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May 23, 2006

Comments

Randy

This does make protestant critique of DVC look a little lame. They tend to ignore huge historical problems and mischaracterize early church documents quite regularly. Dan Brown just took their techniques a little further.

Old Zhou

Let's dump the red herring "elaborate."

There is hierarchy in the Didache, just as in the New Testament (and, indeed, as their always was, is and will be among God's people, from Adam to the end of time).

Didache 15,1-2:

Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers.

The transliterated Greek text is, with my bold for emphasis:

ceirotonhsate oun eautoiv episkopouv kai diakonouv axiouv tou kuriou, andrav praeiv kai afilargurouv kai alhqeiv kai dedokimasmenouv, umin gar leitourgousi kai autoi thn leitourgian twn profhtwn kai didaskalwn. mh oun uperidhte autouv, autoi gar eisin oi tetimhmenoi umwn meta twn profhtwn kai didaskalwn.

When you have bishops (episkopoi) and deacons (diakonoi), who are your prophets and deachers, who do the service/liturgy (leitourgous) of prophets and teachers for you, and who are your honored one (tetimhmenoi), are they not your hierarchy?

To think this supports a radical simplicy of no hierarchy in local churches is to read the text with a definite ecclesiological bias.

simon

Ignatius of Antioch emphasizes the importance of obedience to the bishop as the one who has been placed over the local Church by God. He does not introduce the idea of bishops, but simply reprimands those who quarrel with their bishops.

Likewise, btw, Ignatius uses as evidence of the non-Christian origins of the gnostics the fact that they do not partake of the Eucharist. Again, he seems to take it for granted that authentic Christians revere the Eucharist.

Ignatius was martyred around A.D. 107 after nearly 40 years as Bishop of Antioch, where he was the second successor of St. Peter. It is more than probable that he was personally acquainted with the Apostles St. Peter and St. John.

Certainly Protestants can try to explain away evidence like the letters of St. Ignatius by quibbling over translation of certain words or arguing for a somewhat later date for the letters. But then you're left with the problem of how such radical "innovations" as hierarchy, liturgy and sacraments just "emerged" later on without so much as a peep of protest in the historical record from anyone. History is very awkward for Protestantism.

Old Zhou

Simon wrote: "History is very awkward for Protestantism."

To be fair, I think we should also say that "History is very hard for a lot of Catholics."

I know plenty of Catholics (like those pushing for ordination of women, or married priests, or freedom to do their own liturgy, or who want to elect their own bishops, etc.) who would like to sweep all those inconvenient bits of Church history under their modern rug.

History is very awkward for those who are slave of the new and now, who feel they are empowered to recreate their own univserse, and their own Church, whether Protestants or Catholics.

Richard

"To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant" -- John Henry Newman

Tim F.

Last night at a DVC discussion where all of 3 of us showed up, I made the statement that no matter how hard you tried to explain to some of the DVC "believers" it may not do any good. Just look at how long Protestentism has survived and multiplied by ignoring historical evidence. I read The Way of The Fathers this morning before reading this post by Amy. When I read the Protestant take on it above discounting hierarchy I was at first shocked and then only confirmed in what I said last night.

Mike

Can it be regarded as in any way positive that articles discussing the Didache are being published and discussed in the blogosphere?

I will grant that the readership is very limited, and that it's the proverbial "tail of the dog," but isn't it positive, even a little bit, that DVC is causing "real" history to be examined and discussed?

Tim

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” [Genesis 50:20]

Henry Dieterich

Translating episkopos as "overseer" (the etymological meaning) rather than "bishop" (which is derived from episkopos) is characteristic of Protestants since Tyndale. I think that misled the writer. Both the New Testament and the Didache as well as the other Apostolic Fathers make it very clear that the office of bishop was central to the Church. Certainly the form of the hierarchy has changed throughout Church history, but the principal that the Church is to be led by bishops, who are accountable for the spiritual well-being of their flock, has not changed.

tony c

If folks are into the Fathers, St. Vladimir's Seminary press (the publishing part of St. Vlad's Orthodox seminary) puts out some great little books.

I have Athanasius "On the Incarnation", Irenaeus "On the Apostolic Preaching", and something by Gregory of Nyssa "on the Soul and Resurrection" I think.

Good stuff.

Rich Leonardi

Translating episkopos as "overseer" (the etymological meaning) rather than "bishop" (which is derived from episkopos) is characteristic of Protestants since Tyndale.

Gary Wills argues for the same translation in "Why I am a Catholic."

simon

The problem with the Protestant/Gary Wills translation is the Catholic Church today continues to consecrate episcopi to oversee the local churches (just as the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches continue to consecrate episcopoi .

So translate it into English however you want. The historic Christian churches are doing today precisely what they did in New Testament times.

Ken

Back when Jim & Tammy were melting down, I heard that from a third to half of the Didache was a heads-up on how to spot phony preachers and con men.

Todd

Elaborate: poor choice of a word. Perhaps what the author was grasping for was "institutional." No curia, no dicoesan chanceries, no seminaries, no transitional diaconate, no monsignors, no canon law, no highly developed liturgical rites overseen in Rome, no bishops being moved once installed, no private confessions, etc..

Catholics of today indeed have a hard time with the Didache period. They would have a lot of curiosity or even consternation over why bishops improvised liturgical prayers rather than read them from a Missal, why presbyters could not "hear confessions," why confirmation was never a separate celebration. Just as Protestants would be surprised at a hierarchy, at occasional infant baptism, not to mention the other sacraments.

Don't see the fuss on translating episcopos as bishop or overseer. Early Greek-speaking Christians heard it as "overseer." They borrowed the usage from their times; there were certainly no bishops prior ro the apostolic era.

Tim Ferguson

Key to understanding the past and the development of the Church is understanding why some practices changed. Yes, in the early Church bishops improvised liturgical prayers until the Church, as a whole, decided hmmm - not such a good idea, as some of the improvisations are poor and even heretical. Yes, in the early Church, presbyters were not allowed to absolve sinners, until the Church decided - you know, this forgiveness of sin thing that Jesus gave to the Apostles and they handed on to the bishops; it's a good thing - lets have the bishops delegate it to the priests as well. Yes, in the early Church, women stood on one side of the church and men on the other (and how many liturgists who urge a "return to the original practices" have clamored for a return to that?), until the Church said, you know, it's probably a good thing to have families together at Mass...

And, yes there was canon law in the very earlies times of the Church, though it wasn't codified until 1917. One of the earlies laws promulgated was Pope Linus' decree that women have their head covered in church: another of those rules of the Early Church that most modern liturgists aren't clamoring for a return to.

little gidding

Another good thing about the Didache is its explicitness--"You shall not murder a child by abortion."

Old Zhou

Dear Todd,

You wrote: "Don't see the fuss on translating episcopos as bishop or overseer. Early Greek-speaking Christians heard it as "overseer." They borrowed the usage from their times; there were certainly no bishops prior [t]o the apostolic era."

I'm just wondering what your insight into the mind of "Early Greek-speaking Christians" is based on.

The Greek word "episkopos" is used in Aristophanes play "Birds," performed in Athens in 414 BC. The "episkopos" is a delegated, civil official sent to inspect other tributary towns. This is very much like the role of a Bishop in his territorial Diocese.

And in Homer's Iliad (c. 9th century BC), he used the word as those gods that are "guardians of our covenant." Clearly there is a sense of authority and rule over religous and civilian affairs, particularly those solmnized by covenant.

I, personally, don't think that an "Early Greek-speaking Christian" would expect that an episkopos, in the context of the Didache or New Testament, is anything but what we currently see as bishops.

scotch meg

I wonder whether the end of separate men's and women's sides wasn't inspired by antsy 10 yo boys? You know, the wiggly ones who are too old to delegate? ;-)

mulopwepaul

Personally, when I hear "overseer" I think of Simon LeGree and Uncle Tom's Cabin.

I much prefer "bishop."

PVO

Todd

"The "episkopos" is a delegated, civil official sent to inspect other tributary towns. This is very much like the role of a Bishop in his territorial Diocese."

Today, perhaps. But not 1900 years ago. In those days, the bishop would be as familiar to the local church as a pastor is in a parish.

It would be kind of like Christians adopting the term "president" for an ecclesiastical function.

I too think "bishop" when I hear the Greek "episkopos." But I think the point is that Didache Christians tought "overseer," in the more common usage.

Pius

My grandfather was born in 1913 in New Jersey. He said that when he was young, men and women did sit on separate sides of the church at Mass. I wonder how commonplace this was back then.

susan

According to the article, one finds no elaborate hierarchy of deacons, priests, and bishops, as was developed in the second century. If this is a dig at the Catholic hierarcy as it appears to be, I might add that the Didache also does not mention televangelists, Christian theme parks, love gifts, offer number 326, seed offerings, etc. etc. etc.

Nick Thompson

Old Zhou writes: "History is very awkward for those who are slave of the new and now, who feel they are empowered to recreate their own univserse, and their own Church, whether Protestants or Catholics"

In fact it's very awkward for everyone, whether Protestant or Catholic, "Liberal" or "Conservative."

As a rule of thumb, I'd suggest that if the study of church history doesn't make one uncomfortable, one hasn't paid close enough attention to it.

In my experience traditionalists are often the worst neophiliacs of all, venerating something that bears as much resemblance to the tradition (usque ad nos) as a "heritage" theme-park does to the historical evidence.

In fact the evidence is almost inevitably patchy, gappy, contradictory and complex. Anyone looking to the past for tidy precedents will be disappointed. The Da Vinci code is just a particularly egregious example of something Christians have been doing since at least the Reformation.

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