Presbyter ( // ) is an honorific title for Christian clergy. The word derives from the Greek presbyteros, which means elder or senior, although many in the Christian antiquity would understand presbyteros to refer to the bishop functioning as overseer. The word Presbyter is also mentioned in the New Testament.
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 presbyters.
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:
Therefore a presbyter is the same as a bishop is, and before that by the instigation of the devil emulations in respect to religion arose, and people began to say: I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, the churches were governed by the common counsel of the presbyters. But, after that each one was accustomed to regard those whom he had baptized as his own disciples and not of Christ, it was decreed in the whole world that one chosen from among the presbyters should be placed over the others ... Therefore, as presbyters may know that by the custom of the church they are subject to the one who has been placed over them; so also bishops may understand that they are greater than presbyters more by custom than by the veritable ordinance of the Lord.
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.
With the legalization of Christianity and the threat of paganism dwindling from 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. Those of the Anglican, Church of the East, Eastern Orthodox, Hussite, Moravian, Old Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Scandinavian Lutheran traditions maintain that "a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this apostolic succession". These traditions do not always consider the episcopal consecrations of all of the other traditions as valid.
A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of authority and oversight in a religious institution.
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In certain Christian denominations, holy orders are the ordained ministries of bishop, priest (presbyter), and 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.
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The Reverend is an honorific style most often placed before the names of Christian clergy and ministers. There are sometimes differences in the way the style is used in different countries and church traditions. The Reverend is correctly called a style but is often and in some dictionaries called a title, form of address, or title of respect. The style is also sometimes used by leaders in other religions such as Judaism and Buddhism.
The priesthood of all believers or universal priesthood is a biblical principle in most Protestant branches of Christianity which is distinct from the institution of the ministerial priesthood found in some other branches, including the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. Derived from the Bible and elaborated in the theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin, the principle became prominent as a tenet of Protestant Christian doctrine, though the exact meaning of the belief and its implications vary widely among denominations; in general, Protestants reject the existence of a ministerial priesthood.
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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.
In Christianity, a minister is a person authorised 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. In some church traditions the term is usually used for people who have ordained, but in other traditions it can also be used for non-ordained people who have a pastoral or liturgical ministry.
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.
A bishop is a senior role in many Methodist denominations. The bishop's role is typically called the "episcopacy", based on the Greek word episkopos (επισκοπος), which literally means overseer. Superintendent is another translation of episkopos but in Methodist churches this is a role distinct from bishop. The first Methodist bishops were appointed in America, and American Methodist denominations still recognize the office of bishop.
An elder, in many Methodist churches, is an ordained minister that has the responsibilities to preach and teach, preside at the celebration of the sacraments, administer the church through pastoral guidance, and lead the congregations under their care in service ministry to the world.
The priesthood is the office of the ministers of religion, who have been commissioned ("ordained") with the Holy orders of the Catholic Church. Technically, bishops are a priestly order as well; however, in layman's terms priest refers only to presbyters and pastors. The church's doctrine also sometimes refers to all baptised (lay) members as the "common priesthood", which can be confused with the ministerial priesthood of the consecrated clergy.
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 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 serving as an administrator in a local congregation, or be ordained and serving in preaching or pastoral roles. There is a distinction between ordained elders and lay elders. The two concepts may be conflated in everyday conversation. In non-Christian world cultures the term elder refers to age and experience, and the Christian sense of elder is partly related to this.
Presbyter is, in the Bible, a synonym for bishop (episkopos), referring to a leader in local church congregations. In modern Eastern Orthodox usage, it is distinct from bishop and synonymous with priest. Its literal meaning in Greek (presbyteros) is "elder".