Recent Investigations Into The Organization Of The Apostolic And Post-Apostolic Churches -- By: Hugh Macdonald Scott

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 044:175 (Jul 1887)
Article: Recent Investigations Into The Organization Of The Apostolic And Post-Apostolic Churches
Author: Hugh Macdonald Scott

Recent Investigations Into The Organization Of The Apostolic And Post-Apostolic Churches

Prof. Hugh M. Scott

We come now to another turning-point in our investigations. Hitherto, following our guides, the most prominent being Heinrici, we have been led to notice especially the general relations of the early Christian churches to the religious associations of Greek and Roman society. We must next enter more into the inner organization of these churches, and trace, as far as possible, the rise of rudimentary officials, the origin of the diaconate, the nature of the primitive presbytery, the dark beginning of episcopacy, the general relation of clergy and laity, and the important subject of the charismatic ministry of the word and its historic connection with the administrative offices of the church. At this stage of our inquiry, we meet the striking and suggestive work of Hatch,1 who takes up the particular question of church organization where the general studies and results of Heinrici terminated. The fundamental positions from which he prosecutes his investigation are (1) that the growth of the constitution of the early churches was much slower than is usually supposed, and (2) that the elements of this constitution in general and particular were already in existence in the civil and social relations of the Roman empire. What, then, was this constitution, and what was its origin, accord-

ing to Hatch? He calls our attention first to a body of men in the early church, who formed a guiding and governing committee, like the senate in a municipality, or the executive officials in a Greek club. These men were called an Ordo in both civil and ecclesiastical usage. They were known as πρεσβύδρια, a name common also to members of Jewish συνέδρια and of the Hellenist γερουσία of Asia Minor. They were also called bishops, for this identity, he supposes, has ceased to be a disputed question among scholars. These officers were very likely coordinate in rank, with the bishop acting as president. But who was the bishop? The reply has to do first with the reason why “the single head of the Christian communities was called, at first commonly and at last exclusively, by the name bishop.” Hatch finds the ground of this in the office of almoner in the early church. The term ἐπίσχοπος was used in religious societies for the treasurer; the treasurer of the alms in the first century, when poverty was the greatest calamity and charity the sweetest virtue, became more and more the central figure in the Christian community; hence, although he...

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