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For now it is needful for me to be the more fearful and
not give heed to those that puff me up. For they that
speak to me in the way of commendation scourge me "
(Trail, iv.). And again, "Am I not able to write to
you of heavenly things ? But I fear to do so lest I should
inflict injury on you who are but children " (Trail, v.).

It was then as a prophet that Ignatius was speaking to

1 The contrast here between Clement of Rome and Ignatius is very
striking. Clement supposed that the Apostles, knowing that there would
be strife over the office of the episcopate, took steps in advance for its
prevention (c. xlii.) . But according to Ignatius, the elevation of the bishop
was announced as a principle or abstract truth, without any foreknowl-
edge of dissensions.

* Ct Lightfoot, Apo8, Fathers^ Part II., Vol. U., pp. 271, 272.


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the churches, and the burden of his message, " Do nothing
without the bishop," was derived not from tradition, nor
was it suggested by the exigencies of the hour, but it was
imparted to him by the Holy Spirit. Such is the claim
made in the following remarkable passage :

" For though some would have deceived me according to the flesh,
yet the Spirit, as being from Grod, is not deceived. For it knows both
whence it comes and whither it goes, and detects the secrets. For
when I was among you I cried, I spoke with a loud voice : Give heed
to the bishop and to the presbytery and deacons. Now some sus-
pected me of having spoken thus, as knowing beforehand the division
caused by some among you. But He is my witness for whose sake
I am in bonds, that I got no intelligence from any man. But the
Spirit proclaimed these words: Do nothing without the bishop**
(Phil. vii.).i

The above passages indicate that Ignatius claimed for
himself a direct revelation from God such as Christian
prophets claimed as the warrant of their teaching. It was
the Holy Ghost who was speaking; Ignatius was but the
mouthpiece of the Spirit's utterance, " Do nothing with-
out the bishop." But in strange and inexplicable contrast
with these claims which Ignatius makes for himself, —
intimations at least that he knew the deep things of God
and could discourse concerning them if he chose, — is the
silence which he maintains in regard to the order of
Christian prophets. He does not mention them, or appear
to be aware of their existence. His home was in Antioch,
where there were in Apostolic days prophets and teachers.
From thence Paul and Barnabas had been sent forth with
Apostolic authority by the commission of the prophets.
St. Paul had declared that prophets were an order in the
church by the divine will and appointment. In Ignatius'

1 It is a mark of the difference between the age of Ignatius and the
fourth century, when the longer Greek recension of his epistles was
written, that the later writer tones down these assertions of Ignatius in
which he claims the gift of prophecy. The expression, " I have great
knowledge in God," is omitted altogether; and the other expression,
** Am I not able to write to you of heavenly things ? " becomes ** Might I
not write to you things more full of mystery ? " In the later period the
qualifications of a prophet were no longer understood, as the office itself
had long been forgotten.


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own time there were prophets in the church at Rome, as
is witnessed by Hermas, or in the communities addressed
by the Didache. But not only is he silent as to the very
existence of the prophets, but whenever he uses the word
'prophet,' he applies it to Old Testament seers who had
foreseen the advent of Chiist or lived in expectation of
His coming. He was one of the firat, if not actually the
first, to reverse the Christian order which places prophets
after Apostles, and to substitute another formula, — proph-
ets and Apostles, — as if the Christian prophet were no
longer to be associated with Apostles as the foundation
on which the church had been built, or were no longer
entitled to honorable mentiop. In the silence of Ignatius
there is tacit condemnation. The order of the prophets is
growing weak. Ignatius represents prophecy as signing
the warrant for its own dissolution. He used his pro-
phetic gift to announce the coming of another regime, the
Catholic order, in which formal prophecy wpuld be done

But there are intimations in the writings of Ignatius
that, despite his silence regarding the prophets as an order
in the Christian ministry, he is aware of its existence, and
has his own estimate of its work. When St. Paul was
writing to the Corinthians he complains of their spiritual
incapacity: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you
as unto spiritual but as unto carnal, even as unto babes
in Christ. I have fed you with milk and not with meat,
for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now
are ye able " (1 Cor. iii. 1, 2). Ignatius employs the
same metaphor in writing to the Trallians. He is able
to write to them of heavenly things, but he fears to do so,
lest he should be giving them the strong meat of the Word,
which might hurt them as babes in Christ (Trail, v.). But
he does not complain of their childish state, or condemn
it with St. Paul as carnal ; he approves of it, as if it

1 Cf. Epis. ad Mag. ix. ; ad Phil, v., ix., with St. Paul's Epistle to
the Ephesians, ii. 20 ; Die Instanz, ** Propheten und Apostel/' loste nun
die alte Instanz, ** Apostel, Propheten und Lehrer ab.'* Hamack, Dog-
mengeschichte, I. 336.


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were the normal order. What St. Paul regarded as ex-
ceptional, and deprecated as such, Ignatius makes the
rule and the basis of Christian society. The strong meat
is withdrawn for other reasons : Ignatius fears for himself
lest he should be puffed up with pride, if he spoke too
freely from his great knowledge in God (Trail, iv.); but
he has also a deeper source of distrust and dread, lest he
should appear to sanction the teaching of some who are
mingling poison with the food of the Gospel (Trail, vi.).
And yet, so far as he is able, he clothes the incoming order
with what is left of the prophet's authority. His concep-
tion of the episcopate was a transcendental vision such as
only a prophet could conceive. He takes it for granted
that bishop, presbyters, and deacons are so filled with the
life of the Spirit, that when the bishop acts or speaks, he
does so in the name of Christ, and all alike recognize his
deed or utterance as divine.

The difficulties in the writings of Ignatius are greatly
simplified, when it is borne in mind that the episcopate to
which he urges obedience is a local office, the pastorate of
a parish and not an ecclesiastical administration for the
church upon a larger scale, as the later episcopate became.
The Ignatian bishop is in ev.ery essential respect the minis-
ter of the local congregation, and the presbyters are his
assistant ministers or curates.^ This view, which is too
often obscured in the discussion, gives a certain rational-
ity to the purpose of Ignatius, explaining his devotion and
zeal in its advocacy. In the interest of unity, the time, it
seemed to him, had come when the supremacy in the con-
gregation should be vested in one individual man. His
scheme may have defects in its details, it may be one-

1 ** The bishop of primitive times was not by any means the potentate
we are apt to think him. There were at first very few Christians in the
country, and these few would come into the towns to worship. Every
town of any size had its bishop ; and if there were several churches they
were served by the clergy whom the bishop kept about him ; they were,
in fact, like our present * chapels of ease/ and the whole position of the
bishop was very similar to that of the incumbent of the parish church in
one of our smaller towns" (Professor W. Sanday, in Ej^poBitor^ V.,
1887, p. 113 ; cf. also, Cheetham, Ch, His., p. 128).


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TfiB tONATlAK B^ISOOt'A'rfi 71

sided and not take sufficient account of actual difficulties ;
it may be too much in the air, as Ignatius conceived it.
But if it could have been realized, it was not without
adaptation to the new age that was coming in, and to the
emergency which was confronting the churches. A time
of intellectual activity, and consequent confusion, was at
hand in which the simplicity of the Gospel was threatened.
It may well be that Ignatius exaggerated the evils, as a
method of enforcing his argument for the necessity of
what seems too often, in his writings, a blind submis-
sion and obedience. But after all these qualifications,
the total picture in the mind of Ignatius has its beauty,
its power, its pathos. It is a plea for unity by a great
seal, a rare personality, a man also on his way to death,
which changes the perspective of human things. In this
spirit we may listen to him as he calls himself a man
devoted to unity. " Nothing is more precious than peace,
by which all war both in heaven and earth is brought to
an end." "Let us do all things as those who have Christ
dwelling in us, that we may be His temples and that He
may be in us as our God, which indeed He is, and will
manifest Himself before our faces." "Have a regard to
preserve unity," he writes to Polycarp, "than which
nothing is better. . . . The times call for thee as pilots
do for the winds, and as one tossed with the tempest
seeks for the haven."


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In the preceding chapter the evidence of ancient docu-
ments bearing upon the early organization of the church
has been brought together with no attempt to urge any
one theory by which the many allusions they contain may
be harmonized as features of one consistent and uniform
system of ecclesiastical government. There are several
theories deduced from this mass of evidence, of which
some brief account may now be given.

In the first place, there is the inference that the govern-
ment of the churches varied in different places, and at dif-
ferent times in the same place, and that there was no one
unifonn type which is common to all. In the church at
Jerusalem the Twelve seem to be supreme in the earliest
years, with a superintendence over the other Christian com-
munities in Palestine and Syria. Then they are associated
with presbyters or elders under the presidency of James,
the Lord's brother. In the church at Ephesus there were
at one time Apostles, prophets, and evangelists, with pas-
tors and teachers, and at another moment this church is
represented, as in the Pastoral Epistles, as under the super-
intendence of the Evangelist, Timothy, with presbyters,
bishops, and deacons. The church at Philippi had bishops
and deacons, while the churches addressed by Peter and
James and John appear to have had presbyters only. At
Antioch, in the earliest years, there were prophets and
teachers who took the lead, while in the Antioch of Igna-



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tius there is no mention of them, but the bishop, the pres-
byters, and deacons have taken their place. In the church
at Rome, when Clement wrote, there were rulers and
presbyters, bishops and deacons, but in the same church,
when Hermas wrote, the prophets still maintained a posi-
tion of influence and authority. In the church at Corinth,
as at Rome, there were presbyters, and, as also at Rome,
there was a plural episcopate. But not far from this time,
in the churches of Asia Minor to which Ignatius wrote,
there was but one bishop. In Rome and at Corinth the
presbyters do not appear as subordinate to the bishops,
while according to Ignatius the bishop is supreme. In the
churches to which the Didache was addressed, there were
Apostles, prophets, and teachers, and there were also
bishops and deacons, but presbyters are not mentioned,
and there was no single bishop who was chief over the

The inference that oflBcers do not exist in any particular
church because they are not mentioned must, however, be
drawn with great caution. It is quite possible, for ex-
ample, that there may have been those answering to pres-
byters, in the church at Philippi, where only bishops and
deacons are mentioned ; as also that there may have been
bishops and deacons in communities where only presbyters
are mentioned. Again, the view which sees only variety
and difference in the organization of the local churches,
neglects certain common tendencies and resemblances,
which are vitally related to the development of the min-
istry. Important theological issues, on which depended
the well-being if not the existence of a common Christen-
dom, are involved in the external ecclesiastical form which
the spirit of the church was assuming. It may be true
that it is not yet possible to give a complete symmetrical
picture of the whole situation, as it existed at any moment;
but this should not be so construed as to warrant the
inference that no common principle was at stake, no com-
mon motive which gave homogeneousness amid great


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The position of James, the Lord's brother, in the church
of Jerusalem has been regarded as the origin and sanction
of what is known as episcopacy in the later and technical
use of the word. That James occupied some such position
must be admitted. In his office of presidency he was
surrounded by Apostles and presbyters as if an advisory
council, but the narrative gives the impression that the
responsibility of a higher authority rested upon him. When
Peter was set free from imprisonment he requested that
his liberation should be made known to James (Acts xii.
17). It was James who presided in the conference at
Jerusalem, who summed up in his speech the points made
by previous speakers, and then gave the sentence which the
Apostles and brethren adopted (Acts xv. 13, 19). When
Paul made his last visit to Jerusalem, he went in unto
James, and all the elders were present (Acts xxi. 18 ; cf.
Gal. i. 19, ii. 12). The tradition also of the second cen-
tury assigns to James at least the headship of the church
in Jerusalem, if not a more extensive authority.

But there are circumstances connected with the position
of James which give to it a peculiar and somewhat excep-
tional character, so that it can hardly be claimed as a pre-
cedent for later ages, without great qualifications. Passing
over the fact that he is not called bishop in the New Testa-
ment, it must be noticed as an unusual circumstance that
no account should be given of the time and circumstances
of his elevation to his high place.^ It would be naturally
supposed that one of the Twelve would have been called
to this position. It seems strange that James should not
have been elected in the place of Matthias, when the
Twelve were filling up their number. There are gaps in
the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles, but this is a point

1 Cf. Euseb., H. E., ii. t for the tradition in the sixth book of Clement's
Hypotypoaeis, where it is said that »» Peter, James, and John, after the
ascension of our Saviour, though they had been preferred by our Lord,
did not contend for the honor, but chose James the Just as Bishop of


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in regard to which silence is very difficult to explain. The
only explanation which seems to suit all the requirements
of the case is that James took the precedence in viitue of
his blood relationship to Christ. He was the Lord's
brother. As such he was known in the ancient church.
There have been efforts to show that he may have been
one of the Twelve; but in the early church it was his
blood relationship which seems to have been regarded as
his highest claim to distinction. In the Greek Euchology
he is distinguished from James the brother of John and
from James the son of Alphseus, and is designated as
James, the Apostle, the brother of God.^ He was suc-
ceeded in his position as governor of the church in Jerusa-
lem by Simeon, who was also a blood relation of Christ.^
It is possible that among the tentative visions of the early
church this was one, that there should be a visible head-
ship over all the Christian communities, which should be
continued in the line of relatives of Christ after the flesh,
and whose centre should be the sacred city of Jerusalem.
But if so, the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70, and its
further humiliation and abandonment under Hadrian, made
the di-eam impossible. The subject, however, is obscure,
and is further complicated by romance mixed with uncer-
tain tradition, to which one does not know how much his-
torical significance to ascribe.^

1 Among many discussions of this intricate point, cf . Light! oot, Epistle
to the Oaldtians, on the Brethren of the Lord, pp. 89-127.

*Cf. Euseb., H. E,, iii. 11. " After tlie martyrdom of James and the
capture of Jerusalem which immediately followed, the report is, that those
of the Apostles and the disciples of our Lord that were yet surviving, came
together from all parte, with those that were related to our Lord accord-
ing to the flesh. For the greater part of them were yet living. These
consulted together, to determine whom it was proper to pronounce
worthy of being the successor of James. They all unanimously declared
Simeon, the son of Cleophas, of whom mention is made in the sacred
Tolame, as worthy of the episcopal seat there. They say he was the
coosin-german of our Saviour, for Hegesippus asserts that Cleophas was
the brother of Joseph.*' Cf. also iii. 20, where it is said that Domitian
was alarmed about the relatives of our Lord, as if they aspired to found a
temporal kingdom. This report also came from Hegesippus. In this con-
nection see Matt. zii. 47, Mark iii. 32, Luke viii. 20 ; also Matt. xx. 20-28.

' Cf. the pseudo-Clementine writings, which contain several allusions
to James as the head of the whole church ; Epis. Pet , whose superscrip-


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The Ignatian episcopate differs from the rule or as-
cendency ascribed to James, in being a local office whose
authority is confined within the community. But not only
does the tradition of the second century give to James an
universal authority ; there are also hints in the New Testa-
ment that his superintendence included Antioch and the
Gentile as well as the Jewish Christians; that even the
Twelve, including also Peter and Paul, treated him with
a certain deference as the head of the church. It is quite
remarkable that Ignatius is silent regarding any Apostolic
precedent for the local bishop whose authority he is advo-
cating. He must have known, living as he did at Antioch,
something of the history of the church in Jerusalem, but
he urges the independence of the local bishop, as if he had
never heard of any higher authority resident in the sacred
city. It may even be that he is combating in his own
way the possibility of an interference from without with
the supremacy of the local episcopate. It was also the
Ignatian type of episcopate and not that of Jerusalem,
which spread in Asia Minor, in Italy, and in North Africa.
But notwithstanding this wide divergence in t3rpe, there is
a certain affinity between them in that the claim is nmde
for both that they represent Christ: James by virtue of
his blood relationship to Christ after the flesh, the Ignatian
bishop through his relationship to the Eucharist which is
a sacrament of His body and blood. And as the former
stood above Apostles, even the Twelve, so the latter is
elevated above presbyters, who stand in the place of Apos-
tles. Both types of episcopate differ from that which
finally prevailed, which made the bishops the successoi*s
of the Apostles.^

tion runs, "James, the lord and bishop of the Holy Church" ; also Epis.
Clem, ad Jacob. : '* James, the Lord and the Bishop of bishops, who rules
Jerusalem, the holy church of the Hebrews, and the churches everywhere
excellently founded by the providence of God." See also Rec. i. 68, 73 ;
iv. 35. It is all romance, but may have had its influence upon Rome.

1 There was in the church at Alexandria a peculiar kind of episcopate,
having aflBnities with that of James, to which allusion will be made here-
after. For a discussion of the position of James and of the Ignatian
bishop, cf. Ritschl, Die Entstehung der altkatholiachen Kirc?ie, pp. 415 £f.


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The view that the episcopate arose by the localization
of the Apostles finds its strongest advocacy in the Roman
church. There is a tradition that Peter lived at Rome as
its bishop and appointed his successor. This tradition
may have been combated by Protestant scholai"s since the
Reformation, on dogmatic grounds. But as a result of the
long controversy, it must now be admitted that the Roman
claim is inadmissible, founded on a tradition mentioned
by Eusebius and Jerome, that Peter went to Rome about
the year 42 and remained there till his death by martyrdom
in 64. According to the chronology which is generally
adopted, he could not have gone there before the year 61,
which was the date of Paul's arrival.^ That Peter visited
Rome is a residuum out of a large tradition, which may
be retained, as also that he died there as a martyr. But
the visit of an Apostle does not constitute his localization
or settlement as a bishop. It is rather in harmony with
the view that the calling of an Apostle forbade his perma-
nent residence in any city. There is another tradition
that St. John in his later years was established at Ephe-
sus, but in this case also he did not reside there as its
bishop; for, according to a tradition, which is valid, Timo-
thy went there as an evangelist or delegate of St. Paul,
to whom was intrusted the superintendency of its church.
In the case of the others of the Twelve nothing is known;
the traditions which assign to them various localities are
late and have no historical value.

The theory of the localization of the Apostles introduces
confusion rather than clearness. It is opposed to the con-

1 Cf. Farrar, F. W., Early Days of Christianity, Appendix, 1, 2, 3;
RenaD, V Antichrist, Appendix; Schaff, Ch. His., I., c. 4; Schmid, J.,
Petrus in Bom ; Herzog, B. E. Art. Petrus. In the proposed redatir.g
of the incidents in the later life of Paul, the time of his going to Rome id
placed by Dr. McGifiFert so early as 66 a. d., and his martyrdom in the
year 58, which may also be the year of Peter's visit to Rome, thus allow-
ing a residence at Rome by Peter of some five or six years. Cf. Article,
Peter* s Sojourn in Borne, in American Journal of Theology, Jan., 1897 ;
also, by same author, The Apostolic Church in Inter, Theol, Lib,


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ception of the Apostolate given in the New Testament,
that the Apostle was a missionary moving from place to
place. In the Didache, while provision is made for
settling prophets and teachera in some local church, no
such contingency is contemplated for an Apostle. And
again, if we admit the theory for the sake of discussion,
it is discredited by well-known facts regarding the episco-
pate, such as the different types of bishops presented in
the second century, the local or parish episcopate in Asia
Minor, or the one bishop at Alexandria with his twelve
presbyters and his superintendency over all Egypt. Rome
also, from a very early period, may have had a conception
of the episcopate different from either of these, which is
suggested in the pseudo-Clementine writings and illus-
trated in a certain consciousness of authority even in the
time of Irenaeus.

The silence of the Ignatian Epistles regarding the
residence of St. John in Asia Minor or his activity in
superintending the churches, is a difficulty hard to over-
come. If Ignatius had appealed to the authority of the
beloved disciple, by whom the bishops were appointed
there, it seems as if it must have carried greater weight
with those to whom he wrote than his appeal to a pro-
phetic revelation. But be this as it may, the tradition
existed at the close of the second century that St. John
had been the agent for the introduction of the local or
parish episcopate into the churches of Asia Minor. Ter-
tuUian wrote, "The order of the bishops, when traced
back to its origin, will be found to rest upon John as its

Online LibraryAlexander Viets Griswold AllenChristian institutions → online text (page 9 of 58)