that. But what I haven’t seen is interaction with a number of my points raised in the article. The arguments you’ve presented, I’ve refuted and you haven’t responded to those counter-refutations. You just repeated your original position.

    As for Timmy T. – no I was never called that and don’t know who he is. Something tells me I don’t want to know! :-)

  136. Ray,

    Thanks for the permission to quote, the thoughts and prayers, and the FB friend request, my brother!

    I will be announcing my reversion on FB tomorrow, or actually, later today (I’m up way too late, or too early, waiting for my clothes to finish in the dryer, lol– the life of the single man!), but it may be anti-climactic now, since a Catholic friend there unknowingly “outed” me several hours ago! :-) However, it could still be rough when I actually post my about my reversion as my FB “status,” as more people may see that, so I appreciate your continued prayers!

  137. Tim P–

    Regardless of whether or not “bishop” meant monarchical bishop in the NT and other early sources, the pre-Ignatian terminology of bishop and presbyter is consistent with monarchical episcopacy on at least one interpretation. In terms of historical and grammatical use, I take the best interpretation to be that of Felix Cirlot, who argues in his book “Apostolic Succession: Is it True?” that “presbyteros” means the equivalent of “minister” (not specifying whether of first, second, or third tier) in sources that use pre-Ignatian terminology, and that “episcopos” means what we now mean by “elder” (ie. local minister of the second tier) in those sources, including the New Testament. This is a more holistic read of the NT and early patristic evidence than the idea (which is prevalent in modern scholarship and Protestant theology) that the term bishop is equivalent in meaning and reference to presbyter. And it is quite consistent with saying that there was a monarchical episcopate that lacked an official title at the time, existing alongside what the pre-Ignatian writers called “bishops” that were members of the second tier (and Cirlot gives several persuasive arguments for the existence of this institution as well). So your point doesn’t undercut the case for monarchical episcopacy.

    See here for a full treatment of the issue of titles: http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/apostolic-succession-1-presbyter-bishop/

    And if you would like supplementary arguments about the monarchical episcopate in Scripture, just ask.

  138. Oh, my goodness, reading your blog, which I just stumbled across, is like taking a university course without having to pay the tuition! I am adding it to my blogroll. I think others will also find it interesting.

  139. Thanks for stopping by Elizabeth. Not all of our stuff is this long, just our “lead articles.” Welcome to Called to Communion.

  140. How to justify Catholic ministerial priesthood from Scripture? The prophecy in Jeremiah 33:18 says that levitical priesthood shall make sacrifice forever. But in Judaism there has been no sacrifice since the destruction of their Jerusalem temple in 70 AD – their priesthood cannot fulfill this prophecy. Scripture also says that God will take as priests and levites from among the nations (Isaiah 66:21) – thus priests and levites are no longer hereditary.

    Priests without sacrifice are not priests but Scripture also says Christ sacrifice on the cross is once for all (Hebrews 9:12, 26). Since Scripture cannot contradict itself, how do we reconcile Jeremiah 33:18 with Hebrews 9:12,26? Catholic solution is the ministerial priesthood, chosen from among nations (Isaiah 66:21), when they celebrate the Holy Mass, makes present the same sacrifice Christ made on the cross – He is the Lamb (that has been) slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

  141. People have brought up Jeremiah 33:18 to say that the Catholic priesthood is the fulfillment of this passage, saying that without the Catholic priesthood this passage is not fulfilled. Yet in 1 Peter 2:5, this passage is shown to be fulfilled in all the members of the church, as “a holy priesthood that offers up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

    Jeremiah 33:17 “For thus says the LORD: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; 18 nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually.’”

    1 Peter 2:5
    you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

  142. Jennie,

    Of course the catholic Church strongly affirms the “priesthood of all believers”. To affirm as much is not to deny the reality of the sacramental priesthood. More to the point, from a catholic exegetical perspective, OT prophecy is understood to be capable of polyvalent (multiple) meanings and fulfillments which are often understood to take on greater degrees of specificity as the course of history progresses toward an eschatological culmination (an example would be the OT prophecy that “a virgin shall conceive”). Indeed some OT prophecy is seen as pointing to ultimate fulfillment only in realities which are coextensive with the eschaton itself.

    Pax et Bonum,

    -Ray

  143. Hi Jennie, thanks for the comment.

    It is true that Jeremiah 33, by itself, does not prove the necessity for and reality of the priesthood. I did not even reference that passage in the section above where I argued for the sacrificial priesthood. However, 1 Peter 2:5 does not prove that Jeremiah is not prophesying of a ministerial priesthood. It is possible that there is both a ministerial priesthood and a common priesthood. This is what I argued in the article. 1 Peter 2:5 is entirely compatible with the Catholic priesthood.

    Contra Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16), which I’ll talk more about in the next article on apostolic succession, the reality of a common priesthood of God’s people does not mean that we can rebel against God’s established priests. Korah’s (false) argument was the exact argument that Protestants use against the ministerial priesthood. Korah said, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3 NIV) The outcome wasn’t pretty if you recall.

  144. Jennie:

    In Exodus 6: 19, God calls his chosen people “a kingdom of priests and a holy people.” As the extension of God’s people to the Gentiles, that’s what the Church is. But in the OT, the fact that the whole people of God are a priestly people does not exclude a ministerial priesthood offering prescribed sacrifices. In fact, in some fashion the former depends on the latter, even though the latter would not make sense without the former. Similarly, the Church’s being a priestly people does not exclude a ministerial priesthood. According to Catholic teaching, the former depends on the latter even though the latter would not make sense without the former. In that respect, the Catholic priesthood is like the OT levitical priesthood.

    The main difference, of course, is that Christ has been revealed as the “sole High Priest,” so that Christians, lay or clerical, should be seen only as sharing in that priesthood in varying degrees. The OT levitical priesthood foreshadowed this, and has now been superseded.

    Best,
    Mike

  145. “But according to Protestant doctrine, justification of souls comes solely by a single act of faith, and faith is an intellectual assent moved by the will. The preaching of God’s Word is thus understood to be the fundamental mission of the Church, and though this does not exclude the sacraments from proper church duty, it relegates the sacraments to a second tier of importance in Protestant theology.”

    Tim, you did clarify this statement later on in the comments by saying that some protestants, including Calvin, don’t agree that faith is an intellectual assent moved by the will; I will go on and agree that all protestants don’t agree with this definition of faith. I don’t know which protestants believe that it is a good definition, but my husband and I believe that faith, a gift of God as you agree, is a submission of our will to the will of God by believing His word and putting ourselves under the authority of the Spirit who draws us to Himself. Therefore it is not ‘an act of our will’ but a letting go of our will.

  146. To continue with what I said in my last comment about faith, it can then be said that the sacraments, by which I mean baptism and the Lord’s supper, are acts of faith and not of the will. They are acts of obedience resulting from faith, in other words, because of the continued submission of our will to God. ‘The just shall live by faith’, that is in submission to God by the power of His Spirit in us, that gives us grace to obey. The sacraments therefore are secondary to the work of the word and the Spirit in us that produces faith and obedience.

  147. The preaching of the word is understood to be the fundamental mission of the church because scripture itself says ‘faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ The Spirit works through the preached word to conceive faith in the hearer. Then faith produces obedience, which includes obeying the command to be baptized and to ‘remember My death until I come.’

  148. Here are two points that occur to me about the Roman Catholic priesthood as opposed to the biblical model, which teaches that ministers are to help bring the body to full maturity so it can function as the priesthood to the world.

    1.The new testament does not use the word ‘priest’ for the clergy, but uses the words presbyer, elder, and bishop interchangeably. The word for priest as in the high priesthood or levitical priesthood is not ever used for the clergy, but is only used when referring to Christ’s high priesthood or to the Jewish levitical priests, or to say that all believers are a priesthood.
    2. the levitical priesthood as separate from the Israelite nation is not something to be recreated in the church, but is like a 2D snapshot or illustration, that is only a picture of the multi-dimensional reality of what the church should be to the world. The entire church is a priesthood to bring the light and the word to the world, as Christ builds His church. Yet, until the body is brought to maturity there are gifts given that enable those who answer the call to teach and lead the others to maturity. All are not given the same gifts, and many who have the gifts do not grow to maturity and use them for the edification of the body of Christ.
    The Roman Catholic view of the priesthood is like an attempt to copy that snapshot or illustration and institutionalize the calling, rather than living out the multidimensional, living, growing reality of the Body of Christ. In Ephesians 4, scripture says the gifts are given that all may grow to the fullness of maturity and unity in Christ.
    Ephesians 4:11-16 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

    The Catholic teaching places the Church above the laity, Mary above the laity and other saints, the priesthood above the laity, whereas scripture teaches that the ministers are not above and separate from the other believers, that the ‘church’ IS the congregation of believers and not a hierarchy above them, and that Mary is blessed ‘among women’ not above them. The congregation is always relegated to childhood and never can reach the fullness of maturity. This is not the scriptural model.
    Hebrews 5:12-14 says:
    12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
    This passage shows that all should come to maturity and be teachers, but many do not. This does not mean that all can have the same gifts as pastors, etc. as they grow, but that all can be teachers to each other and are to be priests to the world. This passage is in the same chapter that also describes Christ as our High Priest, and chapters 4 and 6 also add to this, that believers should be ministers to one another and to the world.

  149. I forgot to add something in regards to the Ephesians 4 passage: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”.
    The Catholic priesthood does not claim to have all these gifts to the exclusion of the rest of the body of Christ, does it? In other words, are there no prophets, evangelists, and teachers that are not priests? I assume you believe that only priests can be pastors, so I don’t include that. I also assume that you believe the pope and the bishops are apostles, though I don’t believe that is true.
    So then, all these callings to equip the saints are not fulfilled by the Catholic priesthood, but some are fulfilled by others in the ‘laity’ hopefully. But the Ephesians passage doesn’t speak of a ‘priesthood’ separate from the laity that equips the body of Christ.

  150. Ray,
    do you mean to say that the ‘priesthood of all believers’ will not be fulfilled until Christ’s return? God forbid! Certainly many will not come to maturity until they are tested at the time near Christ’s return, but there are many that are fulfilling their calling now, and have fulfilled it in the past.

  151. Mike,
    certainly there is a ministerial calling, or several of them, including pastor, teacher, evangelist, etc. But as I said in another comment here, the N.T. never uses the word priest, as in the word for Levitical priests or the High Priest, for the clergy, but uses the words presbyter, elder, and pastor. These are shown in scripture as gifts within the body, not as a separate priesthood. I think it is very significant that the word ‘priest’ is not used in this way.

  152. Tim,
    the story about the rebellion of the Korah in Numbers 16 is certainly very fearful. I am interested to see what you have to say about it. I don’t want to take that lightly.

  153. Jennie

    No, I did not mean that at all. The “priesthood of believers” is a communion into which we are admitted the moment we enter upon our Christian life. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church proclaims:

    On entering the People of God through faith and baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.” CCC: 783

    The remainder of my comment was intended merely to explain that OT prophetic utterances entail a scope of meaning and fulfillment that is manifold both with respect to the event or events which constitute their fulfillment as well as regards the historical or eschatological moment or moments at which such fulfillment comes to fruition. In the case in question, I simply meant to affirm that an OT prophecy (given the polyvalent nature of prophecy) which foretells a future “priesthood”; can simultaneously apply to both the general “priesthood of all believers” as well as a specific ministerial priesthood – two distinct, yet interrelated, modes of sharing in the “high” priesthood of Christ, the precedent for which is biblically established in the OT, as Mike Liccione pointed out in #144.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  154. Jennie,

    The new testament does not use the word ‘priest’ for the clergy, but uses the words presbyer, elder, and bishop interchangeably. The word for priest as in the high priesthood or levitical priesthood is not ever used for the clergy, but is only used when referring to Christ’s high priesthood or to the Jewish levitical priests, or to say that all believers are a priesthood.

    There are many words and phrases that do not appear in the New Testament. That a word simply does not appear in the bare text of the book does not make it unhelpful for transcending the letter and explaining the spirit of divine revelation. We should also remember Paul’s admonitions not to quibble about words. The early Christian Church developed in its understanding of the revelation that had been entrusted to it, and over time they came to see how it was fitting to apply the label of priest to the ministers of the Church. Some historians speculate that this process was expedited by the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, since it was common, as even the Bible testifies, for Christians to go to the temple, and it’s very likely that the names commonly applied to the priests of the temple were not originally applied to Christians because they did carry that association. That may or may not be the case, but the paradigm that we as Catholics are working in is that everything isn’t spelled out for us in scripture as if the bible were an instruction manual (perhaps we should also recall that by the time the New Testament was canonized and had become a uniquely identifiable collection of works had been recognized by the Church, the same in all of Christenom, the appellation of “priest” for the Christian minister and the identification of the Eucharist as an unbloody sacrifice had become par for the course). Your concerns do not seem to have been pressing to the earliest believers. If you haven’t, I would suggest you read some of the more fundamental articles here, especially Christ Founded a Visible Church, Ecclesial Deism, and Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura and the Question of Interpretive Authority. We reject the suggestion that the Church simply got this one wrong from the very beginning and nobody thought to change anything until the enlightened minds of the 16th century. We don’t think that the passage you’ve quoted several times from Ephesians is supposed to be a systematic treatment of ecclesial offices and giftings. The real question is not whether a particular collection of letters arranged in a certain order appears at all among all the other letters in this book we call the New Testament, but whether the Fathers were right to see in the ministry of the Church’s clergy the New Covenant fulfillment of the earlier priesthood, just as they were right to see the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and coin the terms homoousios and Trinitas.

    The Catholic teaching places the Church above the laity, Mary above the laity and other saints, the priesthood above the laity, whereas scripture teaches that the ministers are not above and separate from the other believers, that the ‘church’ IS the congregation of believers and not a hierarchy above them, and that Mary is blessed ‘among women’ not above them. The congregation is always relegated to childhood and never can reach the fullness of maturity. This is not the scriptural model.

    Those are some strong accusations. Such strong accusations should really be accompanied by some kind of supporting evidence. Furthermore, phrases like “place above” are too vague to be helpful for understanding in such serious accusations. What do you mean when you say the Catholic Church “places” one person or group above another? What we acknowledge is what Paul acknowledges when he says that honor should be given to whom honor is due. There is a certain honor proper to the priesthood, and a certain honor proper to Mary that we give them.

    This passage shows that all should come to maturity and be teachers, but many do not. This does not mean that all can have the same gifts as pastors, etc. as they grow, but that all can be teachers to each other and are to be priests to the world. This passage is in the same chapter that also describes Christ as our High Priest, and chapters 4 and 6 also add to this, that believers should be ministers to one another and to the world.

    Everything you are saying here is fully in accord with Catholic teaching. It’s what others have been trying to point out to you so far, i.e. the ministerial priesthood is not in conflict with the general priesthood of all believers, nor are the laity barred from ministering to and teaching others. You seem to have greatly misunderstood Catholicism.

  155. Jennie –

    @145

    faith, a gift of God as you agree, is a submission of our will to the will of God by believing His word and putting ourselves under the authority of the Spirit who draws us to Himself. Therefore it is not ‘an act of our will’ but a letting go of our will.

    Our difference is in Monergism vs. Synergism. Throughout Church history and especially in St. Augustine and later, the Church has professed belief in synergism – i.e. in man’s cooperation with God’s grace. We will address this topic later with greater depth. But just to clarify the difference in our positions, you have an underlying presupposition of monergism (a denial of secondary causes, at least with respect to salvation). Hence what you concluded in no way follows from your premises.

    Further, believing, submitting, and “letting go of one’s will” are all acts of the will unless they are forced upon us by God against our will. I don’t think you want to say that do you?

    @146 – this is a good example of the need to get some clarity with language. Under the actual definition of faith, an act cannot possibly be an act of faith unless it is of the will. For faith requires assent of the will, as stated above. If it is not part of the will, but something forced upon one’s self against the will, then it is not faith. If we want to use the Protestant re-definition of faith, then those acts you mentioned would still be acts of the will only they would proceed from the involuntary forcing to believe in something (faith).

    @147 The mission of the Church is fundamentally the salvation of sinners. This entails the preaching of the word and the sacraments (e.g. in Acts 2 they asked Peter how to be saved he said “repent and be baptized” and later wrote that baptism saves you, Jesus said if you do not eat His flesh you have no life in you, etc. ) not ONLY the preaching. Therefore both preaching and the sacraments are essential to the mission of the Church. That was my point. If you think sacraments are not essential to the mission of the Church, then please show why. In #147 you stated the Calvinist systematic approach with which Im well aware. (I was formerly a Calvinist) But that doesn’t show that the sacraments are not also fundamental to the mission of the Church. I will, however, concede that I did not demonstrate this point fully. Its part of a larger picture and something that, while I’ve offered some evidence, I’m hoping the reader will agree to accept it for the sake of the argument — so they can see the bigger picture I’m painting. Much of the argumentation I give for the priesthood will make more sense if one understands that the mission of the Church is inherently sacramental – and we need some to administer these sacraments.

    @148-149, I see that David Pell has already answered most of your concerns. You’ll also find that the points you made there have been anticipated and refuted in the article itself.

  156. To clarify what I meant re @146:

    Using the Calvinist re-definition of faith, those acts you mentioned would still be acts of the will. In the Calvinist scheme, the initial justifying “faith” is something entirely passive and apparently does not involve the will. But after that act, the will is repaired in some sense, and is able by the Holy Spirit to perform good acts (in “faith”). So it’s not like the person becomes a robot – he still has a will. And things he does are acts of the will. Just because one believes in Christ while he does something does not make his act something which is contrary to his will.

  157. Ha ha Tim, the Calvinists call me a synergist, and the Catholics call me a monergyst! That’s funny! I’m not reformed, by the way.
    My three year old has a stomach virus today, so that’s about all I may be capable of commenting for now. Barf supercedes doctrine, for now.

  158. Jennie –

    I understand the frustration of being accused of different (mutually exclusive) things. We Catholics get accused like that pretty regularly. Perhaps I’m misreading your argument. Here’s how I understood what you said:

    1. “faith, [is] a gift of God”
    2. “Therefore it is not ‘an act of our will’”

    This is exactly monergism, so if that’s an accurate understanding of your argument then your Calvinist friends are wrong to call you a synergist. But there could be other possible renderings of your argument such as:

    1. faith “is a submission of our will to the will of God”
    2. This comes “by believing His word and putting ourselves under the authority of the Spirit”
    3. “Therefore it is not ‘an act of our will’”

    In which case, I could not identify your presupposition as monergism but we would be left with a conclusion that does not follow from the premises. 1 is not only compatible with faith being an act of the will, it doesn’t make sense unless it is an act of the will. Submission is not submission unless the will is involved. Where the will is not present, it is not submission but possession or coercion. Likewise, in #2, ‘believing’ and ‘putting ourselves under the authority’… are both acts of the will. So 3 (the conclusion) does not follow at all from 1 or 2. That is why I assumed that your argument rested on the assumption of Monergism. In that case, your argument would be sound and given monergism, you would be correct.

    Sorry to hear about your three year old, hope he or she feels better soon.

  159. About faith being an act of the will, I can clarify and say that ‘letting go of the will’ could be called submitting the will to God’s will. It is not an assertion of the will, but a submitting of it. So maybe it’s clearer to say ‘submitting’ rather than ‘letting go’. So if submitting is defined as an ‘act’ then it’s an act of submission. We’re not Calvinists, as I said before, so I don’t believe that we become like robots, or that it is ‘against our will’ that God draws us. I believe we have a choice to submit or not submit to the gospel.

  160. I also believe that faith is a gift of God, but that He gives us the ability to believe as He draws us to Himself and we submit to Him. It’s not forced on us. I don’t know how to explain it right now.

  161. Jennie, @159 I don’t understand how you can conceive of “submitting” (to anything) as not an act of the will. Is it not an act or is it not of the will? If it is not an act, then it could not be a verb because it would not be something you do. But it clearly is a verb and it clearly is something that you do. Therefore it is an act. If it is not willed by man, then how do we explain it except to say that it is forced onto man? If there is another way to say it, i.e. that man does something that he does not will yet at the same time, it is not forced upon him, can you please explain?

    @160 – no explanation is necessary, I agree with how you’ve just stated it. The Catholic Church teaches exactly what you just said. The catechism states:

    1996: Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

    And 2002 says, “God’s free initiative demands man’s free response,” just like you said – it is not forced on us. So I’m wondering if maybe if our disagreement on faith and justification is possibly a misunderstanding? Perhaps our beliefs are much closer than it appeared initially?

  162. Tim,
    About submitting as an act of the will,
    I don’t know how to explain it, except as I said above; if submitting is an act of the will, then it is an act of submitting or subjugating or humbling our will to God’s will, and it isn’talways exactly conscious (if that’s the right word) but is a response to the Spirit opening our eyes to the truth of the gospel, and giving us the ability to submit by faith. We could choose to rebel, I believe, though maybe God sometimes overrides this for His own purposes in some people. I don’t know. But our natural state is to rebel and choose our own way, so His grace helps us to respond in faith. If we rebel at this point, it is all the worse for us, since God gives us grace.

    About our views on justification and faith, there is alot more to it than our views on the will. I don’t know if we would agree on all the aspects of those subjects. I have written about it on my blog, and one is a response to the ‘judaizers in Galatians’ article that Bryan Cross wrote recently. I didn’t comment here because no one had commented for a while on that thread.

  163. Jennie, I don’t know whether we would agree on all aspects of justification. I suspect not, but I agree with what you said in 162 almost 100%. I would just add the qualification that God does not move us contrary to our nature, but in accordance with our nature. That is, grace does not destroy nature but perfects it. God’s grace heals our nature and brings it to achieve its intended purpose. Of course I agree with you that in our fallen state we do not seek God – He seeks us.

  164. David Pell,
    There are many words and phrases that do not appear in the New Testament. That a word simply does not appear in the bare text of the book does not make it unhelpful for transcending the letter and explaining the spirit of divine revelation.

    You said that in response to my assertion that the word ‘priest’ is not used of the clergy in the N.T..
    I say that, since the word and concept of ‘priesthood’ is used in the Old and New Testaments so freely, that it’s absence when speaking of the ministerial offices is a very pointed omission. I wouldn’t compare it to the absence of the word ‘trinity’ since no form of that word in any language appears in the scriptures, though the concept is there. But the word ‘priest’ IS used in the New Testament, so if it was meant to be applied to the clergy, it seems it would have been used by the Apostles that way.

  165. Jennie, every objection you’ve raised regarding the priesthood so far has already been answered in the article. Most of them answered in section IV.f (the one you’re mentioning now was answered near the bottom of that section).

  166. @163 I would just add the qualification that God does not move us contrary to our nature, but in accordance with our nature. That is, grace does not destroy nature but perfects it. God’s grace heals our nature and brings it to achieve its intended purpose. Of course I agree with you that in our fallen state we do not seek God – He seeks us.

    Tim,
    Now I’m curious if your explanation of ‘nature’ is one that protestants would agree with. (My husband and I attend a Baptist church, but per his studies we don’t agree with all the traditions of that denom.) I went and searched ‘nature’ in the NKJV and I see that it is only used in the N.T. and seems to refer to each type of creatures separate state of being, and is also separate from God’s state of being as the Creator. There is a human nature, and a divine nature, and natures of animals. I also see that before we are justified we are ‘by nature children of wrath’, but that afterwards we are made ‘new creations’ in Christ. So I would say that our natures are made new, and that we also partake of God’s nature by being indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit. We also continue to have ‘the flesh’ that troubles us as long as we are in these bodies. I don’ t know if what you believe agrees with my reading or not.

  167. Jennie,

    Yes the way Catholics use “nature” is just as in classic philosophy, to distinguish between types of creatures. E.g. a dog has a dog nature, not a cat nature, and a human has a human nature, not a divine nature, etc.

    When we are justified, we don’t become a new species or acquire a new nature in that way, so obviously the Scriptures are using it in a different sense. St. Thomas teaches that by original sin, the good of our nature was diminished in some way, but not in the very principles of our nature, i.e. not in what makes us what we are. I recommend Bryan Cross’s post on Aquinas and Trent 3. So according to the Catholic approach, when the Scriptures say we were formerly children of wrath, and presumably implies that by justification we take on some new nature, this must be seen not as taking on a new nature as if to say that a dog takes on a cat nature and becomes a cat! I think you’ll agree with us there. We would say that taking on the new nature, in that sense, means having our nature restored to its proper goodness, and even to achieve our proper end which is the beatific vision and was not enjoyed by Adam. That would entail divinization, which would add some different dimensions to this discussion, but I think that’s a conversation that we’re not ready to have yet.

  168. We would say that taking on the new nature, in that sense, means having our nature restored to its proper goodness, and even to achieve our proper end which is the beatific vision and was not enjoyed by Adam. That would entail divinization, which would add some different dimensions to this discussion, but I think that’s a conversation that we’re not ready to have yet.

    Tim,
    Why are we not ready? I’m not sure what you mean by divinisation, though I have a guess. I guess also that the ‘not readiness’ may have to do with the subject of this post: the acceptance of the authority of the priesthood, which must be accepted before the concept of ‘divinisation’ can be brought up. I’m not sure if you realize what you’re saying, but I’ve heard this before. Tell me if I’m misunderstanding you, please. I think the ‘beatific vision’ was seeing God face to face, not being God.

    Genesis 3:4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

  169. 2 Peter 1:4

    “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. “

  170. Michael,
    I indirectly quoted from that passage myself in my earlier comment. I believe all scripture points to God’s purpose being to make us partakers of His nature by His power and Spirit in us, not by making us gods but by making us righteous, holy, and giving us everlasting life. We are His children made in His image, but I hope you are not saying that we will be the same as God Himself: all powerful, all knowing, etc. There is no one like God, and never will be anyone else like Him. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what divinisation means.

  171. Jennie,

    Whatever divinization means, I agree with you that it cannot mean that we become “gods” because, as you said, there is only one God. That number [one] cannot increase. Since you agree with us that we “become partakers of the divine nature,” and since we agree with you that “we shall see Him as He is,” I suggest we just leave it there and assume (at least for now) that any differences that we might have in that regard are semantics or misunderstandings.

    Do you have any other objections to the arguments in this article on Holy Orders that I haven’t answered yet?

  172. Is it OK to post differing opinions? Because hrist is high priest doesnt mean there is a hierarchy of men. A quick reading of the new test tells of how Paul and Peter would never let people put them up as being priests or semi gods or anything other than a fellow servant. Since you cant find a pecking order in the bible , you have to go to the writings of men. If you base your religion on the words of men you can come up with anything and everything. But what Christ wants from us is fellowship, relation instead of religion. thanks

  173. Wayne – sure, opposing opinions are always allowed so long as they’re courteous and follow our posting guidelines. Welcome to Called to Communion.

  174. Thank you Tim.

  175. Wayne,

    Your post is certainly courteous, but it’s also quite dismissive to a lengthy article that Tim put a lot of thought, time and effort into. Most of the major “points” you raised have already been refuted in the article, but I notice that you don’t actually deal with anything Tim’s written, rather you seem to shrug it off based on your take on a cursory reading of the New Testament. Yet contrary to what you assert, a cursory reading of the bible does in fact teach that there is a “pecking order” in the Church, though we obviously wouldn’t use intentionally derogatory terms like that. Even someone who disagrees with the particulars of Catholic ecclesial polity cannot deny that Christ gave authority to the apostles, a special authority, and that the apostles appointed leaders, often referred to as as overseers or elders. Passages like Hebrews 13 clearly tell us to submit to these leaders, and this does not contradict Jesus’ teaching. Jesus did not that there are no leaders, but that Christian leaders are a different kind of leaders than the leaders of the world.

    While it’s true that Peter and Paul didn’t want to be treated as gods, that is neither here nor there as it relates to Tim’s article. Tim’s article doesn’t have to do with treating our leaders as gods or semi-gods. We do not do that.

    Finally, it’s interesting that you believe that people who read the Bible come up with one set of teachings and that those who read the “writings of men” come up with whatever they want. My experience as a Protestant, and I think the experience of everyone who contributes to this blog, is that basing one’s understanding of Christianity solely on the bible does, in fact, lead people to believe “whatever they want,” by which I mean the literally thousands of competing interpretations of every possible issue among “bible only” Christians. We here at Called to Communion believe that one of the reasons Christ created the Church like He did is to keep this sort of thing from happening. The most proximate example for our discussion would be the fact that millions of Protestant Christians would disagree with the issues you’ve raised with Tim’s article here. You could argue that you’re simply following the Bible and that all those people are simply misguided, but that just begs the question.

  176. bro David, just because Tim put a lot of time into a post doesnt mean its gospel. We have the gospel. We have no need for anyone to add to it. I cant read the whole article but i read lots of it. David, there are two types of people. The saved and the unsaved. Jesus said that the unsaved cannot, and i repeat cannot , understand the things of the spirit. This gets me into trouble with the big religious people. If you know Jesus personally, theres lots of things you wouldnt do or think. I know i know, how dare i say such things. Jesus said them to the big religion people of his day, and they set out to kill him.

  177. Wayne,

    You say the unsaved cannot understand the things of the spirit. Does that account for all the disagreements between religious people? That is if two people have a very different understanding on an important matter of the spirit that one of them must not be saved? Can you always tell which one is wrong?

    The other question is whether you believe the truth of God is rational? That is if you disagree with the conclusion you are compelled to either reject one premise or assert that the premises don’t follow logically from the conclusion? If that is so then whether or not the person making the argument is saved can be set aside. You can just interact with the argument and not judge anyone’s soul.

  178. Wayne,

    It sounds like you’re saying that everyone who disagrees with you is unsaved. Could you confirm for me that that’s what you’re saying?

  179. Hi David and randy, 2 people who disagree about things of the spirit doesnt mean one is saved and the other isnt. Both would be unsaved. Jesus said narrow is the path to salvation and few be thereon. That means few. David, disagree with me all you want. You probably are better off with that. I say search the scriptures, i dont say things of myself. Anything i say is from scripture. I leave Wayne out of it, as much as possible. Yes i can stick my foot in my mouth. do it all the time

  180. Wayne,

    So if you and I disagree about the things of the Spirit, we’re both unsaved?

    Oh and I read the bible, too. I read it in the original languages for my devotional/quiet time. What’s at issue here is not who’s reading the bible and who isn’t.

  181. Apostolic Succesion article any time soon?

  182. Tap – Unfortunately it looks like it might be a while before we publish that. Sorry for the delay.

  183. “If you know Jesus personally, theres lots of things you wouldnt do or think. I know i know, how dare i say such things. Jesus said them to the big religion people of his day, and they set out to kill him.”

    This is the familiar modern understanding of who Christ was that is common among many strains of Protestantism. One, that His intention was to throw down the Roman Empire. Two, that His intention was to throw down the Sanhedrin. Not only that, it is false. Christ was not the “rebel”. He did not come to destroy what we know as Judaism, He came to fulfill it. Additionally, the “big religion people of his day” (the Sanhedrin), did not set out to kill Jesus because they didn’t understand what He was talking about, because they didn’t want to know Him personally, or because He said that some would be “saved” and some wouldn’t (the Sanhedrin of all people would not have any objections to that teaching), they wanted to kill Him because He claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God; because He raised people from the dead as only God or someone annointed especially by God could do; because His Sermon on the Mount was the parallel to the delivery of the Law by Moses… He spoke with the authority that only God could have. They considered Him a blasphemer. The Scriptures make this abundantly clear.

    Plus, Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus were two of those “big religion” people.

  184. No worries, looking foward to it, thanks.

  185. This post is being quoted in the comments at http://anglicandownunder.blogspot.com/2010/09/not-vicar.html I think it would be helpful if someone of your perspectives made a comment there as I think that the Catholic understanding of the papacy is being misunderstood.

  186. You stated: “There is no indication that authority was derived from the congregation”.

    The idea that authority is derived from the congregation itself is not an accurate representation of the Protestant claim. The argument is that authority is derived from the gift of the Holy Spirit and not from the congregation itself. The congregation does not establish authority, but recognizes the authority which God has already established through the gift of the Spirit. The distinction is crucial.

    It can be easily proven that this was the concept of authority as established by the apostles. In the first epistle to the Corinthian church, Paul states:

    “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit… Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues”. (I Corinthians 12.4-13, 27-28)

    Paul compares the Church to a body. His purpose is to show that, even though there are diversities of operations, the Church is one in the same way that a body being one has many members.

    There are crucial questions that must now be answered:

    1) According to Paul, what determines whether an individual is a member of the Church or not?

    2) Is it possible for someone who does not possess that which determines membership in the Church, at the same time hold to a gift of the Spirit?

    3) Is it possible to for someone to possess that which determines membership in the Church and at the same time not be a full member of the Church, one with the whole body?

    I will not answer these questions now, but I will do so only after a look at a similar text.

    “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”. (Ephesians 2.19-22)

    Now, Paul compares the Church to a temple. The Church-Temple is built on the foundation apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. The concept is similar to the body comparison. Some scholars hold to the idea that the Jewish temple was built in a shape that looked like a man. That would link the two ideas even further. In the fourth chapter he goes back to the same theme:

    “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4.8-16)

    It is important to note that Paul here explicitly excludes Peter from being the head of the church. For while he calls Christ the head, the clearly places the apostles as parts of the body. That clearly includes Peter. He had clearly done the same in I Corinthians 12.27. After he says: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” he goes on to name the apostles as members of the body.

    Another important point is that the edifying of the body, the increase of the body, the unity of faith and the growth into a perfect man is presented as the eschatological purpose of God and not as a concrete present reality in its complete form. Therefore, the Church in its historical form is NOT to be regarded as already having arrived as and objectively fulfilled reality, but it is to be regarded as still in the process of edification towards the perfect unity of faith. “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ”.(II Corinthians 11.2)

    So this brings us to what you have stated: “[Protestant ecclesiology] contradicts the visibility and objective identifiability of the Church”. The answer to this problem was hinted in the three questions I asked about I Corinthians.

    1) According to Paul, what determines whether an individual is a member of the Church or not?

    In Biblical Ecclesiology, membership in the Church is determined by the objective possession of the Spirit. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his… For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God”.(Romans 8.9,14) To have the Spirit is be a full member of the Church. The contrary is also true. Even if one is publicly regarded as a member of the Church, but if he has not the Spirit, he is not truly of the Church, he is not a member of the body of Christ. That not all who are regarded as members of the Church are actual members of the Church is explicitly stated by St. John: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us”.(I John 2.19)

    There are many who call Lord, Lord with the mouth, but not with the heart (Matthew 7.21). “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts”.(Gal 5:22-24) That is why Jesus said that “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them”(Mat 7:20) and not merely by their external profession of faith. But the finite man cannot have certainty in the most absolute sense. That is the reason why it is possible for those who are not truly members of the body of Christ to be publicly regarded as members of the body of Christ. Membership in the Church is determined by the objective possession of the Spirit. Finite man, however, has no means to be certain, in the most absolute sense (except in the case of a direct revelation from God), if another man is true in his profession and therefore truly having the Spirit.

    2) Is it possible for someone who does not possess that which determines membership in the Church, at the same time hold to a gift of the Spirit?

    In Paul’s analogy, the body is compared to the Church and the individual members of the body are the individual people in the Church each with there own gift. As I have show, not all who are regarded as members of the Church are actual members of the Church. “They were not all of us”. (I John 2.19) Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his”(Romans 8.9,14) which means he does not have the gifts of the Spirit since he is not truly a member of the Church.

    This by itself proves that the Roman Catholic Ecclesiology is a mistake. The whole Ecclesiology of the Roman Catholic Church stands on the mistaken premise that it is possible for man to be absolutely certain that another man has the Spirit and is a true member of the Church. For Paul makes it absolutely clear in I Corinthians 12.28 and Ephesians 4.11 that the authority of government over the Church is derived from the gift of the Spirit to those who actually have the Spirit. It is also clear that not all who are regarded as members of the Church are actual members of the Church.

    Since the authority of government over the Church is derived from the gift of the Spirit to those who actually have the Spirit and since that not all who are regarded as members of the Church are actual members of the Church and since finite man has no means to be certain, in the most absolute sense (except in the case of a direct revelation from God), if another man is true in his profession and therefore truly having the Spirit, it is possible that many who are regarded as holding to government in the Church, have not been established as such by God.

    That this could and would happen was predicted by Paul:

    “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders (presbuteros) of the church…Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (episkopos), to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears”.(Acts 20.17,28-31)

    That renders null all possibility of authority deriving from Episcopal succession.

    Church authority is not derived from Episcopal authority. It is derived from the gift of the Holy Ghost. The fact that the authority of government over the Church is derived from the gift of the Spirit to those who actually have the Spirit points us into the true biblical and apostolic principle of how Church authority is established in a congregation.

    Since the authority of government over the Church is derived from the gift of the Spirit to those who actually have the Spirit, we must understand that men have no power to determine but only to recognize the authority that God determined through his Spirit. Their authority was not derived from men. It was derived from God.

    There is now an important question that must be answered at this moment. Since finite man has no means to be certain, in the most absolute sense, if another man is true in his profession and therefore truly has the Spirit how is it even possible to appoint the officers of the Church, since this would require knowledge that they do in fact have not only the Spirit, but also that they have the gift for the office?

    The Roman Catholic solution to this problem is to presume the existence of an infallible isystem which objectively guarantees that all appointed bishops/elders, are in fact bishops/elders. As we have seen, however, this solution is neither biblical nor apostolical. If the existence of an infallible institution which guarantees the legitimacy were a necessary precondition to the possibility of establishing trustworthy offices, we would then have to conclude that under the Old Testament, it was impossible to have any knowledge of who was a true prophet or not. Because even the Roman Catholic will have to concede that under the Old Testament, the office of the prophet existed without an institution that guaranteed the legitimacy of the prophets. And the absence of such an institution did not remove the responsibility of both recognizing and obeying such prophets.

    The same argument can be made regarding the canon of Scriptures. If the existence of an infallible system which guarantees the legitimacy of the canon of Scriptures were a necessary precondition to the possibility of having a recognizable canon, it follows that the Jews could not have been held responsible by Christ and the Apostles for not recognizing Him as the Messiah since the recognition of the authority of Scriptures is implicit in the demand to obey and believe what it says. That fact that this demand was made even without the existence of an infallible system which guarantees the legitimacy of the canon of Scriptures is sufficient to prove that the existence of an infallible system which guarantees the legitimacy of the canon of Scriptures is not a necessary precondition to the establishment of a canon of Scriptures.

    In the same way, the existence of prophets from God that demanded obedience and belief even though there was not an infallible institution which guarantees their legitimacy, is sufficient to prove that the necessity of an infallible institution which guarantees the legitimacy of the officers of the Church. It is not a necessity imposed from the biblical point of view but it is an anti-biblical demand made to God but which was never established by God.

    Then once again, since finite man has no means to be certain, in the most absolute sense, if another man is true in his profession and therefore truly has the Spirit how is it even possible to appoint the officers of the Church, since this would require knowledge that they do in fact have not only the Spirit, but also that they have the gift for the office?

    The key here is to understand that, just because it is not possible to “to be certain in the most absolute sense” that does not mean it is not possible to have any degree of knowledge of the matter. Jesus warned: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them”. (Matthew 7:15-20)

    Altough we cannot look into men’s hearts in a way that we can “be certain in the most absolute sense”, we can still have knowledge of who they are by their fruits. This is the reason why Paul gives a description of how a bishop should be:

    “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil”.(I Timothy 3:1-7)

    Although we cannot be certain in the most absolute sense of a man’s heart, Paul gives here a description of what should be demanded by those who desire to govern the Church. If a man conforms to the basic standard as set here, it is a sign that he has truly been called by God to the office. Based on their “their fruits”, that is, on how coherent they show themselves to be with the office, the Church is to recognize those who God has called to his service through what can be called ordination.

    Besides this, there is also the possibility of a direct revelation from God stating who has been chosen. This was the case of Timothy (I Timothy 4.14) and it is the only way we can “be certain in the most absolute sense” of the true calling of a man. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery”. (I Timothy 4.14) Besides this uncommon and special case, there is always the possibility of the Church being mistaken. This is why is to be done with extreme caution and much fasting and prayer. That is what Paul is probably is telling Timothy: “Lay hands suddenly on no man”. (1Timothy 5:22)

  187. Frank,

    This article that I wrote presupposes that the reader believes (or at least thinks he believes) in a visible Church. Please see Bryan Cross & Tom Brown’s article: Christ Founded a Visible Church. Also, Bryan Cross has argued here that Protestantism does not have a visible Church.

  188. Frank,

    “Paul compares the Church to a body. His purpose is to show that, even though there are diversities of operations, the Church is one in the same way that a body being one has many members.”

    Exactly. That’s the Catholic position. But a body is something physical, right? I have a body, and if you were standing in front of me, you’d be able to see my body. You could shake my hand, thus realizing that my body is a physical thing. You could smell me, hear my body speak, etc. You would be able to know with absolute certainty that this body is my body and absolutely identify me, Joe Palmer, by my physical body.

    In the same way, and absolutely parallel to St. Paul’s use of the body to describe the Church, it is something that can be identified physically. The body is one, all parts belonging to the one body. Though they have different functions, they all have one visible head, without it, it could not live. The head is Christ, so therefore, His Body is Christ, and Paul uses this imagry to explain what the Church is, that gifts are meted out differently in different parts, all relying on the head. But he also uses the imagry of the body to show that it is something physical, tangible, and can be identified and located through our senses.

    In Protestantism, the system has to inevitably break down to the “invisible body” theory, which is contrary to what the Scriptures describe. Most Protestants clearly admit to believing in an “invisible” church. Some will claim that they don’t believe in an invisible church, but then admit to it when pressed.

  189. I want to clear up an ambiguity. Frank, you wrote:

    “If the existence of an infallible system which guarantees the legitimacy of the canon of Scriptures were a necessary precondition to the possibility of having a recognizable canon, it follows that the Jews could not have been held responsible by Christ and the Apostles for not recognizing Him as the Messiah since the recognition of the authority of Scriptures is implicit in the demand to obey and believe what it says.”

    Much depends on what you mean by “recognizable canon”. It is possible to have a recognized set of authoritative books without having a “canon,” in the technical sense of having a precisely specified and closed set of texts. As I understand it, for most of their history–at least once they committed their oral traditions to writing–this was precisely the state of the Jews: they had a set of texts that were authoritative in a strong sense–perhaps even considered infallible, yet that set of texts was not thought of as fixed (until much later). After all, who could know when God would inspire another prophet? And once the prophet (or his hearers) committed his words to writings, another text would then be added to the previous set of authoritative books.

    Consider the difference between these two propositions:

    (1) This particular set of texts contains texts all of which are inerrant and authoritative.
    (2) This particular set of texts contains texts all of which are inerrant and authoritative, and there are no other such texts.

    Now it may not be clear how we can know (or how the Jews could have known) that (1) is true. What is clear is that it is much harder to know that (2) is true–indeed, it is probably impossible unless (2) is taught by an infallible source. The accountability of the Jews therefore fails as a counterexample to the need for an infallible magisterium because at most the Jews had to know that (1) is true, not (2). Now if the Protestant is comfortable believing that only (1) is true, then inasmuch as the Jews did not need an infallible source of teaching to help them determine the truth of (1), the Protestant also does not need an infallible source of teaching to help him determine the truth of (1). But of course if the Protestant believes (1) only, and not (2), then he must remain open to there being other sources of infallible teaching.

    I have left open the question whether the Jews needed an infallible magisterium to know that the set of texts they had were infallible, or in some other way strongly authoritative. I am merely pointing out that even if they did not, this does not show that the post-Apostolic Protestant who believes in a closed canon does not need an infallible magisterium. Of course, if a Scriptural text gave a table of contents for the canon, then the only important question would be how we know that particular piece of Scripture (the one containing the table of contents) is inerrant. But the Scriptural texts contain no such thing. My point is that even if we overlook this question entirely, the Protestant still has a very big problem; he still has to explain how he can confidently assert, on grounds which are admittedly fallible and errant, the universal negative that there are no other inerrant and authoritative texts. This is, I think, the most difficult aspect of the canon question for Protestants.

  190. Frank Brito, if I may, a few comments on your interpretations of the bible …

    Frank Brito:
    1) According to Paul, what determines whether an individual is a member of the Church or not?

    In Biblical Ecclesiology, membership in the Church is determined by the objective possession of the Spirit.

    If what you mean by “objective possession of the Spirit” is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian that allows the Christian to partake in the divine life of God, then I would agree with this: the Christian that is in a state of grace is a person in whom the Spirit of God dwells.

    That said, it must be noted that one can have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and still not be “a full member of the Church”, because one may be a Christian that is in a state of grace that belongs not to the Church, (the Church founded by Christ) but to one of the thousands upon thousands of Protestant ecclesial communities that are founded by men and women such as Calvin, Luther, King Henry VIII, John Knox, Chuck Smith, Aimee Semple McPherson, Mary Baker Eddy, etc., etc., etc. (Or perhaps his is a Protestant that is not a member of any church at all – belonging to no church is a trend that is on the rise within Protestantism.)

    The church that Paul speaks of is the church, the church founded by Christ upon the Rock of Peter. Christ’s Church is not Luther’s church; Calvin’s church; or any other “church” founded by a man or a woman.

    Now it is true that a Christian in a state of grace is a man or a woman in whom the Spirit indwells, but how does one receive the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the first place? Paul answers that question:

    Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4

    As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him … For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority … you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. Col 2:6-12

    Paul is teaching that the Sacrament of Baptism brings the “newness of life” which is exactly what Jesus taught:

    Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, [i.e. receives the Sacrament of Baptism] he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.’ John 3:5-7

    A Protestant can receive a valid baptism within a Protestant sect, and that baptism brings him into a real but imperfect communion with Christ’s Church:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    1271 Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.” “Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn.”

    Frank Brito:

    The contrary is also true. Even if one is publicly regarded as a member of the Church, but if he has not the Spirit, he is not truly of the Church, he is not a member of the body of Christ. That not all who are regarded as members of the Church are actual members of the Church is explicitly stated by St. John: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us”.(I John 2.19)

    Imagine a Christian that has been fully initiated into the true Church by the valid reception of the three Sacraments of Initiation. Imagine that this Christian has fallen from grace by committing mortal sin. This Christian could still retain membership in Christ’s Church, without having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (mortal sin entails the loss of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit). As long as he has not lost his faith, he would be united to Christ’s Church by faith and hope, but not charity. Mortal sin does not necessarily cause one to be excommunicated from Christ’s Church.

    There are, however, mortal sins that do bring about the loss of membership in Christ’s Church; e.g. the sins of apostasy and heresy. The Apostle John is saying that the heretics that left Christ’s church were “not of us” because they did not believe that Christ came in the flesh. These heretics were the Docetae – “men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” 2 John 1:7

    Frank Brito:

    2) Is it possible for someone who does not possess that which determines membership in the Church, at the same time hold to a gift of the Spirit?

    Of course that is possible. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of prophecy. The Jews that prophesied in the OT were not Christians that were members of Christ’s Church! On can manifest a charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. One can work “mighty deeds” and cast out demons in the name of Jesus without having Jesus as his Lord.

    Frank Brito:

    Now, Paul compares the Church to a temple. The Church-Temple is built on the foundation apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. The concept is similar to the body comparison. … It is important to note that Paul here explicitly excludes Peter from being the head of the church. For while he calls Christ the head, the clearly places the apostles as parts of the body.

    The Catholic Church teaches that Christ is the head of the church that he founded, and the man that holds Peter’s office is a steward of Christ’s church. Christ is the King of his Kingdom, and Peter is his Vicar on earth because Christ gave to Peter alone the Keys of the Kingdom. Peter, as the Vicar of the King, holds a unique office with real authority within the Church that Christ founded.

    Christ the King and Peter his Vicar is prefigured in the Old Testament by the hierarchical relationship of David the King and Eliakim his Vicar. The symbol of the office that Eliakim held is the Key:

    I will thrust you from your office, and you [this steward, to Shebna] will be cast down from your station. In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. Isaiah 22: 19-22

    “… you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matt 16:18-17

    CTC plans to write lead articles on Apostolic Succession, Church Infallibility, and Papal Infallibility. No doubt many of the issues that you are raising will be examined in depth in those future lead articles. Stick around, and the time will come to examine in full all the points you have raised. Until then, may God bless you and guide you in his ways.

  191. I think all of these questions show, that the early church was not well aware of the teaching of the new testament apostles… A false and inadequate understanding quickly developed from this system, not from the bible. It interesting that Clement of Rome, who has very learned as a pagan thinker, but a freshman as new testament thinker, caused a new trajectory… The Laity/Clergy distinction, and is in direct conflict with the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 2:9, Rev 1:6, etc. the whole book of Acts… Where the Spirit is Lord of the church not men immeresed in pagan thought…. As a protestant, this cute historical moves are not allowed to go unchallenged, or unnoticed by the faithul… All Christians are priests because of the saving, atoning Cross, plus nothing… All Christians have the Spirit, all Christians can have communion and share it,and all Christians can cast out devils and live the Christian life. This heirarchy is foreign to the new testament and only works with those who will no take it seriously… I find it interesting that Clement who thought extra canonical books were inspired and thought Plato was inspired has the last word and not Peter the fisherman Apostle… Talk about an oxymorom! This is just to narrow thinking and illogical for me.. I guess that is why I’m a protestant….I think this kind of thinking kills the real new testament church! Some Catholic’s church’s best theologians also see real problems with the laity in chains….

  192. Hi John, welcome to Called to Communion. I did actually show several points in the Scripture that disprove what you’re saying so if you want to contradict my findings, then you should show where and how I went wrong instead of merely stating it. You have not shown any of my points to be false; you have only stated that they were.

    It is refreshing to see your honesty regarding the Church fathers and admitting that they reject what Protestants consider biblical Christianity. But I wonder if you grasp the significance of the fact that the early Church fathers, who were taught directly by the Apostles, believed something different than you do. For example, you claim that we should follow St. Peter instead of St. Clement. But what you might not realize is that St. Clement was a companion of St. Paul and was actually ordained by St. Peter as I showed in footnote 47.

    Do you really think it’s reasonable that you trust your own interpretation of St. Peter over a man who was ordained by him and who studied the gospel directly under his and St. Paul’s supervision? In fact that is remarkably illogical and unreasonable thinking.

    Further, you made some false claims about St. Clement. St. Clement did not claim that any apocryphal text was canonical. In fact, St. Clement is silent on the issue. St. Clement nowhere mentions Plato and certainly did not believe him to be inspired. You are probably confusing him with St. Clement of Alexandria who did quote from some apocryphal texts, mistakenly believing them to be of apostolic origin. He did mention some of the Greek philosophers and admired Plato, but never claimed that his writing was inspired or canonical. If you disagree, then please produce the quotation you have in mind.

  193. @John Holmes:

    All Christians are priests because of the saving, atoning Cross, plus nothing… All Christians have the Spirit, all Christians can have communion and share it,and all Christians can cast out devils and live the Christian life

    Now all we need to decide is who is a Christian? Catholics? Baptists? Mormons? Muslims (who consider Jesus the second most important prophet)? Most of the well-meaning world, who think a lot of Jesus as a great moral teacher?

    It seems to me that your “all Christians” must presuppose that we all agree on who is a Christian. I am not sure that we do.

    jj

  194. “I think all of these questions show, that the early church was not well aware of the teaching of the new testament apostles… A false and inadequate understanding quickly developed from this system, not from the bible. It interesting that Clement of Rome, who has very learned as a pagan thinker, but a freshman as new testament thinker, caused a new trajectory…”

    John,

    There seems to be a disconnect with your statements and chronological objective history. There was no New Testament canon until the end of the 4th century. So, I’m not exactly sure how someone who did not have the New Testament could become a New Testament thinker. Unless you’re making an argument for oral tradition, in which case that is quite welcome. Thus, you can refer to Tim’s comments.

  195. “All Christians are priests because of the saving, atoning Cross, plus nothing… ”

    John, this caricature of Catholicism (Catholicism = Faith in Christ + …) is sort of outdated and doesn’t make alot of sense, historically. Protestantism was born in the 16th century out of a schism from the Catholic Church. At it’s birth it actually removed certain things (Sacred Scripture, Sacraments, deposit of faith, Tradition, etc.). So, in reality, the oft used equation by those who still take an elementary evangelical approach in their attacks on Catholicism should be turned on its head:

    Protestantism = Faith – Tradition – Sacraments – deposit of Faith – 7 books and numerous verses from the Sacred Scripture – …

  196. But what you might not realize is that St. Clement was a companion of St. Paul and was actually ordained by St. Peter as I showed in footnote 47…

    Real proof is lacking, more superstition than historical facts…!

    (1) Among the most authentic proofs of the connexion of Clement with the Roman church is the mention of his name in its liturgy. The early Christians on the death of a bishop did not discontinue the mention of his name in their public prayers. Now the Roman Canon of the Mass to this day, next after the names of the apostles, recites the names of Linus, Cletus, Clemens; and there is some evidence that the liturgy contained the same names in the same order as early as the 2nd cent; Probably, then, this commemoration dates from Clement’s own time.

    (2) An independent proof that Clement held high position in the church of Rome is afforded by the Shepherd of Hermas, a work not later than the episcopate of Pius (A.D. 141-156), the writer of which claims to have been contemporary with Clement. He represents himself as commissioned to write for Clement the book of his Visions in order that Clement might send it to foreign cities, that being his function; while Hermas himself was to read the Vision at Rome with the elders who presided over the church. Thus Clement is recognized as the organ by which the church of Rome communicated with foreign churches; but the passage does not decide whether or not Clement was superior to other presbyters in the domestic government of the church.

    (3) Next in antiquity among the notices of Clement is the general ascription to him of the Epistle to the Church of Corinth, commonly known as Clement’s first epistle. This is written in the name of the church of Rome, and neither in the address nor in the body of the letter contains Clement’s name

    If this was evidence in court it would get thrown out for insufficent evidence! Sorry, that is the problem you have a romantic view of history and of your view, so it becomes a circular argument, that proves itself…

    Clement of Rome’s first epistle, 1 Clement (c 96),[4] was copied and widely read and is generally considered to be the oldest Christian epistle in existence outside of the New Testament. The letter is extremely lengthy, twice as long as the Epistle to the Hebrews, and it demonstrates the author’s familiarity with many books of both the Old Testament and New Testaments. The epistle repeatedly refers to the Old Testament as scripture[5] and includes numerous references to the Book of Judith. Within the letter, Clement calls on the Christians of Corinth to maintain harmony and order.[4] Tradition identifies the author as St. Clement, the fourth bishop of Rome (third after Saint Peter), and scholarly consensus is overwhelmingly in favor of the letter’s authenticity.[6] Early church lists place him as the second or third[7][8] or as possibly the immediate successor[9][10] of Saint Peter as bishop of Rome, although another very recent source states that “there is no evidence for monarchical episcopacy in Rome at so early a date”.[7]

    Second Clement was traditionally ascribed to St. Clement of Rome, but it is now generally considered to have been written later, c 140-160, and therefore could not be the work of St. Clement. Whereas First Clement was an epistle, 2 Clement appears to be a transcript of an oral homily or sermon, making it the oldest existing Christian sermon outside of the New Testament.

    Note recent scholarship ” there is no evidence of monarchical episcopacy…”

    Almost 30 per cent of Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians can be cited as coming from Old Testament writings.(3) The numbering of the actual quotations varies,(4) but those citations which are formally introduced number 59. These are preceded by the conventional formulae, “thus it has been written,” “for says,” the writing,” for it says somewhere,” etc. The passages from which these quotations are drawn are distributed fairly evenly among the pentateuch, prophets and hagiographa.(5) Most used is the Psalms; then Isaiah and Genesis follow as the next most used books.

    In striking contrast, Clement only introduces two New Testament passages as formal quotations.(6) Rather than the customary formula for citing a writing, both times the phrase “remember the words of the Lord Jesus” is used. Another contrast is seen between Clement’s usually accurate rendition of the Old Testament passages and the evidently free combining of phrases found in Matthew and Luke. Although it is true that Clement is capable of quoting Old Testament writings in this free fashion, he nowhere cites a New Testament passage, with a formal introduction, in the same verbatim fashion that some writings from the Old Testament are used.

    Clements understanding seems to be bleary at best… Why hang your hat and all Christians when we have the Apostles own words in scripture?

    “Should it be said that the Greeks discovered philosophy by human wisdom, I reply that I find the Scriptures declare all wisdom to be a divine gift” Paul did not say that.. 1 Cor 2 is pagan wisdome, and it is against the cross, what the Corinthians being pagan in thought did not understand, Celment is just another pagan.Christian who is struggling to come out of pagainism into Christinaity..

    What it does not show is that Clement was to be the leader of those in Rome or ordained by Peter. Clement simply was one of many who knew and probably assisted the Apostle Paul. The lack of emphasis/preeminence in Paul’s writings would seem to suggest that Clement could not have been the one to become the “bishop of Rome” and the successor of Peter and Paul in 67 A.D. or perhaps later–there are different lists for Clement. It should also be noted that if Paul did write his Epistle to the Philippians in Rome (as many Roman Catholic scholars maintain), one would think that Clement would be mentioned other writings from Paul if Clement was to have preeminence–but instead he is not mentioned anywhere else in any New Testament writing.

    Whether or not this is the same individual named Clement that many Roman Catholics consider to succeed Peter cannot be determined from the passages in Philippians. Roman Catholic scholars seem divided on this matter, though the general consensus seems to be that the Clement of Rome is not the same one that Paul referred to. Here are some statements from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

    Origen identifies Pope Clement with St. Paul’s fellow-labourer, Phil., iv, 3, and 80 do Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome — but this Clement was probably a Philippian. In the middle of the nineteenth century it was the custom to identity the pope with the consul of 95, T. Flavius Clemens, who was martyred by his first cousin, the Emperor Domitian, at the end of his consulship. But the ancients never suggest this, and the pope is said to have lived on till the reign of Trajan (Chapman J. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Clement I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York)

    Again even Catholic scholars do not agree as proven what you state

    Another honest Catholic scholar: Furthermore, most scholars believe that there were no bishops of Rome at the time of Clement’s alleged reign. Notice this admission from a Roman Catholic scholar:

    Admittedly the Catholic position, that bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution, remains far from easy to establish…The first problem has to do with the notion that Christ ordained apostles as bishops…The apostles were missionaries and founders of churches; there is no evidence, nor is it at all likely, that any one of them ever took up permanent residence in a particular church as its bishop…The letter of the Romans to the Corinthians, known as I Clement, which dates to about the year 96, provides good evidence that about 30 years after the death of St. Paul the church of Corinth was being led by a group of presbyters, with no indication of a bishop with authority over the whole local church…Most scholars are of the opinion that the church of Rome would most probably have also been led at that time by a group of presbyters…There exists a broad consensus among scholars, including most Catholic ones, that such churches as Alexandria, Philippi, Corinth and Rome most probably continued to be led for some time by a college of presbyters, and that only in the second century did the threefold structure of become generally the rule, with a bishop, assisted by presbyters, presiding over each local church (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, pp. 13,14,15).

    There is one reference to someone named Clement in the odd book (it is an odd series of visions) most commonly referred to as The Shepherd of Hermas. This text does not state that it is referring to Clement of Rome, but it is possible that it might be. According to the Muratorian Canon (c. 180-205), The Shepherd of Hermas was written by the brother of Roman Pius, thus it was probably written around 150 A.D. Having read it, I doubt that The Shepherd of Hermas is referring to the Roman Clement (nor does it ever refer to Clement as a bishop or a presbyter).
    In religous days gone by this was not asked or strutinized!

    The text opens with an exhortation directed to the readers. They are to
    “pick up” the epistle of the apostle Paul. It is probable that the church still
    possessed the epistle, or a copy of it, since it had been, and presumably
    still was, important to them. Clearly Clement also possessed a copy. The
    singular form of the noun “letter” may refer to both 1 and 2 Corinthians,18
    but the quotation that follows is unmistakably only from 1 Corinthians.
    The authority of Paul’s letter is strongly upheld by the phrase “under the
    Spirit’s guidance,” which probably means that the Holy Spirit was working
    through Paul as he works through all who minister to God in a general
    sense.19
    He told them to read Paul’s work, for that he is honored, and that is what I have been saying too. so I’m more with him than the eccelsiology he supposedly santioned.

    May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be given to the priesthood of all belivers in Christ as Paul’s last word to th Corinthian’s still applies

  197. Let me add to some other posts, one of the greatest Christians I ever knew was a leader in Catholic renwal and a charismatic and avery loved priest… His emphasis was Christ, the Holy Spirit, and a godly life, so because I think some court scribes came up with this to create a system that controlled nations and churches for centuries does not mean that I do not celebrate the true grace in the Roman church, even in its messy Noah’s ark, for the same issue resided in the protestant leadership and the orthodox too, were is the laity, alive, vibrant, on fire, like the book of Acts?… Grace on this all and on all…

  198. John,

    If you’re going to make quotations, especially long ones, please enclose them in blockquotes to make it easier to read. (See here on how to do that.)

    If this was evidence in court it would get thrown out for insufficent evidence! Sorry, that is the problem you have a romantic view of history and of your view, so it becomes a circular argument, that proves itself…

    Notice that you have not shown the evidence to be false. You have only claimed that it would be thrown out in court. Also you have not shown any argument to be circular. No argument that I have made has been circular because no argument that I’ve made here concludes with something that is assumed at the outset. If you disagree, please show which argument you have in mind and how it is circular.

    You first claimed that the fathers’ opinions didn’t matter because they weren’t the Apostles. I then showed how important the opinion of the fathers was by showing some of their credibility from a historical stand-point. Are you now claiming that the fathers’ opinions would be important if their historical reliability could be established but it happens to be the case that it cannot be so established? That is, if we could that show that the early fathers really existed in times and places where they were more likely to know the true doctrine of the Apostles than you are, would you then accept their interpretation of Scripture (i.e. the Catholic one) over your own? Or would you go back to your original position that their opinion doesn’t matter anyway because they are not the Apostles? If the latter is the case, then there is no need for us to talk about the historicity of the Church fathers because you don’t believe that it matters. But if it does matter, then you should be prepared to become Catholic as soon as the skeptical viewpoint is discredited.

    The other quotations you made, especially by the skeptic Francis Sullivan, and the quote about the common priesthood, strongly indicate to me that you have not read this article or that if you have, you have not understood many of the points I made. Please read the article and let me know which arguments you disagree with and why. I read Sullivan’s (poorly argued) book on apostolic succession in preparation for this article and the next. In relation to Holy Orders, any point he made against the Catholic faith was refuted in this article above. Also, footnotes 83 & 85 contain a link to Oswaldo Sobrino’s very competent and direct refutation of Sullivan’s work.

  199. John – And likewise for me. The Holy Spirit does work within the Protestant churches. We do not disbelieve that. Also, you are exactly right about the Catholic Church being like Noah’s ark. In fact, the Church fathers compared the Church to the ark. And like you said, it can be messy. It is messy – lots of sinful humans involved.

  200. I do respect the church fathers, I just know this argument, the eastern orthodox use the same and come up with very opposite views, like the 5 patriarch’s etc. So, even the catholic scholars quoted see this based on flimsy historical basis. When I read the book of Acts, I see a great, alive, poweful, world changing church. Somehow, much of that has somehow been lost. This is an indictment in all directions, Rome, Constantinople, Geneva, etc. I find it facinating that the places were Christianity is growing the fastest in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, they know nothing of the theological systems we are debating. That in itself may be a revelation, the gospel primitive, full of faith and the Holy Spirit works, and religion does not….!
    Shalom in Christ and his Kingdom Father, Son and Spirit…

  201. “I think all of these questions show, that the early church was not well aware of the teaching of the new testament apostles…”

    Two out of the four Gospels weren’t written by any of the Twelve. How is it that you can trust them?

  202. “At the heart of the separation of Catholics and Protestants lies a disagreement about the ecclesial hierarchy. Who are the rightful shepherds of Christ’s flock?”

    I think this is incorrect. The reformers were all Catholics, Luther, Calvin and Bucer. It wasn’t I’m a leader, no your a leader question. It was more what is the focus of the Gospel, what is true church, and from that comes what is true leadership. What produced true Christianity? What produced fruit bearing Christianity. It ultimately goes there, yes, but it does not start there. This is important!

    Second, Luther went to Rome and did not see what he felt was a spiritual vitality and it started a long journey for him, it was his search, what was true to the word of God that led him on this journey. It did not start out, that he did not believe in the ancient see’s authority. It was more why is there not the fruit of lives and holiness, and fruit that he was looking for, in his zeal.

    It really makes me nervous that you are making as essential to the nature of the church a great chasm of hierarchy, and clergy, laity, a huge dichotomy… If the book of Hebrews says Christ has torn down and Old Testament models like this would you modify your view? Eph 2 says the separation of Jew and Gentile the cross destroyed, yet a new one has been erected of priest and bishops has been set up. Where is this in the New Testament…? I say nowhere! Matthew 27, the Holy of holy’s was ripped up by God, why is this being erected, priest/people separation by you?

    Third, you say you listen to Peter the first Pope and other do not… I do not mean to be disrespectful but Peters says all Christians in the new covenant are priests… “1 Peter 2:9” “But you are a chosen race, a holy nation, kingly, priestly nation, a people for Gods own possession….” This the first Pope Peter says is the whole body of Christ, specifically, the first century pagans who converted to Christ by Peter’s great fishing.

    This you took away, changed it, disavowed, and gave only to the hierarchy, this Peter did not do. Now the question comes, you tell us to listen to Peter but when he speaks, you say well all the people who were in his apostolic succession, you must listen too even if they distort, twist and even attack what he said… This is the rub of the scholar Catholics who became reformers like Calvin, Luther, Bucker, and others… The question still stands… You say how can you have a private interpretation and are greater than our church fathers, I ask you the same question, are you in your private interpretation of court scribes, greater than the Apostles?

    Lastly, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave or free, there is neither male nor female but you are all one in Christ Jesus…. Gal 3:28… Exegete this with hierarchy, it puts it on its head… These were the great class distinctions in the Greco-Roman world, that pagans thought important, and Jews in there religion also. Paul says they are both dead wrong, a new era has come in Christ, and all the old slaveries and bondages are over…! I think you are incorrect at the core of you argument…! This thinking is not the Sprit of the New Testament air or atmosphere, but of the Greco-Roman pagan’s. The gospel has destroyed these distinctions… The veil has been torn in half and will never be sewed again.

  203. John,

    If you’re going to comment on this article, I need you to read it and respond to specific points. Every point that you brought up regarding OT vs. NT priests, the modern Western idea of an egalitarian Church, etc. were all anticipated and refuted in the article. This combox is not an invitation for anyone to get up on a soapbox so long as they stay roughly on topic. If I’ve said anything false, please explain what it is and why you think it is false. For the reasons that everything you said in 202 is false, please, as I requested earlier, read the article.

  204. John #202

    It really makes me nervous that you are making as essential to the nature of the church a great chasm of hierarchy, and clergy, laity, a huge dichotomy…

    That’s not surprising and I’d say it well should make you VERY nervous! In fact, it might be worth considering just how heavily invested you are in your hermeneutic. That is of course a finger that does point both ways which is why I as a Catholic follow these debates. But as always per usual after following for some years, your objections are nothing new and are easily shown to be distortions and certainly in no way respond directly to the original article. You provide nothing that worries me in the least. I, and I suspect everyone else who has drilled down 200 comments on this thread has seen it all many times before.

  205. I did not think for a minute, you would be persuaded in anything I said… I was intrested in a rebutal,but it may have become fruitless… I beleive, in the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Cross and Ressurection, and with my Eastern friends on the sending of the Spirit…. I find your arguemnts very typical as well…

    We are still brothers we do not have to agree on church leadership models…. !

    Grace and peace.

    John

  206. Mr. Holmes,

    If you’re interested in dialogue, please be patient with your interlocutors. You seem like a well-intentioned fellow who cares about the Gospel. But, please understand, your comments have been very heavy-handed and disorganized. They are often accusatory and patronizing. For example, your comments have given me the impression that you feel that your view is so self-obvious from the pages of the New Testament that anyone who disagrees with you has either never read it carefully or is maliciously twisting it. I can assure you that this is not the case.

    Then, when Tim asks you to slow down, read the article carefully, and address points one at a time, you throw your hands up. I’m sure Tim appreciates the fact that you still consider him a brother. But your well-I-knew-you-wouldn’t-listen-anyway comment is very demeaning. Tim and the other gentlemen who run this blog are very well versed in Scripture and in Christian theology and history. They’re perfectly capable of charitable dialogue and responding thoughtfully to thoughtful, well-organized challenges. Please consider starting over on your discussion with Tim.

    in Christ,

    TC

    1 Cor 16:14

  207. What TC said.

    It might also be useful to explore the myth of Luther in the same way that D Anders’ contributions have complicated Calvin. It’s easy to take for granted reading that we’ve done in, say, Denifle – his Luther and Lutherdom: From Original Sources is available in paperback at Amazon; Protestants who haven’t been exposed to the ‘rest of the story’ with respect to Luther find a lot of comfort in his heroic simplicity. That may ‘read’ a lot more harsh-like than I intend: I’mnot saying, “Luther’s the devil.” I’m just sayin’… post-Denifle, it’s really difficult (for some, impossible) to rest on ‘Luther’ as confidently as was done in #202.

    Don’t mean to pile on… just wanted to drop in a wee clarification about Luther.

    Peace, everyone, in this Christmas season!

  208. But your well-I-knew-you-wouldn’t-listen-anyway comment is very demeaning. Tim and the other gentlemen who run this blog are very well versed in Scripture and in Christian theology and history.

    I thing this is a total misperception of the comment and its meaning… Tim is a very learned priest and excellent writer,much better than me, I did not think that some man he did not know blogging him and challenging some of the typical arguments was going to persuade him. I thought that was common sense, not demeaning. We have to keep emotions aside in dialogue…

    Eastern orthodox, Anglican, use these similar arguments and come up with a different source of authority, so that inself should be a cause for some pause.

    I was once told by an Eastern Orthodox theologian that the Bible is the highest source of authority, than the church fathers. If that is true, than the questions I had were based on the primitive church and scriptures, paint a picture of the priesthood of the ” Body of Christ”, not a heirarchy, 1Peter 2:4, 2:9, is all about the body, not a ontological leadership that some have made it. Revelation does this same thing, Rev 1:6 does this and in numerous other places, ties this to all the church, not a heirarchy… So my point I find the primitive view is lost and the post-apostolic view is enlarged, monarchial episcopacy is promulgated.

    I find it also interesting that Peter, the fisherman Pope, says in chapter 5 of first Peter,do not Lord it over the flock, these were in primitive Christianity a group of elders, older wise men, and were to be examples of Christ and his Kingdom, there is a grasping at straws to turn this into a ontological heirarchy, or something rooted in the Apostle word of scripture… This has been my consistent argument, the extrabiblical is overshadowing the biblical…! We can agree to disagree and still be brothers in Christ, you say listen to Peter, and I say listen to the first Peter…
    Grace

  209. John, I think you may be confusing Ciatoris with GNW_Paul. I think Paul’s comment was a little condescending in tone and perhaps I shouldn’t have approved it. Let me also clarify that I am not a priest; only a layman.

    Eastern orthodox, Anglican, use these similar arguments and come up with a different source of authority, so that inself should be a cause for some pause.

    No, it doesn’t make me pause for even a second. I argued for things, namely episcopal hierarchy, that would be accepted by Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans. All of us agree on these issues. The issue of the pope is something else which I did not argue for here.

    This has been my consistent argument, the extrabiblical is overshadowing the biblical…

    The problem is that you haven’t been making arguments. You’ve been stating conclusions that are built on false premises as I showed in the article. If you want to interact with the article, you are more than welcome. But if you keep repeating the same things, I will not approve your comments. I repeat, this combox is not an invitation for anyone who has an opinion to stand up on a soapbox and broadcast it.

  210. John – I do need to apologize for the tone of my post. As soon as I posted it and re-read it (waiting approval) I had misgivings about how it sounded. I was actually a bit surprised Tim did approve it. :)

    I was not actually intending to be condescending, but I agree that my post did come across that way.

    I welcome your contribution to this forum John and I hope that you will decide it is worthwhile to contribute to the discussion here and take time to engage more directly with Tim et.al. .

    I was intrested in a rebutal, but it may have become fruitless..”

    I don’t think it has become fruitless, but there is a certain culture / etiquette to debate that the persons behind this site follow pretty closely. The original posts are typically well written, structured (logical) arguments with references. It is really the position of the interlocutors to engage the original material and rebut or refute what is claimed. Merely stating an opposing position and inviting rebuttal is not in the correct spirit of the discussion. The originating author has taken the time to research, write and reference an argument that is open for rebuttal.

    I am tempted to engage your statements on several points, (but I am only capable of doing so because I have learned from reading Tim Troutman, Bryan Cross, Michael Liccione and other Catholics). But to directly rebut your statements would actually drag this thread off topic and away from Tim’s initial argument. Also, it would immediately start rehashing debates that are well documented elsewhere on this site. For example, it is easy enough understand 1 Peter 2:9 in a perfectly Catholic context. And explaining what the Catholic Church does believe about the priesthood of all believers is also no problem. However the “interpretative authority of scripture” vs. “Sola Scriptura” debate is not the topic of this thread.

    I am not saying there isn’t any point to discussing the merits of a particular interpretation of scripture related to the topic on this thread, but if you intend to do so with the perspective that Catholics should subscribe to the Protestant concept of perspicuity of scripture and Sola Scriptura the discussion will necessarily become a debate about something other than this post. The following links are a few places where such issues have been debated – and may continue to be debated – rather thoroughly.

    Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture 394 comments

    Christ Founded a Visible Church

    Solo Scriptura and the Question of Interpretive Authority 947 Comments

    Peace and a Fruitful 4th week of Advent!

  211. John Holmes
    I do not pretend to have a strong knowledge of the New Testament laity vs clergy distinction and I am still reading through Tim’s article, but I think the thought that the notion of an egalitarian Church was not what was intended by the Apostles. St. Paul seems to write in Hebrews 13:17, ” Obey your prelates and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls: that they may do this with joy and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you.” This seems to imply that there was some form of hierarchy in the Church that the Hebrews were to follow or obey. This apparently is done for the good of the people and their souls. It seems that we are supposed to obey our prelates with joy and not with grief since the former is more expedient and useful than the latter. Perhaps Tim or others can comment on what is meant here, but I don’t think Tim is too farfetched in his interpretation of the clergy in the early Church. I hope this helps.

  212. Paul – Thanks for the apology and don’t worry – we all do the same from time to time. Of course I can’t speak for John

    Steven – You’re right on track. In section II.b of the article, I do talk about hierarchy in the New Testament. I also referenced Heb. 13:17.

    Even by itself, an unbiased reading of the NT, especially one informed about Judeo-Mediterranean culture, does not lead one to believe in early Church egalitarianism. This idea is really a modern Western idea; it has no place in the world of the early Church.

  213. Tim,
    Ah thanks, I need to finish and re-read the article. Great work by the way!

  214. I like the concept of the Catholic holy order priesthood. It makes sense. It is good that there is structure and that “good sheppards” (clergy) lead flocks. It gives each institution order and maintains a more disciplined approach to the details of faith because the clergy is a specialist in faith and as such acts as a focal point in the rites and maintaining a community of believers. I believe that the clergy are a blessing from God.

    But pragmatically, God has been “non exclusive” as far as I have seen. I have seen the movement of the Holy Spirit in all churches I have had the priviledge to witness (both Catholic and Protestant).
    I have seen God work through people of all stripes…through priests, nuns, missionaries, pastors, ministers, deacons, and loosely fit congregations with limited education. God’s interest is in the salvation of people, and maintaining the flock. I have never seen Him act exclusively in trying to establish a “legalistic” exclusive framework around the priest.

  215. Although not clear in early times, they were instituted as bishops. The fullness of the priesthood was given to them. Remember, regardless of current theological consensus, the traditional view included the opinion that the priesthood was the highest order and that the bishopric was a further dignity, but not another order (this is sometimes missed). Hence traditional language may well understand by saying they were made priests, that they had the priesthood in its fulness and that includes episcopal powers without feeling the need to explicitly state they were consecrated bishops.