Front Page Titles (by Subject) 13.: EARLY CHURCH INSTITUTIONS — ( P. 311 ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 2
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13.: EARLY CHURCH INSTITUTIONS — ( P. 311 ) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 2 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 2.
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EARLY CHURCH INSTITUTIONS — (P. 311)
There is a considerable German literature on early Christian institutions, from Baur’s Der Ursprung des Episkopats, 1838, to the present day (of recent works, E. Löning’s Die Gemeindeverfassung des Urchristenthums, 1889, deserves special mention). Important contributions have been made to the subject in England by Bishop Lightfoot and by Dr. Hatch; the latter in The Organisation of the Early Christian Churches (translated into German and edited by Harnack), 1880, doing good service by pointing out resemblances with the organisation of religious communities in the contemporary pagan world. The large literature relating to the Ignatian Letters is also directly concerned with the origin of episcopacy. The subject has been treated from a wider point of view by M. Réville in his Les origines de l’épiscopat, vol. i. 1894, a work which throws light on many points. A very brief summary of his results (though they are by no means incontestable) in regard to the episcopate will be appropriate.
He throws aside the πρω̂τον ψεν̂δος of many of his predecessors, “le funeste préjugé de l’unité du christianisme primitif,” the idea that in the early church the institutions found in one community existed in all the others. Thus for Paul’s time the evidence of the Pauline epistles proves that there were episcopi at Philippi, but does not give the slightest reason to assume such in Galatia. The episcopal functions were originally administrative and financial [and liturgical]; and were distinct from the presbyteral functions, though often exercised by presbyters; the deacons were assistants of the episcopi. Thus the current view that bishop and presbyter were originally synonymous terms is, according to Réville, erroneous; it is only true in so far as the duties of instruction came to devolve on the bishops as well as the presbyters. (1) In the earliest documents we find a plurality of bishops (and this is still the case at Corinth, when the Epistle of Clement was written); (2) in the last years of the first century a single bishop is becoming the rule in the churches of Asia Minor (cp. Pastoral Epistles); (3) the third stage is the monarchical bishop, the ideal which Ignatius extolled in his Letters (which are certainly genuine) as the true remedy for the disorders and divisions of the Eastern Churches, but which (the monarchical, as distinguished from the “uninominal”) was not yet (in the second decade of the second century), as his letters prove, a reality. For the organisation of the Christian community in Palestine, consult the articles of Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschrift, vol. 33, 1890, p. 98 sqq., and 223 sqq.
It may still be maintained that neither M. Réville nor any one else has satisfactorily explained how bishop and presbyter came to be used interchangeably at any time, as in Acts xx. 28, and the 1st chap. of Titus.