The Didache: deacons and bishops

One of the most contentious issues, and important issues, surrounding early church history, is regarding how the church is organized. Some of the Pauline writings and the Didache both seem to lump the offices of elder/presbyter and overseer/bishop together. Yet by the time of Ignatius of Antioch (early 2nd C.) we have a very clear differentiation between the offices of the elder/presbyter and the overseer/bishop.

The main question then, as far as I can see, is this: when the Didache talks of "apostles" is it referring to the actual Twelve and Paul? If this is the case then it would be reasonable to view them as the main authorities in the church. On the other hand if it using the word apostle in the way we today use the word missionary (as in Ephesians 6), then we have what appears to be a non-monarchial form of government. These questions are also related to dating the Didache.

Chapter 15.—Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof

1. Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, 1 Timothy 3:4 and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. 2. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers. 3. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel; Matthew 18:15-17 but to every one that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repent. 4. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.


JohnG. said…
I can't remember were I read the following thing (It was Cardinal Danielou I think, but Not with absolute certainty) : the title of "deacon" (rather in greek communities) could have been the equivalent of the title of "presbyter" ( in "hebews" communities) .... I'll try to check.
Abu Daoud said…
Yes, the word for deacon is the same word as servant or how most churches use "minister" today. So there is the question, does this refer to deacons as a specific Order (like in Acts where the deacons ordained and have very specific roles), or are they just miscellaneous ministers who do all sorts of things?

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