Early church single elder?

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by jckdymond55, Mar 27, 2019.

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  1. jckdymond55

    jckdymond55 Puritan Board Freshman

    Looking for any examples of the early church that either out of necessity/lack of people or supported the one elder church model?
     
  2. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Is it possible? Sure. But even if it were, it would merely be an exception to the rule laid out Scripture born out of necessity.
     
  3. jckdymond55

    jckdymond55 Puritan Board Freshman

    True and completely agree (literally asking for a friend) he wanted an example and I know of none of the top of my head. my response was the same as yours when he asked me.
     
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    By the end of the middle of the 2nd century they would have called the single elder "the bishop" in the East and the "priest" in the West.
     
  5. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    Jacob, who are you thinking about? Will you please provide a source?

    Immediately, I think of Ignatius, who speaks of bishops AND presbyters rather than "single bishop."

    "...being subject to the bishop and the presbytery..." (Ignatius to the Ephesians 2)
     
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  6. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Are you able to tell us more about this extract, Psyche? How, exactly, did the bishop function in relation to the presbytery?
     
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Ignatius's language is tricky, since bishop usually means "president of the Eucharist," or presiding elder of the Eucharist.

    By the time of Irenaeus, though, it's common to speak of bishops of a church. Whether they were single elder or double elder is hard to determine. We have to avoid the mindset that there was a "monolithic" early church praxis on ecclesiology.
     
  8. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    I believe the Protestant understanding is usually that the bishop may have been "first among equals" alongside the presbyters.
     
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    In the book of Revelation the angels of the churches seem to be the pastors of those churches. The 7 angels of the 7 churches might be 7 pastors.
     
  10. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    Jacob, would you please help me to understand where the phrase "president of the Eucharist" came from? I've only seen that used in modern Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican contexts. Even if it is older, since James/OP is asking about the early church and we are going back to the first couple of centuries, how does a later redefinition from anti-Presbyterian sources help a 1st-2nd century analysis? Am I missing something here?

    Considering the Biblical usage/definition equated "presbyter" and "bishop," it seems it would be helpful to use this as our starting point. Clement shares the same usage - bishop and presbyter are interchangeable. So we can see development and change occurs later in Ignatius. Still, he does use both terms and does consider both to be the leaders of the church and above the deacons.

    I haven't seen anyone argue for a monolithic church ecclesiology and can't imagine anyone who has read the early church fathers doing so, so I think we are all one the same page there. From my reading of the Bible and early church, it has always been common to speak of "bishops" so use of the term didn't change between the Bible and Irenaeus.

    The key question is what is meant by "bishop"? The Bible and Clement use the term interchangably with presbyters. Ignatius and Irenaeus (start with Book 3, Ch 2-3+) speak of both bishops and presbyters as leaders, so I haven't seen any evidence of a "single bishop" or "single elder" that early. In fact, I would argue that Irenaeus seems to use the terms interchangably.

    Perhaps James could clarify what he means by "single elder."
    1) "one pastor/elder" like modern baptist/non-denom churches today?
    2) some form of "single elder" or "head bishop" as head of an individual church with presbyters/elders under him where the bishop's power is "first among equals" rather than ruling over the presbyters.
    3) some form of "single elder" or "head bishop" as head of an individual church with presbyters/elders under him where the bishop's power is clearly above the presbyters.
    4) some form of "single elder" or "head bishop" where the bishop is above a various local churches and the local church itself is led by elders.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    The term is modern, the concept is not. The Eucharist was celebrated in Asia Minor/Palestine every Lord's Day. One person "presided" over it. Nothing anti-Presbyterian about that.
     
  12. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Interesting, as that was Robert Leighton's view of bishops as well.
     
  13. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Re: the "President" terminology:

    I don't have it handy, but if memory serves, in his Systematic Theology, Robert Duncan Culver makes reference to a "president" in the early churches that functioned as a presiding elder or basically what would be termed a pastor today.

    Sent from my XT1650 using Tapatalk
     
  14. SeanPatrickCornell

    SeanPatrickCornell Puritan Board Freshman

    Tertullian spoke of the "President" in sort of a "Pastor" role as well.
     
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Correct. The term can be verified in use from Asia Minor to North Africa.
     
  16. jckdymond55

    jckdymond55 Puritan Board Freshman

    That makes me wonder if Paul had Timothy as the head of the Ephesus Church?
     
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I don't think Paul ever pastored a church. I think he ordained elders in every city. Some had multiple elders. But not all.

    "I Timothy 3:1 speaks of the office of "the bishop," singular, and verse eight speaks of "deacons," plural. John calls himself" the elder" in II John 1 and III John I. Also, the churches of Revelation 2 and 3 have one messenger."

    I think it depended on the size and nature of each church.

    I know this doctrine of multiple elders is pushed for by many, but in many smalll churches I am not sure it is that important or biblical to try to push for mutliple elders when the congregation is small or the men are not mature. I think we see single pastors in some spots in the NT.

    https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/cbtj/01-2_001.pdf
     
  18. Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson Puritan Board Freshman

    I could be misreading him, but Clement of Rome seems to use "bishop" and "presbyter" interchangeably.
     
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  19. SeanPatrickCornell

    SeanPatrickCornell Puritan Board Freshman

    That's the way I read Clement as well.
     
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  20. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    You are going to be hard pressed to find a single example of this in the early church. To be sure, the early church writer Jerome speaks of the rise for the necessity of a monarchical bishop (in contrast to a plurality of elders), but that is for a different reason than the one you've proposed. In spite of Jerome's testimony to this end, he maintained that (biblically speaking) the office of bishop and elder were essentially the same. I'm thinking about posting a separate thread that addresses this question to some extent.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
  21. jckdymond55

    jckdymond55 Puritan Board Freshman

    would like to read it
     
  22. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    "The presbyter is the same as the bishop, and before parties had been raised up in religion by the provocations of Satan, the churches were governed by the Senate of the presbyters. But as each one sought to appropriate to himself those whom he had baptized, instead of leading them to Christ, it was appointed that one of the presbyters, elected by his colleagues, should be set over all the others, and have chief supervision over the general well-being of the community. . . Without doubt it is the duty of the presbyters to bear in mind that by the discipline of the Church they are subordinated to him who has been given them as their head, but it is fitting that the bishops, on their side, do not forget that if they are set over the presbyters, it is the result of tradition, and not by the fact of a particular institution by the Lord" (Jerome, Commentary on Titus 1:7)
     
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