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Bishop

church, pastors, christian, city, pastor, bishops, presbyters, cities and superintendency

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BISHOP, the name of that superior order of pastors or ministers in the Christian Church who exercise super intendency over the ordinary pastors within a certain district, called their see or diocese, and to whom also belongs the performance of those higher duties of Christian pastors, ordination, consecra tion (or dedication to religious purposes) of persons or places, and finally excom munication.

The word itself is corrupted Greek. 'Evicruoiros (episcopos) became episcopus when the Latins adopted it. They in troduced it among the Saxons, with whom, by losing something both at the beginning and the end, it became piscop, or, as written in Anglo-Saxon characters, Biyceop. This is the modern bishop, in which it is probable that the change in the orthography (though small) is greater than in the pronunciation. Other modern languages retain in like manner the Greek term slightly modified according to the peculiar genius of each, as the Italian, vescovo ; Spanish, obispo ; and French, ervique ; as well as the German, bischof ; Dutch, bisschop ; and Swedish, bishop.

The word episcopus literally signifies " an inspector or superintendent ;" and the etymological sense expresses even now much of the actual sense of the word. The peculiar character of the bishop's office might be expressed in one word—superintendency. The bishop is the overseer, overlooker, superintendent in the Christian Church, and an exalted station is allotted to him corresponding to the important duties which belong to his office. It was not, however, a term which was invented purposely to describe the new officer which Christianity intro duced into the social system. The term existed before, both among the Greeks and Latins, to designate certain civil of ficers to whom belonged some species of superintendency.' (See Harpocrat. or Suidas in voc. iw(craowos.) Cicero (Ad Att. lib. vii. ep. 11) speaks of himself as appointed an ixio-aoros iu Campania.

It has long been a great question in the Christian Church what kind of su perintendency it was that originally be longed to the bishop. This question, as to whether it was originally a superi• tendency of pastors or of people, may be briefly stated thus :—Those who maintain that it was a superintendency of pastors challenge for bishops that they are an order of ministers in the Christian Church distinct from the order of presbyters, and standing in the same high relation to them that the apostles did to the ordinary ministers in the church ; that, in short, they are the successors and representa tives of the apostles, and receive at their consecration certain spiritual graces by devolution and transmission from them, which belong not to the common pres byters. This is the view taken of the original institution and character of the bishop in the Roman Catholic Church, in the English Protestant Church, and, we believe, in all churches which are framed on an episcopal constitution. Episcopacy

is thus regarded as of divine institution, inasmuch as it is the appointment of Jesus Christ and the apostles, acting in affairs of the church wader .a divine direction. There are, on the other hand, many per sons who contend that the superintendency of the bishop was originally in no respect different from the superintendency exer cised by presbyters as pastors of parti cular churches. They maintain that, if the question is referred to Scripture, we there find that bishop and presbyter are used indifferently to indicate the same persons or class of persons ; and that there is no trace in the Scriptures of two distinct orders of pastors ; and that if the reference is made to Christian antiquity, we find no trace of such a distinction till about two hundred years after the time of the apostles. The account which they give of the rise of the distinction which afterwards existed between bishops and mere presbyters is briefly this:— When in the ecclesiastical writers of the first three centuries we read of the bishops, as of Antioch, Ephesus, Car thag,e, Rome, and the like, we are to understand the presbyters who were the pastors of the Christian churches in those cities. While the Christians were few in each city, one pastor would be sufficient to discharge every pastoral among them ; but when the number increased, or when the pastor became enfeebled, as sistance would be required by him, and thus other presbyters would be intro duced into the city and church of the pastor, forming a kind of council around him. Again, to account for the origin of dioceses or rural districts which were under the su • tendency of the pastors, it was art it was the cities which first received Christianity, and that the people in the country places remained for the most part heathens or pagans (so called from pages, a country village) af ter the cities were Christianized ; but that nevertheless efforts were constantly being made to introduce Christian troth into the villages around the chief cities, and that, whenever favourable opportuni ties were presented, the chief pastor of the city encouraged the erection of a church, and appointed some presbyter either to reside constantly in or near to it, or to visit it when his services were required, though still residing in the city, and there assisting the chief pastor in his ministrations. The extent of coun try which thus formed a diocese of the chief pastor would depend, it is supposed. on the civil distributions of the period; that is, the dioceses of the bishops of Smyrna, or any other ancient city, would be the country of which the inhabitants were accustomed to look to the city for the administration of justice, or in gene ral to regard it as the seat of that temporal authority to which they were immediately subject.

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