Monday, February 2, 2015

Bishops in the Church (Part 2): the Bible versus Catholic Tradition

I have addressed this topic more generally here, but I want to emphasize one passage in particular, that of Philippians 1:1. In it, Paul addresses his epistle "to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons."

"Overseers," here, is a translation of the Greek word, "episkopos," which has been brought into English as "bishop." As I have said before, "episkopos," in the New Testament, in used interchangeably with  "presbuteros," i. e., "elder," not for two separate castes of officers. Click on the "church government" tag below to see some of those posts. In summary, I would refer you especially to Titus 1:5-9, where "episkopos" and "presbuteros" are used to name the same officers,

The difference in the epistle to the church at Philippi, is that the term is used in the plural, "bishops," contrary to its monarchical use by by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Churches. Their view of a bishop as a higher-status governor over a region of churches cannot coexist with the plurality of such officers. However, the presbyterian form of church government not only permits a plurality of overseers, but actually requires it (see "elders in every town," Titus 1:5).

What is my point? Am I really concerned with how many overseers my church has? While I consider that important, my reader is correct to question my devotion of this effort to that minor issue.

Rather, the Church of Rome claims the "apostolic succession" of its bishops as proof that it has a legitimate claim to being the one true Church. My effort is devoted to demonstrating that that claim not only has no basis in Scripture, but is actually contrary to God's Word. Rome's form of church government not only lacks the imprimatur of Christ as Head of the Church (Col. 1:18, Eph. 1:23), but, more importantly, violates those portions of scripture which proscribe her constitutional form.

Catholic Bishops

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