No subject in Church history has been more hotly discussed than the
organization of the primitive Christian Church. Each of several Christian
confessions have attempted to justify a polity which it regarded as de
fide by appeal to the organization of the Church of the primitive ages.
Since it has been seen that the admission of the principle of development
does not invalidate claims for divine warrant for a polity, the
acrimonious debate has been somewhat stilled. There seems to have been in
the Church several forms of organization, and to some extent the various
contentions of conflicting creeds and polities have been therein
justified. The ultimately universal form, episcopacy, may in some parts of
the Church be traced to the end of the apostolic age, but it seems not to
have been universally diffused at that time. Since Christian communities
sprang up without official propaganda, at least in many instances, and
were due to the work of independent Christian believers moving about in
the Empire, this variety of organization was what might have been
expected, especially as the significance of the organization was first
felt chiefly in connection with the danger from heresy. That various
external influences affected the development is also highly probable.
(a) Clement of Rome, Ep. ad Corinthios, I, 42, 44.
Ch. 42. The Apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus
Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. Christ, therefore, was from
God, and the Apostles from Christ. Both these appointments, then, came
about in an orderly way, by the will of God. Having, therefore, received
their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord
Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of
the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at
hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed
their first-fruits, having proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and
deacons of those who should afterward believe. Nor was this a new thing;
for, indeed, many ages before it was written concerning bishops and
deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place: "I will appoint
their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith."(16)
Ch. 44. Our Apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there
would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate.(17) For this
cause, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of
this, they appointed those already mentioned, and afterward gave
instructions that when these should fall asleep other approved men should
succeed them in their ministry. We are of the opinion, therefore, that
those appointed by them, or afterward by other eminent men, with the
consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of
Christ in lowliness of mind, peaceably, and with all modesty, and for a
long time have borne a good report with all--these men we consider to be
unjustly thrust out of their ministrations.(18) For it will be no light
sin for us, if we thrust out those who have offered the gifts of the
bishop's office blamelessly and holily. Blessed are those presbyters who
have gone before seeing their departure was fruitful and ripe; for they
have no fear lest any one should remove them from their appointed place.
For we see that ye have displaced certain persons, though they were living
honorably, from the ministration which had been honored by them
(b) Didache, 7-15.
The Didache is a very early manual of the instruction for
Christian converts. It consists of two quite distinct parts, viz.,
a brief account of the moral law (chapters 1-6). which appears to
be based upon a Jewish original to which the name of The Two
Ways has been given, and a somewhat longer account of the various
rites of the Church and the regulations governing its
organization. Its date is in the first half of the second century
and belongs more probably to the first quarter than to the second.
It is a document of first-class importance, especially in the part
bearing on the organization of the Church, which is here given.
The extensive literature on the subject may be found in Krueger.
op. cit., A§ 21.
Ch. 7. But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited
all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit in living [i.e., running] water. But if thou hast not
living water, then baptize in any other water; and if thou art not able in
cold, in warm. But if thou hast neither, pour water upon the head thrice
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But
before baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and
any others also who are able; and thou shalt order him that is baptized to
fast a day or two before.
Ch. 8. And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites. For they fast on
the second and the fifth days of the week; but do ye keep your fast on the
fourth and on the preparation [i.e., the sixth day]. Neither pray ye as
the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, thus pray ye: Our
Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will
be done, as in heaven, so also on earth; give us this day our daily(19)
bread; and forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors; and lead
us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One; for Thine is the
power and the glory forever.(20) Three times in the day pray ye so.
Ch. 9. But as regards the eucharist [thanksgiving], give ye thanks thus.
First, as regards the cup: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the holy
vine of David, Thy Son, which Thou madest known unto us through Jesus, Thy
Son; Thine is the glory forever. Then as regards the breaking [i.e., of
the bread]: We give thanks to Thee, O our Father, for the life and
knowledge which thou madest known unto us through Jesus, Thy Son; Thine is
the glory forever. As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains
and being gathered together became one, so may Thy Church be gathered
together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the
glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. But let no one
eat or drink of this eucharist [thanksgiving] but they that have been
baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord hath
said: Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.
Ch. 10. After ye are satisfied give thanks thus: We give Thee thanks, Holy
Father, for Thy holy name, which Thou hast made to tabernacle in our
hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which Thou hast
made known unto us through Thy Son Jesus; Thine is the glory forever.
Thou, Almighty Master, created all things for Thy name's sake, and gave
food and drink unto men for enjoyment, that they might render thanks to
Thee; but bestowed upon us spiritual food and drink and eternal life
through Thy Son. Before all things we give Thee thanks that Thou art
powerful; Thine is the glory forever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church to
deliver it from all evil and to perfect it in Thy love; and gather it
together from the four winds--even the Church which has been
sanctified--into Thy kingdom which Thou hast prepared for it; for Thine is
the power and the glory forever. May grace come and may this world pass
away. Hosanna to the God of David. If any one is holy let him come; if any
one is not, let him repent. Maran Atha. Amen. But permit the prophets to
offer thanksgiving as much as they will.
Ch. 11. Whosoever, therefore, shall come and teach you all these things
that have been said receive him; but if the teacher himself be perverted
and teach a different doctrine to the destruction thereof, hear him not;
but if to the increase of righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, receive
him as the Lord.
But concerning the apostles and prophets, so do ye according to the
ordinance of the Gospel: Let every apostle coming to you be received as
the Lord; but he shall not abide more than a single day, or if there be
need, a second likewise; but if he abide three days, he is a false
prophet. And when he departs, let not the apostle receive anything save
bread until he find shelter; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.
And any prophet speaking in the Spirit ye shall not try, neither discern;
for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. Yet
not every one that speaketh in the Spirit is a prophet, but only if he
have the ways of the Lord. From his ways, therefore, the false prophet and
the [true] prophet shall be recognized. And no prophet when he ordereth a
table in the Spirit shall eat of it; otherwise he is a false prophet.(21)
And every prophet teaching the truth, if he doeth not what he teacheth, is
a false prophet. And every prophet approved and found true, working unto a
worldly mystery of the Church,(22) and yet teacheth not to do what he
himself doeth, shall not be judged before you; he hath his judgment in the
presence of God; for in like manner also did the ancient prophets. And
whosoever shall say in the Spirit, Give me silver or anything else, do not
listen to him; but if he say to give on behalf of others who are in want,
let no one judge him.
Ch. 12. But let every one coming in the name of the Lord be received; and
when ye have tested him ye shall know him, for ye shall have understanding
on the right hand and on the left. If the comer is a traveller, assist him
as ye are able; but let him not stay with you but for two or three days,
if it be necessary. But if he wishes to settle with you, being a
craftsman, let him work and eat. But if he has no craft, according to your
wisdom provide how without idleness he shall live as a Christian among
you. If he will not do this, he is trafficking upon Christ. Beware of such
Ch. 13. But every true prophet desiring to settle among you is worthy of
his food. In like manner, a true teacher is also worthy, like the workman,
of his food. Every first-fruit, then, of the produce of the wine-vat and
of the threshing-floor, of thy oxen and of thy sheep, thou shalt take and
give as the first-fruit to the prophets; for they are your chief priests.
But if ye have not a prophet, give them to the poor. If thou makest bread,
take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. In like
manner, when thou openest a jar of wine or oil, take the first-fruit and
give to the prophets; yea, and of money and raiment and every possession
take the first-fruit, as shall seem good to thee, and give according to
Ch. 14. And on the Lord's 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 a dispute with his fellow join your
assembly until they have been reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be
defiled; for this is the sacrifice 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. [Mal. 1:11, 14.]
Ch. 15. Appoint [i.e., lay hands on], therefore, for yourselves bishops
and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, not lovers of money, truthful,
and approved; for they also render you the service of prophets and
teachers. Despise them not, therefore, for they are your honored ones
together with the prophets and teachers.
(c) Ignatius, Ep. ad Trallianos, 2, 3.
For Ignatius, see § 8.
Ch. 2. For since ye are subject to the bishop as Jesus Christ, ye appear
to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ,
who died for us, in order that by believing in His death ye may escape
death. It is therefore necessary that just as ye indeed do, so without the
bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery,
as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ, our Hope, living in whom we shall be
found [i.e., at the last]. It is right, also, that the deacons, being
[ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be
well-pleasing to all. For they are not the ministers of meats and drinks,
but servants of the Church of God. It is necessary, therefore, that they
guard themselves from all grounds of accusation as they would from fire.
Ch. 3. In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as Jesus Christ, as
also the bishop, who is a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the
sanhedrim of God and the assembly of the Apostles. Apart from these there
is no Church.
(d) Ignatius, Ep. ad Smyrnaeos, 8.
See that ye follow the bishop as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the
presbyters as ye would the Apostles; and reverence the deacons as a
commandment of God. Without the bishop let no one do any of those things
connected with the Church. Let that be deemed a proper eucharist which is
administered either by the bishop or by him to whom he has intrusted it.
Wherever the bishop shall appear there let also the multitude be, even as
wherever Jesus Christ is there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful
without the bishop either to baptize or to make an agape. But whatsoever
he shall approve that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is
done may be secure and valid.
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