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A Defense of the Episcopacy, part 4: Post-Pentecost

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Series note: This series on the Episcopacy will, Lord willing, be comprised of at least 4 parts, part one can be found here, part two can be found here, part three can be found here. A principle work that has been used for this work is Thomas Bilson's The Perpetual Government of Christ's Church.

Series Introduction

The episcopacy is that which separates Anglicans from other Protestant groups. To convince a Protestant of the necessity of the episcopacy will necessarily draw them to Canterbury. This is what lead me into Anglicanism out of Presbyterianism. Therefore, it is imperative that this form of church government be defended against those of congregational and presbyterian views.

At the center of this debate is the question of whether there is an equality or an inequality of ministers. "In Christ's church are there, by Divine right, levels of ministers by which some rule over others?" To answer this question is to answer this debate. Therefore this series seeks to show this thesis, that, in Christ's church, as seen under the old dispensation, the New Testament, and the history of the church, there is an inequality of the orders of Bishop and Presbyter by which the former rules over the later.

Historically this very question of the episcopacy led to a civil war in England. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, there were debates raging within the Anglican church over the divinely appointed form of church government. One side pointed to the New Testament account where Bishops and Presbyters (Elders) seem to be the same office, but with different names. They cite St. Jerome to argue for a gradual development of the office of Bishop. The other side pointed to the historic practice of the church, reflected in the writings of the early 2nd century Bishop, St. Ignatius of Antioch to support their view.

This series of articles adds nothing new to that debate. Rather, this series seeks to synthesize in an orderly manner those best arguments which were given in the writings of my Anglican fathers in the faith.

Article Introduction

Part one of this series explored the government of the pre-Mosaic church, arguing that the church before Moses had a clear hierarchical bent to it, with loose "levels" or "grades" of priests. From this,it was argued that this form of church government was most consistent with the episcopal form which is the historical and Apostolic form of church government.

Part two completes what the first part started by looking into the form of church government which was in the remainder of the Old Testament, Mosaic, and post-Mosaic. It investigated the Mosaic and post-Mosaic forms of government, the background to the historic Catholic form of church government begins to become more apparent. We see that Presbyterianism is contrary to it, rather than a development from it.

Part three makes it into the New Testament. It focuses on the gospels, what government was instituted by Christ while he was on earth. From this we see again a "tiering" which takes place between different orders of priests. It also shows the concept of ecclesiastical hierarchy strongly, especially the principle of authority being mediated from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom of it, as is seen in St. Dionysius' Ecclesiastical Hierarchy.

This article covers the Post-Apostolic age. It focuses on the Book of Acts and the epistles, drawing also from the Patristic interpretation of the New Testament. The evidence from the Post-Gospel phase of the New Testament is often the point of attack from Presbyterians, yet, as we will see, there is an Episcopal form of government.


Of first importance is to discover the background meaning of the name "Apostle." It is common to designate an Apostle a "Sent one" from the term's etymology "αποστολος," i.e., from "αποσττελω." While this is truly an accurate account of the etymology of the term, it does not necessarily tell someone of the proper background of our Lord's designation. "Αποστολος" is probably derived from the Hebrew designation "שליח." A שליח is one's representative in a legal sense. The שליח stands in persona. The Apostles, being שלוחים of our Lord, would stand in his person, w