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In the New Testament, a presbyter (Greek πρεσβύτερος: "elder") is a leader of a local Christian congregation. The word derives from the Greek presbyteros, which means elder or senior. The Greek word episkopos literally means overseer; it refers exclusively to the office of bishop. Many understand presbyteros to refer to the bishop functioning as overseer.In modern Catholic and Orthodox usage, presbyter is distinct from bishop and synonymous with priest . In predominant Protestant usage, presbyter does not refer to a member of a distinctive priesthood called priests, but rather to a minister, pastor, or elder.
The word presbyter etymologically derives from Greek πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros), the comparative form of πρέσβυς (presbys), "old man".However, while the English word priest has presbyter as the etymological origin, the distinctive Greek word (Greek ἱερεύς hiereus) for "priest" is never used for presbyteros/episkopos in the New Testament, except as being part of the general priesthood of all believers, with the first Christians making a distinction between sacerdotal Jewish and pagan priests and New Testament pastors.
The earliest organization of the Church in Jerusalem was according to most scholars similar to that of Jewish synagogues, but it had a council or college of ordained presbyters (Greek : πρεσβύτεροιelders ). In Acts 11:30 and Acts 15:22, we see a collegiate system of government in Jerusalem though headed by James, according to tradition the first bishop of the city. In Acts 14:23, the Apostle Paul ordains presbyters in the churches he founded.
The term presbyter was often not yet clearly distinguished from the term overseer (ἐπίσκοποι episkopoi, later exclusively used as meaning bishop), as in Acts 20:17, Titus 1:5–7and 1 Peter 5:1. The earliest writings of the Apostolic Fathers, the Didache and the First Epistle of Clement for example, show the church used two terms for local church offices—presbyters (seen by many as an interchangeable term with episcopos or overseer) and deacon.
In Timothy and Titus in the New Testament a more clearly defined episcopate can be seen. We are told that Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete to oversee the local church (1Tim 1:3 and Titus 1:5). Paul commands them to ordain presbyters/bishops and to exercise general oversight, telling Titus to "rebuke with all authority" (Titus 2:15).
Early sources are not clear, but various groups of Christian communities would have had a group or college of presbyter-overseers functioning as leaders of the local churches.Eventually, the head or "monarchic" bishop came to rule more clearly, and all local churches would eventually follow the example of the other churches and structure themselves after the model of the others with the one bishop in clearer charge, though the role of the body of priests remained important.
From the 2nd century, it is certain that the offices of bishop and presbyter were clearly distinguished, the bishop was understood as the president of the council of presbyters, and so the bishop was distinguished both in honor and in prerogative from the presbyters, who were seen as deriving their authority by means of delegation from the bishop.[ citation needed ] Each Episcopal see had its own bishop and his presence was necessary to consecrate any gathering of the church.[ citation needed ]
Eventually, as Christendom grew, individual congregations were no longer directly served by a bishop. The bishop in a large city (the Metropolitan bishop) would appoint a priest to pastor the flock in each congregation, acting as his delegate.[ citation needed ]
The fourth century scholar Jerome (347–420) stated:
Slightly different other versions (quoting John Calvin) express the same.
A Catholic explanation suggests that the delegates were bishops in the actual sense of the term but that they neither possessed fixed sees nor had a special title. Since they were essentially itinerant, they confided the fixed necessary functions relating to the daily life of the community to the care of some of the better-educated and highly respected converts.
Along with this was the title "priest" being distinctively ascribed to presbyters/bishops. Writer Greg Dues, author of Catholic Customs & Traditions, claims that "Priesthood as we know it in the Catholic church was unheard of during the first generation of Christianity, because at that time priesthood was still associated with animal sacrifices in both the Jewish and pagan religions." "When the Eucharist came to be regarded as a sacrifice [after Rome's theology], the role of the bishop took on a priestly dimension. By the third century bishops were considered priests. Presbyters or elders sometimes substituted for the bishop at the Eucharist. By the end of the third century people all over were using the title 'priest' (hierus in Greek and sacerdos in Latin) for whoever presided at the Eucharist."However, Deus's claim of the Eucharist being seen as a sacrifice based on Roman theology, has been disputed by earlier 1st century sources:
Ignatius of Antioch 110 AD said, "Therefore arm yourselves with gentleness, renew yourselves in faith, which is the Flesh of the Lord, and in charity, which is the Blood of Jesus Christ." His most famous passage says:
With the legalization of Christianity and the threat of paganism dwindling fromh the passage of time, the use of the word priest was adopted from presbyter; as they felt there was no longer a chance of their faith being confused with the ideas, philosophies and culture of the Roman religion. [ circular reference ]
The Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the non-Chalcedonian churches, and similar groups typically refer to presbyters in English as priests (priest is etymologically derived from the Greek presbyteros via the Latin presbyter). Collectively, however, their "college" is referred to as the "presbyterium", "presbytery", or "presbyterate".
This usage is seen by most Protestant Christians as stripping the laity of its priestly status, while those who use the term defend its usage by saying that, while they do believe in the priesthood (Greek ἱερεύς hiereus – a different word altogether, used in Rev 1:6, 1 Pet 2:9) of all believers, they do not believe in the eldership of all believers. This is generally true of United Methodists, who ordain elders as clergy (pastors) while affirming the priesthood of all believers. The Methodist Church of Great Britain has formally referred to its presbyters as such (rather than the common title of 'minister') since 1990, from when it was possible to be ordained as a Methodist deacon, which is also an order of Methodist ministry. The evangelical (or ultra low-church) Anglican Diocese of Sydney has abolished the use of the word "priest" for those ordained as such. They are now referred to as "presbyters". Presbyterians sometimes refer to their ruling elders and teaching elders (ministers) as presbyters.
The website of the International Standard Version of the Bible, a Protestant translation, responds to a criticism of its use of "elder" over "priest " by stating the following:
No Greek lexicons or other scholarly sources suggest that "presbyteros" means "priest" instead of "elder". The Greek word is equivalent to the Hebrew zaqen, which means "elder", and not priest. You can see the zaqenim described in Exodus 18:21–22 using some of the same equivalent Hebrew terms as Paul uses in the GK of 1&2 Timothy and Titus. Note that the zaqenim are not priests (i.e., from the tribe of Levi) but are rather men of distinctive maturity that qualifies them for ministerial roles among the people.
Therefore, the NT equivalent of the zaqenim cannot be the Levitical priests. The Greek presbyteros (literally, the comparative of the Greek word for "old" and therefore translated as "one who is older") thus describes the character qualities of the episkopos. The term "elder" would therefore appear to describe the character, while the term "overseer" (for that is the literal rendering of episkopos) connotes the job description.
Apostolic succession is the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession, which has usually been associated with a claim that the succession is through a series of bishops. This series was seen originally as that of the bishops of a particular see founded by one or more of the apostles. According to historian Justo L. González, apostolic succession is generally understood today as meaning a series of bishops, regardless of see, each consecrated by other bishops, themselves consecrated similarly in a succession going back to the apostles. According to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, "apostolic succession" means more than a mere transmission of powers. It is succession in a Church which witnesses to the apostolic faith, in communion with the other Churches, witnesses of the same apostolic faith. The "see (cathedra) plays an important role in inserting the bishop into the heart of ecclesial apostolicity", but, once ordained, the bishop becomes in his Church the guarantor of apostolicity and becomes a successor of the apostles.
A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.
In certain Christian churches, holy orders are ordained ministries such as bishop, priest, or deacon, and the sacrament or rite by which candidates are ordained to those orders. Churches recognizing these orders include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Assyrian, Old Catholic, Independent Catholic and some Lutheran churches. Except for Lutherans and some Anglicans, these churches regard ordination as a sacrament. The Anglo-Catholic tradition within Anglicanism identifies more with the Roman Catholic position about the sacramental nature of ordination.
A priest or priestess is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities. Their office or position is the priesthood, a term which also may apply to such persons collectively.
Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the terms used for individual clergy are clergyman, clergywoman, and churchman. Less common terms are churchwoman and clergyperson, while cleric and clerk in holy orders both have a long history but are rarely used.
A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican church, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state.
Presbyterianpolity is a method of church governance typified by the rule of assemblies of presbyters, or elders. Each local church is governed by a body of elected elders usually called the session or consistory, though other terms, such as church board, may apply. Groups of local churches are governed by a higher assembly of elders known as the presbytery or classis; presbyteries can be grouped into a synod, and presbyteries and synods nationwide often join together in a general assembly. Responsibility for conduct of church services is reserved to an ordained minister or pastor known as a teaching elder, or a minister of the word and sacrament.
The universal priesthood or the priesthood of all believers is a concept in some branches of Christianity which denies the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Church of the East doctrine of the sacrament of Holy Orders. Derived from the theology of Martin Luther and William Tyndale, it became prominent as a tenet of Protestant Christian doctrine, and the exact meaning of the belief and its implications vary widely among denominations.
A pastor is the leader of a Christian congregation who also gives advice and counsel to people from the community or congregation. A pastor may be ordained or not. Pastors are to act like shepherds by caring for the flock, and this care includes teaching. The New Testament typically uses the words “bishops” and “elders” for this church position. Likewise, Peter instructs these particular servants to “act like shepherds” as they “oversee” the flock of God. The words “bishop” and “elder” are interchangeable in another passage as well.
Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are thus then authorized to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination vary by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is undergoing the process of ordination is sometimes called an ordinand. The liturgy used at an ordination is sometimes referred to as an ordination.
The Apostolic Fathers were core Christian theologians among the Church Fathers who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, who are believed to have personally known some of the Twelve Apostles, or to have been significantly influenced by them. Their writings, though widely circulated in Early Christianity, were not included in the canon of the New Testament. Many of the writings derive from the same time period and geographical location as other works of early Christian literature which came to be part of the New Testament. Some of the writings found among the Apostolic Fathers appear to have been as highly regarded as some of the writings which became the New Testament.
In Christianity, a minister is a person authorized by a church, or other religious organization, to perform functions such as teaching of beliefs; leading services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals; or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to the community. The term is taken from Latin minister, which itself was derived from minus ("less").
Presbyterium is a modern term used in the Catholic Church and Eastern Catholic Churches after the Second Vatican Council in reference to a college of priests, in active ministry, of an individual particular church such as a diocese or eparchy. The body, in union with their bishop as a collective, is a symbol of the collaborative and collegial nature of their sacerdotal ministry as inspired by the reforms made during the Second Vatican Council.
A Church of Scotland congregation is led by its minister and elders. Both of these terms are also used in other Christian denominations: see Minister (Christianity) and Elder (Christianity). This article discusses the specific understanding of their roles and functions in the Scottish Church.
Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and governance structure of a church or of a Christian denomination. It also denotes the ministerial structure of a church and the authority relationships between churches. Polity relates closely to ecclesiology, the study of doctrine and theology relating to church organization.
The sacrament of holy orders in the Catholic Church includes three orders: bishop, priest, and deacon. In the phrase "holy orders", the word "holy" simply means "set apart for some purpose." The word "order" designates an established civil body or corporation with a hierarchy, and ordination means legal incorporation into an order. In context, therefore, a group with a hierarchical structure that is set apart for ministry in the Church.
In Christianity, concelebration is the presiding of a number of presbyters at the celebration of the Eucharist with either a presbyter or bishop as the principal celebrant and the other presbyters and bishops present in the chancel assisting in the consecration of the Eucharist. The concelebrants assist the principal celebrant by reciting the Words of Consecration together with him, thus effecting the change of the eucharistic elements. They may also recite portions of the Eucharistic Prayer. Concelebration is often practiced by ministers/priest of Churches that are in full communion with one another, e.g. the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Church.
The priesthood is one of the three holy orders of the Catholic Church, comprising the ordained priests or presbyters. The other two orders are the bishops and the deacons. Only men are allowed to receive holy orders, and the church does not allow any transgender people to do so. Church doctrine also sometimes refers to all baptised Catholics as the "common priesthood".
In Christianity, an elder is a person who is valued for wisdom and holds a position of responsibility and authority in a Christian group. In some Christian traditions an elder is an ordained person who usually serves a local church or churches and who has been ordained to a ministry of word, sacrament and order, filling the preaching and pastoral offices. In other Christian traditions, an elder may be a lay person charged with serving as an administrator in a local, or be ordained to such an office, also serving in the preaching or pastoral roles. There is technically a distinction between the idea of ordained elders and lay elders, often the two concepts are conflated in everyday conversation. Particularly in reference to age and experience, elders exist throughout world cultures, and the Christian sense of elder is partially related to this.
Presbyter is, in the Bible, a synonym for bishop (episkopos), referring to a leader in local Church congregations. In modern usage, it is distinct from bishop and synonymous with priest. Its literal meaning in Greek (presbyteros) is "elder."
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