Friday, July 30

Deacons and Bishops and Priests (oh my)

I've been doing a bit of reading and thinking (no doubt a great surprise to all) and I came to across an article about the difference between bishops and priests, which led me to digging about such things and looking into the etymology of the terms as an insight into what was meant by them.

Bishop comes from ebiscopus, the latin vulgate version of the late latin episcopus, who borrowed the term from the greek ἐπίσκοπος. The word, literally, means over-seer/over-watcher...thus, someone who watches over the flock.

Priest is handed down from the old english prēost, tracing through the old high german prestar and late latin presbytar to the greek πρεσβύτερος, which translates as 'elder' or 'old man'.

Deacon stems from the old english diacon, further back through the late latin diāconos to the original greek διάκονος, which is interpreted as 'one who ministers' or, literally, servant.

Note that in the apostolic letters, the words episkopos and presbyteros are used pretty interchangeably and, in the 'early church' period (circa 200-500), the bishops were chosen by the laity and ordination into the presbyterate was separate from being a bishop. Meanwhile, the diaconate handled the mundane matters of the church, from money and facilities to tending the sick and donations to the poor.

So...back in the day...a deacon did a goodly amount of what the pastoral care is now... and bishops didn't need to be and commonly weren't priests. That begs the question of the role of the ordained orders today, the differences between them today (especially in light of prior roles) and how we interpret our callings in respect to these things. This is particular interest considering the current discussions in my church about 'hiring on' 3 additional bishops and the differing ideas of the role of the episcopacy in the ECC. Well, ok...that and my own deliberations, but that's another matter entire.

Oh look...a navel. I feel compelled to gaze. Excuse me.

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