Appointing Bishops, Second Century, A History of the Christian Church, Lesson 3, 3-4

The form of church government which we saw started in the First Century continued in this century, and was brought into a greater degree of stability and refinement. The Bishop ruled the local church with the help of a council of Presbyters, and the deacons were subject to them. During most of this century, the churches were independent of each other. Each was a little state all in itself. But in the process of time, the churches of a province began to form into one larger ecclesiastical body, which like confederate states, convened from time to time to consider common interests. This confederation started among the Greeks, which was nothing more than natural, for they had a long history of city states and federations, but it quickly spread because of the utility of the organization, throughout all the area where Christian churches had been formed. The Greeks gave these conventions the name Synod, and the Latins gave it the name Council.

Although there was not a trace of these councils before the middle of the century, they completely changed the face of the church within a few years. Although the first of these councils were attended by Bishops and Presbyters in all humility as representatives of the people, soon the humble tone was changed, the limits of their authority were extended and their influence was changed into dominion. Whereas a characteristic of the church in the First Century was the perfect equality of all members, now there began to be two classes of people, the Bishops and the masses. And as the idea of the Council spread, there began to be greater councils so that it was necessary that one of the Bishops be vested with superior power in order to maintain order in the councils.

Furthermore, with the organization of the churches in the far flung outposts, it was necessary to appoint Bishops over these councils, so that there were Bishops and Superior Bishops as well as the masses. In addition, the Metropolitan Bishops, being in attendance at the councils more often, began to exert more influence than the provincial bishops. The end result was the Bishop of Rome was invested with the title and authority of a Prince of the Bishops. The clothing of the Bishops with extra honor and authority was helped along by the second destruction of Jerusalem which extinguished all hope of restoring a nation among the Jews. Because of the hopelessness of the Jewish priests, it was easy to convince the Bishops and Presbyters that they were entitled to the office and authority previously held by the Hebrew priests.


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