Edwin Hatch.

The organization of the early Christian churches : eight lectures delivered before the University of Oxford, in the year 1880 online

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1881, p. 446), that irpotoTaoBai may imply a relation like that of the Roman

1 patronus' (the Greek equivalent of which word is rrpoaTaTTjs).

s The words are irpwroKaOeSpia, Herm. Mand. II. 12 : Clem. Alex. Strom. 6. 13,
p. 793 : Trparreia, Herm. Sim. 8. 7. 4 : principalis concessio, St. Iren. 4. 26. 3 :
Magisterii locus, id. 3. 3. 1 : ordo, Tertull. De Exhort. Castit. 7, Be Monoyam. 1 r,
Dc Jdol. 7.

s The passages are Heb. 13. 17: 1 Pet. 5. 5: 1 Clem. Rom. 1. 3 : 57. 1 : 63. 1 :

2 Clem. Rom. 17. 5 : St. Ignat. ad Ephes. 2. 2 : 4. 1 : 20. 2 : ad Magves. 1^. 2 : ad
Trail. 2. 1, 2: ad Philad. 7. I.

ii4 Clergy and Laity. [lect.

If therefore the primitive Christian communities
were institutions which had entirely passed away, and
we were examining their constitution as a piece of
ancient history, in the same manner as we examine the
constitution of Athens or of Sparta, we should be led
to the conclusion that the relation between the officers
and the rest of the community was primarily a relation
of priority of order.

If we extend the sphere of our induction, and look
at not only the collective but also the particular terms
for Church officers in the light of their contemporary
use, we further find that none of them were peculiar
to the Christian communities, but that they were all
common to them with contemporary organizations.
Some of them were in use in the imperial adminis-
tration, some of them in the municipal corporations,
some of them in the voluntary associations 4 . The most
common, ordo, was in use in all three relations.

If, therefore, we could exclude all ideas except those
which appear simply upon the evidence, and deal with
the facts of Christian organization as we should deal
with the facts of any other organization, we should
undoubtedly be led to the conclusion that not only
was the relation between Church officers and the rest
of the community that of presidency or leadership, but
that also the presidency or leadership was the same
in kind as that of contemporary non-Christian societies.

But, even if this conclusion were admitted, it would
not immediately follow that there were not other re-

* For (itiaKoiroi see Lecture II. notes 36, 37 : for rpcofivrtpos, Lecture III. notes
1 6, 27 : for Zi&hovos, Lecture II. note 56.

v.] Clergy and Laity. 115

lations between the officers and the ordinary members
of the Christian communities, which, though less appa-
rent, were not less important. It might undoubtedly
be maintained, at least as a matter of a priori argu-
ment, that all this was the shell which enclosed a sacred
kernel and kept it safe from profanation, and that
underneath the conception of civil government, or side
by side with it, there was another conception of the
nature of ecclesiastical office which more closely re-
sembled the prevalent conception of later times. It is
therefore necessary to look not merely at the facts of
language, but at the whole available evidence as to
the prevailing conception of the nature of Christian
organization, and to consider whether upon that evi-
dence the argument which must be allowed to be
possible a priori is defensible in fact.

The question is one of such supreme importance in
relation to the Christian ministry not only of the
period under investigation but also of later times, as
to require more than ordinary care. It is, moreover, 1/
one which has been so frequently discussed, and upon
which the different shades of possible opinion have
been maintained with so much zeal, as to demand a
special effort on the part of those who approach it
to rid themselves of preconceived opinions, and to
deal with the facts in the temper not of advocates
maintaining a thesis, but of judges reviewing evi-
dence and weighing probabilities in an even balance
of judgment.

The question before us may be thus stated : — A pre-

1 2

n6 Clergy and Laity. [lect.

sumption having been raised by the terms which were
in use for Church office that the conception of such
office was one of presidency or leadership, does the
existing evidence warrant an inference that Church
officers were regarded as possessing other powers than
those which naturally attach to presidents and leaders
of a community ?

It will be convenient to take in detail the several
functions which in later times have been regarded as
the special and peculiar functions of Church officers,
and to enquire how far they were regarded as special
and peculiar functions in the first two centuries.

i . In regard to the function of teaching or preaching,
it is clear from both the Acts of the Apostles and
St. Paul's Epistles that * liberty of prophesying ' pre-
vailed in the Apostolic age 5 . It is equally clear that
liberty of prophesying existed after the Apostolic age.
In the first place, one of the most interesting monu-
ments of the second century consists of a sermon or
homily which was preached, probably by a layman at
Borne, a fragment of which has long been known as
the Second Epistle of Clement, and the remainder of
which has come to light in two forms — a Greek MS.
and a Syriac translation — within the last five years 6 .

8 Acts 8. 4: II. 19-21 : 13. 1 : 1 Cor. 14, passim : implied also in James 3. r.

8 That it is a homily and not a letter is an inference from its tone and manner
of address : e.g. c. 19. 1 'So then, my brethren and sisters, after the God of Truth
I am reading to you an entreaty to pay heed to what has been written:' c. 20. %
' so then, my brethren and sisters, let us believe.' That it was written by a layman
is an inference from the antithesis which he makes between himself and his hearers
on the one hand, and the presbyters on the other, c. 17. 3. 5. That it was preached
at Rome is an inference from the general similarity of it, doctrine to that of the
Shepherd of Hennas. The mention of it as a letter rather i-hau a homily dates from

v.] Clergy and Laity. 117

In the second place, the Apostolical Constitutions,
which are of even later date, expressly contemplate
the existence of preaching by laymen : ' Even if a
teacher be a layman, still if he be skilled in the word
and reverent in habit, let him teach : for the Scripture
says, " They shall be all taught of God V '

2. In regard to baptism, there is no positive evidence,
but there is the argument a fortiori which arises from
the fact that even in later times, when the tendency
had become strong to restrict the performance of ec-
clesiastical functions to Church officers, baptism by an

a treatise of the fifth century, the Quaestiones et Respomione.% ad Orthodoxos, c. 74
(printed in the works of Justin Martyr, vol. ii, p. 104, ed. Otto) ; the reference to
a second letter of Clement in Euseb. 3. 38. 4 is vague, nor is there anything in the
reference to connect that second letter with the work in question. The complete
text was first found by Bryennius in the library of the patriarch of Jerusalem, and
published by him at Constantinople in 1875 (since reprinted in the second edition
of Gebbardt and Harn.ick's Patres Aposiolici, part 1, fasc. 1, Leipsic, 1876, and by
Bp. Lightfoot, The Epistles of Clement of Borne, London, 1876) : and in 1876 a
Syriac version of the complete text was discovered by Mr. Bensley, and is now in
the University Library at Cambridge.

7 Const. Apost. 8. 31 : cf. Ambrosiast. in Ephes. 4. 11, 12, ap. St. Ambros. Op.
vol. ii, p. 241, who says that in early times ' omnes docebant et omnes baptizabant,'
but that afterwards ' coepit alio ordine et providentia gubernari ecclesia, quia si
omnes omnia possent, irrationabile esset et vulgaris res et vilissima videretur.' This
is, no doubt, only secondary evidence : but it is confirmed, i. by the fact that the
exhortations of St. Ignatius against the performance by laymen of other oflicial
functions do not extend to preaching : ii. by the fact that in later times the gra-
vamen against Origen was not that he had preached as a layman, but that he had
done so in the presence of bishops and consequently in violation of church order
(Euseb. H. E. 6. 19) : iii. by the fact that, even when ecclesiastical regime was
of the strictest, monks, who might be laymen, could preach. The earliest positive
prohibitions seem to have been made, expressly in the interest of ecclesiastical
order, by Leo the Great, Epist. 119 (92) ad Maximum, c. 6, 120 (93) ; ad Theodoret.
c. 6, ed. Ballerin. pp. 1217,1227; but the ruling enactments of the Canon Law are
much later, see the commentators, e.g. Gonzalez on c. 12, X. Cam ex injuncto
(v. 7), and c. 15, X. Inter cetera (i. 31), and Fagnani on c. 43, X. Respomo (v. 39) :
these enactments were directed against heretics, and apparently a layman of whom
a bishop approved might preach, with his permission, until a contrary decision
of the Roman Curia in 1 580.

118 Clergy and Laity. [lect.

ordinary member of the Church was held to be valid,
although if an officer might have been found it was
held to be contrary to Church order 8 .

3. In regard to the Eucharist, the only explicit evi-
dence is that of the Ignatian Epistles. The literary
questions to which those Epistles have given rise do
not affect their value in regard to the question before
us. Their evidence remains practically the same
whether Ignatius or some one else was their author,
and whether the Syriac or the shorter Greek repre-
sents the original form. It is clear from them that the
Christians of the cities to which they were addressed
had held other meetings besides those at which the
officers were present : and that in those meetings the
bread had been broken and the Eucharist celebrated.
The practice is reproved, but the reproof is a gentle
one : — ' Break one bread 9 ; ' 'be careful to have only
one Eucharist 10 ; ' * let that be deemed a valid Eucha-
rist which is under the superintendence of the bishop
or of some one commissioned by him l V It appears

* The earliest authorities for the validity of lay baptism are Tertullian (see below,
note 22), the Council of Elvira in a.d. 305, c. 38, Jerome, Dial. c. Lucif. c. 9: all
of which admit, what is sufficient for the question in hand, that there were certain
circumstances under which laymen might lawfully baptize.

* St. Ignat. ad Ephes. 20. 2 01 uar avdpa koivtj iravrts iv \apiTi i£ ovofiaroi
ovvipxtcrOt \v (itlf marei xal kv'lrjaov Xpiarqi .... tva aprov KXutvrts.

10 Id. ad Philad. 4 airovSafcre ovv mq (vxapiffria xpv ff ^ ai -

11 Id. ad Smyrn. 8. 1 kKtivrj (Je0aia tiixapiaria fjytia6<v ■?) bird ruv imaico-nov oZaa.
^ <2 av avrbs imrpbfo. The form of expression, t) biro top «■ ovcra, confirms the
inference which is drawn from other evidence that the celebration of the Eucharist
was regarded as the act of the whole community, assembled as a corporate whole
and expressing itself by the voice of its head : cf. 1 Clem. Rom. 41 . 1 (Kaaros
flfj-uiv, ade\<poi, iv r$ loi<p ray part ivxaptare iro) 0€<p iv dyaOfj avvuiijatt
virdpx(ov, fii) mptK0alvoJV rbv wpifffitvov rfjs Kurovpyias avrov ttavova, iv fffuvorrjTi.
It must be noted that here, as elsewhere in the Ignatian Epistles, the antithesis is

v.] Clergy and Laity. 119

from this that the celebration of the Eucharist without
the presence of a Church officer was not of itself in-
valid. It is inconceivable that any one who held the
view, which has been ordinarily held in later times,
that the presence and action of a Church officer are
essential to the valid celebration of the Eucharist, would
have used the language of mild remonstrance, or would
have brought arguments to urge the expediency of
submission in this, as in other respects, to constituted

4. In regard to the exercise of discipline, the earliest
evidence is that of the First Epistle to the Corinthians :
in it St. Paul addresses the whole community, and
urges them to meet together and exercise the power
of expulsion in the case of one who was guilty of open
sin 12 . The other evidence consists in the Epistles of
Clement and of Polycarp. A leading point in the Epistle
of Clement is that the officers of the community should
be obeyed, and that they should not be lightly removed.
In writing it, he, like St. Paul, addresses the whole
community. He does not question the right of the
community to remove its officers, if it thinks fit ; but
he urges that it would not be a proper exercise of
that right to remove those who have filled the office
worthily 13 . The Epistle of Polycarp is complementary
of that of Clement: as the latter urges that worthy

not between bishopB and presbyters, but between the body of Church officers, of
which the bishop was the head, and ordinary members.

" 1 Cor. 5.

18 1 Clem. Rom. 44 : cf. ibid. 54 where one whose presence in the Church had
been a cause of dissension is supposed to say airttfu ov lav ftovKtjoQe ital wotfl rd
intoraaaofitva vni rov wX^Oovf,

120 Clergy and Laity. [lect.

officers should not be removed, the former urges that a
presbyter who had been removed should be restored.
Polycarp, like Clement, and like St. Paul, addresses
the community at large : in doing so he implies that
it was with the community that the power of restora-
tion lay u .

Whether therefore we look at preaching, at baptism,
at the Eucharist, or at discipline, it seems probable
that the officers were not conceived as having, as
such, exclusive powers. In other words, the existing
evidence in regard to the functions of Church officers,
so far from establishing, tends to disprove the ex-
istence of any conception of the nature of their
office, other than that which is gathered from the

14 St. Polycarp. ad Philipp. 1 1 : that cases of discipline were judged by the
whole community, assembled under the presidency of its officers, so late as the
time of Cyprian is clear from the letter of the Roman Church to him (St. Cyprian.
Epist. 30 (31), p. 533) ' conlatione consiliorum cum episcopis, presbyteris, diaconis,
confessoribus, pariter ac stantibus [i.e. those who had not 'lapsed'] laicis facta
lapsorum tractare;' cf. also Epist. 31 (26), p. 562, 34 (28), p. 570. This is in
harmony with the general analogy of the Christian communities to the contem-
porary secular communities, in which all matters of importance were decided ' con-
ventu pleno :' see, for the Greek associations, Foucart, Les Associations religicuscn,
p. 1 5, and for the Latin associations, Duruy, Histoire des Remains, vol. v, p. 1 55.
In course of time, the Church officers came to act alone in matters of discipline
(see supra, p. 102), and, still later, their power so to act was regarded as an in-
alienable attribute of the priesthood : but the ancient theory outlived the later
practice, and some of the most eminent of the schoolmen, especially Albertus
Magnus, maintained that, where a priest was not to be had, a layman might give
absolution to a penitent (Albert. M. in Lib. iv. Sent., dist. 17, art. 58, Op. ed.
Lugd. vol. xxvi, p. 425: the contrary was maintained by his great disciple, Thomas
Aquinas, on the same passage of the Sentences, qu. 3, art. 3 ; and Gratian. Decret.
pare. ii. c. 24, qu. I. 39, goes so far as to reckon absolution among those sacra-
ments, the effect of which, when administered by a non-priest, is either null or
deadly). In a similar way, though for a different reason (viz. the degeneracy of
the priesthood), the ' last of the Greek Fathers,' John of Damascus, considers that
the ' power of binding and loosing' had passed from the ' high-priests' to ' the elect
people of God, I mean the monks' (S. Joann. Damasc. Epist. de Conffssione, II,
Op. ed. Le Quien, vol, i, p. 606).

v.] Clergy and Laity. 121

terms which were in use to designate such office.
It supports the hypothesis that they existed in the
Christian societies, as those who bore the same names
existed in secular societies, for the general super-
intendence of the community and the general control
of its affairs, that all things might be done ' decently
and in order.'

Such a conclusion may appear strange when viewed
by the light of later times, but it is not strange if it
is viewed in relation to the circumstances of the first
two centuries. In those early days — before the doors
of admission were thrown wide open, before children
were ordinarily baptised and men grew up from their
earliest years as members of a Christian society, before
Christianity had become a fashionable religion and
gathered into its net fish ' of every kind ' both good
and bad — the mere membership of a Christian Church
was in itself a strong presumption of the possession
of high spiritual qualifications. The Christian was in
a sense which has often since been rather a satire than
a metaphor, a ' member of Christ,' a ' king and priest
unto God.' The whole body of Christians was upon a
level : ' all ye are brethren 15 .' The distinctions which
St. Paul makes between Christians are based not upon
office, but upon varieties of spiritual power. They are
caused by the diversity of the operations of the Holy
Spirit. They are consequently personal and individual.
They do not mark off class from class, but one Chris-
tian from another. Some of these spiritual powers

M St. Matt. 23. 8.

122 Clergy and Laity. [lect.

are distinguished from others by a greater visible and
outward effect : but they are all the same in kind.
The gift of ruling is not different in kind from the
gift of healing. The expression 'he that ruleth' is
coordinate with ' he that exhorteth,' ' he that giveth,'
'he that sheweth mercy 16 .' Of one or other of these
gifts every Christian was a partaker. There was a
vivid sense, which in later times was necessarily weak-
ened, that every form of the manifestation of the
religious life is a gift of God — a yapivna, or direct
operation of the Divine Spirit upon the soul. Now
while this sense of the diffusion of spiritual gifts was
so vivid, it was impossible that there should be the
same sense of distinction between officers and non-
officers which afterwards came to exist. Organization
was a less important fact than it afterwards became.
That which gave organization its importance was the
increase in the size of the communities. The need
of order thereby became more imperative : the work of
administration had to be systematized and centralized :
the officers who had the control of order and adminis-
tration came inevitably to have a higher relative status
than they had had before. There were not only disputes,
as we learn from Clement of Rome 17 , about the ap-
pointment of officers, but also an exaggeration of the
place of order in the Christian economy. The gift of
ruling, like Aaron's rod, seemed to swallow up the
other gifts.

Then came a profound reaction. Against the growing
tendency towards that state of things which afterwards

14 Rom. 13. 6, 8. w I Clem. Rom. 44 1

v.] Clergy and Laity. 123

firmly established itself, and which ever since has been
the normal state of almost all Christian Churches, some
communities, first of Asia Minor, then of Africa, then
of Italy, raised a vigorous and, for a time, a successful
protest. They reasserted the place of spiritual gifts
as contrasted with official rule 18 . They maintained that
the revelation of Christ through the Spirit was not
a temporary phenomenon of Apostolic days, but a
constant fact of Christian life. They combined with
this the preaching of a higher morality than that
which was tending to become current. They were
supported in what they did by the greatest theologian
of his time, and it is to the writings of that theologian
rather than to the vituperative statements of later writers
that we must look for a true idea of their purpose. The
fact of their having been supported by that theologian
is of extreme significance. For Tertullian had done in-
calculable service alike in his defence of Christianity
against the as yet unconverted world without, and in
his refutation of heresies within 19 . To him, almost
as much as to Irenseus, were the Churches indebted
for the dominance of the fundamental theory that
Christian doctrine must be determined by Apostolic

18 The literature which bears upon Montanism ia extensive : most earlier writers
(including Schwegler, Der Montanixmus, Tubingen, 1841) overlooked its special
character as a protest of the ' ecclesia spiritus ' against the ' ecclesia nuinerua
episcoporum ' (Tertull. De Pudic. 21): the first enunciation of this special cha-
racter is due to Ritschl, Die altkathofische Kirche, pp. 513 sqq., whose view is
even more clearly expressed by Rothe, Vovlesungen, ed. Weingarten, pp. 166 sqq.
The valuable treatise of Bonwetsch, Die Geschichte des Montanismus, Erlangen,
188 1, shows how this negative or controversial character of Montanism grew out
of its positive elements (see especially pp. 136-139).

19 For a good account of Tertnllian's services to the Church see Hauck, Tertul-
liam Leben und Schriflen, Erlangen, 1877, especially c. iii. and iv.

124 Clergy and Laity. £lkct.

tradition. So far from being a heretic, he was the
champion of* the Church against heresy 20 : so far from
disfavouring Catholicity, he was its chief living
preacher : so far from holding that office was unim-
portant, he reproaches heretics with their insufficient
recognition of its importance 21 . But the view which
he took of the nature of office in the Church was
that it does not, as such, confer any powers upon its
holders which are not possessed by the other members
of the community. As an ordinary rule, he main-
tains, the president, and he only, has the function
of admitting new members into the community : but
if there be emergency, the power descends to other
Church officers and laymen 22 . As an ordinary rule,
' it is only, 7 he says, ' from the hands of our presi-
dents that we receive the Eucharist:' but if there
be an emergency, a layman may celebrate as well as a
bishop 23 . ' That which has constituted the difference
between the governing body and the ordinary members
is the authority of the Church:' but 'where three
Christians are, though they be laymen, there is a
Church 2 V These statements of a great theologian,

w His attitude towards heresy may be gathered from a treatise which he wrote
when he was himself a Montanist: 'ad officium hereticos compelli, non illici,
dignuin est: duritia vincenda est non suadenda' (Scarp, i).

n Tertull. Be Praescript. 41.

Vi Be Baptismo, 17 'Dandi [sc. baptismum] quidem habet jus summus sacerdos
qui est episcopus : dehinc presbyteri et diaconi, non tamen sine episcopi aucto-
litate propter ecclesi.te honorem. Quo salvo pax est. Alioquin etiam laicis
jus est.'

03 Be Corona, 4.

24 Be Exhort. Castit. 6 ' Differentiam inter ordinem et plebem constituit eccle-
siae auctoritas et honor per ordinis consessum sanctificatus. Adeo ubi ecclesiastid
ordiniB non est tonsessus, et offers et tinguis et sacerdos es tibi solus. Sed ubi

v.] Clergy and Laity. 125

In support of a great movement which was all but
victorious, cannot be lightly set aside. In theological
as in other wars the tendency is to cry 4 Vae victis!'
and to assume that the defeated are always in the
wrong. But a careful survey of the evidence leads
to the conclusion that, in its view of the relation of
ecclesiastical office to the Christian life, the Montanism,
as it was called, which Tertullian defended, was theo-
retically in the right, though its theory had become in
practice impossible. It did not make sufficient allow-
ance for changed and changing circumstances. It was
a beating of the wings of pietism against the iron bars
of organization. It was the first, though not the last,
rebellion of the religious sentiment against official

But the exigencies of organization of necessity pre-
vailed: for in ecclesiastical as in other human affairs
the ideal yields to the practicable. At the same time,
the fact of the existence of Montanism, and of its
considerable success, strongly confirms the general
inferences which are drawn from other evidence, that
Church officers were originally regarded as existing for
the good government of the community and for the
general management of its affairs : that the difference
between Church officers and other baptized persons was
one of status and degree : that, quoad the spiritual life,
the two classes were on the same footing : and that
the functions which the officers performed were such

tres, ecclesia est, licet laici.' (This number, three, was the legal minimum of a
Roman Collegium: Marcell. in Dig. 1. 16. 85.)

1 26 Clergy and Laity. [lect.

as, apart from the question of order, might be performed

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

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